The White House Waffle

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: On the eve of a landmark Supreme Court decision, the Clinton Administration has abandoned its gung-ho support for regulating Internet content, arguing instead that the industry should police itself. At issue is a law which would make distribution of "indecent material" over the Internet to minors a federal crime. The new policy, to be made public by President Clinton at an event on July 1 designed to promote Internet commerce, states that the existence of devices which allow parental monitoring of Internet use renders legislative regulation of the medium unneccessary, The New York Times reported. The Supreme Court is expected to rule within the next month on the so-called Communications Decency Act , but, mindful that it has served for months as the law's passionate defender both in the courts and on the presidential campaign trail, the White House is expected to keep mum about its sudden change of mind until the Supreme Court takes a stand first. Civil rights activists and Internet advocates, while pleasantly surprised by the about-face, argue the White House should make its case known sooner rather than later. "It raises waffling to an art form," chides David Sobel of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. Maybe so, but for Internet content providers who understandably argue that the First Amendment applies to them as well as other media, it's a welcome waffle indeed.