Son of CDA

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: While newsgroups are crowing over the Supreme Court's rejection of the Communications Decency Act, the Clinton Administration is doggedly gearing up for round two. The White House will pursue a the strategy like the one that produced the voluntary TV-ratings system. The President will call a meeting in the next few weeks with industry leaders, parents and teachers to call for a way of protecting children "as powerful for the computer as the v-chip will be for the television, and that protects children in ways that are consistent with America's free-speech values." The problem, of course, is that the v-chip standard was arrived at with a few major broadcasters in a medium clearly regulated by the FCC and controlled by a limited number of content providers. The Internet is a new, chaotic medium, where millions of individuals and organizations can publish, made up of many different components that are almost impossible to regulate. But the focus of parental concerns may be narrowing. Crucial to the Court's decision was the argument that "the Internet is not as 'invasive' as radio or television;" web pages are requested by individuals rather than broadcast to mass audiences. The rub is that the Web is moving toward the broadcast model, with Netscape, Microsoft, Marimba and others rushing to push media directly to your desktop. The most astute assessment of the challenge, from a surprisingly wired group of justices, may have come from Antonin Scalia, who in a March CDA hearing before the Court pointed out that the rapid evolution of technology on the Web means that what's unconstitutional today might be constitutional next week. Free speech may have won the skirmish, but stay tuned for the battles ahead.