Clinton Looks to Internet Screening

WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Bill Clinton's administration will not support new laws to regulate material on the Internet and instead will advocate the use of technology that allows users to screen what children, for instance, can access on the global computer network, according to a draft White House report.

At the same time, administration officials said Monday the president will continue to back the Communications Decency Act of 1996, a law that would criminalize the transmission of indecent material to children over the Internet. The Supreme Court is scheduled to rule on the constitutionality of the law soon.

Although officials acknowledged that the conclusions of the report and the Internet act sound contradictory, they stressed that it does not mean the administration has backed away from the law.

Many legal experts believe the high court will rule that portions of the law place an unconstitutional limit on free speech. As a result, some administration officials have been rethinking their strategies to regulate Internet content, and the new position is contained in the report being drafted by an administration task force on electronic commerce.

Clinton, who is expected to unveil the report July 1, is expected to support -- but has not yet formally approved -- its recommendations, administration officials said.

"Unnecessary regulation could cripple the growth and diversity of the Internet,'' states the report's most recent draft. "The administration therefore supports industry self-regulation, adoption of competing ratings systems and development of easy-to-use technical solutions ... to assist in screening information online.''

That language, officials said Monday, specifically refers to new domestic laws as well as efforts in foreign countries to regulate data that flows over their borders from the Internet.