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Sex in Cyberspace Now Turning
University Into Cyber-Vice Cop

Associated Press Writer

     PITTSBURGH - In a case that has colleges taking
another look at their legal responsibilities in
cyberspace, Carnegie Mellon University has blocked
access to bulletin boards that students can use to call
up dirty pictures.
     About 300 students protested the move earlier this
month as an assault on academic freedom, and a public
interest group for computer users suggested Carnegie
Mellon overreacted.
     "It is censorship," said Declan McCullagh, student
body president.  "We have obscene books in our library,
but the University isn't burning them. The university
is burning cyberbooks."
     Carnegie Mellon officials said they fear the
school can be prosecuted for distributing pornography
to minors if it knowingly allows access to the pictures
via the Internet to anyone under 18. Most of the
schools students are adults, but children as young as
elementary-school age also use the university's
computer networks.
     The dispute started when Martin Rimm, a research
associate working on a study of pornography in
cyberspace, used Carnegie Mellon computers to collect
917,000 pictures, ranging from simple nudity to
pictures of men and women having sex with animals.  He
tracked how often the pictures had been downloaded, or
called up by a computer user -- 6.4 million times.
     When Rimm took his findings to the administration,
Carnegie Mellon could no longer claim ignorance about
the material, said Erwin Steinberg, vice provost for
     "It's a difficult issue, an emotional issue," said
William Arms, Carnegie Mellon's vice president for
computing services.  He received calls from six other
schools after the problem came to light.  "People want
to know which way to go," he said.
     The school decided to block access to both written
and photographic pornography.  In the face of student
opposition, Carnegie Mellon decided not to enforce the
block on text. But X-rated pictures remain off limits.
     "I have not accessed that material, but I feel
that each person has a right to choose what kind of
shoes, what kind of ties, what kind of information they
want," said Cesar Rios, a graduate student in public
     Freshman Jessica Rhodes disagreed. "We sort of
have to abide by the laws of the state," she said.
"There are other ways of getting pornography.  If
people want pornography that bad, they should go buy it
     Mike Godwin, a lawyer for the Washington-based
Electronic Frontier Foundation said the chances of
Carnegie Mellon being held liable for carrying the
pictures are extremely slim.
     Richard Goldberg, an Allegheny County deputy
district attorney said it would be very difficult to
prosecute Carnegie Mellon, for the same reason it is
hard to prosecute other kinds of obscenity cases: The
prosecutor would have to prove the material has no
redeeming social value.
     "Then you have the problem of where do you
prosecute them? Where is it coming from?" he said.
     Goldberg was referring to the question of what
community standards should be applied to obscenity-in-
cyberspace cases.

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