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US Senate moves to ban bomb info on Web

Move threatens freedom of information, critics say

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The US Senate is the middle of political minefield that could blow the First Amendment wide apart if it succeeds in banning the publication of bomb making information on the Net. Two senators from either side of the political divide joined forces yesterday to add an amendment to the Violent and Repeat Juvenile Offender Accountability and Rehabilitation Act. The amendment was voted in with a majority of 85 to 13. If made law the bill would force Net companies to provide users with software to filter out bomb-making material and bring the sale of explosives and guns in line with existing laws. According a report by CNET, the bill would outlaw the publication of material if there was an "intent" to use the information to commit a federal crime. While the new law would apply to any form of publication, most people agree that it is the threat posed by the Net that politicians fear most. Much has been made of the killings at Columbine High School, Littleton, Colorado following witness reports that the perpetrators used the Web to research and plan the slaughter. Public opinion appears to favour some form of regulation, a move that has been backed by politicians including those at the very summit of government. Vice President Al Gore recently called upon industry leaders to support his "One Click Away" programme that would provide a safer environment for children online. But advocates of free speech have condemned the moves for tighter regulation and in particular have warned that yesterday's amendment may well be illegal. "There are serious constitutional questions about regulating information about making bombs," said Lance Rose, author of NetLaw. "If this law is passed and it survives any constitutional challenges, there will be a fundamental proposition that you can regulate bomb information at least sometimes," he told CNET. Victims of bombings yesterday called upon leading Internet companies to purge the Net of all references to bomb making on the Net. ®

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