Justice Plans Net Obscenity Crackdown

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Thought the Supreme Court's decision to allow "indecency" online meant the Web was safe for porn? Not any more. The Justice Department has told federal prosecutors it's time to stamp out more prurient forms of titillation. "Investigation and prosecution of Internet obscenity is particularly suitable for federal resources," Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder wrote in a June 10 memo to all U.S. attorneys, obtained by TIME's Netly News.

Stung by accusations from some Republicans that the Clinton administration isn't doing enough to stamp out cyber-smut, Holder reminded prosecutors that no web site is too insignificant. "Prosecution of cases involving relatively small distributors can have a deterrent effect and would dispel any notion that obscenity distributors are insulated from prosecution if their operations fail to exceed a predetermined size," Holder wrote.

It turns out the court battle over the Communications Decency Act only decided if "indecent" and "patently offensive" publications would be permitted online. They are. But obscenity laws are still on the books, and target selling or distributing sexually explicit images without redeeming scientific, literary, political or artistic value. Translation: Hardcore stuff.