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Lee Hadden writes "The Washington Post has an interesting article on an obscure Virginia law
that restricts Internet searching. "For Many State Workers, an Unknown Restriction Rarely Enforced Va. Law Requires Permission to See Explicit Sites." By David McGuire, washingtonpost.com Staff Writer. Tuesday, October 5, 2004; 6:30 AM
In 1996, Virginia became the only state in the country to require its employees to ask permission before looking at sexually explicit material online. Professors, social workers, and public health officials all come under the scope of the law, which only exempts law enforcement officials.
Educators challenged the law shortly after it was enacted but lost their fight to have it erased from the books in 2001, when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to take up the matter.
Sharon Hays, a sociology professor at the University of Virginia, said she wasn't aware of the law and had never been told by administrators
that she should seek permission before viewing sexually explicit material.
Hays, whose women's-studies courses cover radical feminism, says many of her students end up doing reports on Internet pornography -- reports she needs to check on her school-issued computer.
University of Virginia spokeswoman Carol Wood said it's up to individual faculty members to know and abide by the law and individual department heads to enforce it. The school has only recorded two incidents of staff members being disciplined under the law and Wood would not release details of either case. "It hasn't been a big problem for us."
The law is in some ways even more dangerous now that it's off most educators' radar screens, according to Chris Hansen, an ACLU attorney who
has worked against state laws designed to restrict access to pornographic material online. "It is particularly troubling to have out there laws that
society agrees aren't worth enforcing but that can be whipped out at any moment by an unscrupulous administrator," Hansen said."
Daniel adds: This sounds like "marijuana tax" laws on the books in some states. It is an additional infraction to sell marijuana without paying a tax and receiving a stamp. If you try to buy the stamp, you're arrested for selling.