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Pennsylvania Governor Ridge Signs Bill to Help Parents Protect Children From Sexually Explicit Electronic Advertisements

Pa. Gov. Tom Ridge today signed into law Senate Bill 262, to help parents protect their children from unsolicited, sexually explicit electronic advertisements, through a warning on an ad's subject line.

SB 262, sponsored by Sen. Melissa A. Hart (R-Allegheny), passed the House and Senate unanimously. It takes effect in 60 days.

Sexually explicit electronic advertisements can be widely circulated to individual e-mail accounts. Proponents of the bill are concerned that young children logging on to a family computer could be exposed to these ads and led to obscene websites.

"Over the last several years, we've worked hard in Pennsylvania to harness the power of technology to create high-tech jobs, and to make Pennsylvanians' lives easier and their quality of life even better," Gov. Ridge said. "And we've connected schools -- and kids -- to the Internet in record numbers through our landmark Link-to-Learn program.

"But with any powerful tool, it can be exploited. That's why this new law helps parents, teachers and responsible adults to restrict kids' access to unsolicited advertisements, and creates tough, new penalties for those who commit this high-tech crime."

Senate Bill 262 amends the Crimes Code to prohibit the intentional electronic transmission of unsolicited advertisements for websites containing explicit sexual material, unless the ad includes an "ADV-ADULT" warning at the beginning of the subject line. The subject line is the area of an electronic advertisement that contains a summary description of the ad and its contents. The transmission of obscene materials also is made illegal.

The offenses are graded misdemeanors of the first degree, which would involve a prison sentence up to five years. The transmission of obscene materials is graded a third-degree felony, involving a prison sentence up to seven years, if there was a previous conviction for the offense or if the material was sold, distributed, prepared or published for resale. The new law provides for additional penalties -- between $100 and $500 per ad, and/or imprisonment of 90 days for a first-degree offense -- for knowingly including false or misleading information in the return address of the advertisement. Courts are required to impose a fine of between $500 and $1,000 per ad and/or imprisonment of one year for a subsequent offense.

Cases involving sexually explicit advertisements will be under the jurisdiction of the Attorney General and district attorneys.


unknown, June 13, 2000, PRNewswire/via NewsEdge Corporation

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