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Porn, Gambling, Liquor companies Slapped

Salt Lake City- Utah consumer protection officials have cited four companies for sending e-mail solicitations to minors for Web sites promoting gambling, alcohol and pornography. It was the second time this year state investigators issued citations under the state’s controversial Child Protection Registry law, which requires adult-oriented Web sites and e-mailers to screen out addresses on the list from their distribution databases.

Named in the citations were DOS Media Now, an Encinitas, Calif., online gambling site fined $5,000; Golden Arch Casinos, of Overland Park, Kan., fined $2,500; Smoothbeer.com, a United Kingdom beer company fined $2,500; and SoftestGirls.com, a Singapore company fined $20,000 for sending pornographic e-mails to several minors. In January, the state issued its first, $2,500 citation under the statute to a Canadian online porn site for allegedly sending a sexually explicit e-mail to registered minor’s address.

“This has become a very serious problem,” said Francine Giani, Commerce Department executive director. “It’s a big issue for us, but parents can play an important role in this process, too, by knowing and being aware of what their children are doing on the Internet.” Utah’s Child Protection Registry took effect in mid-2005. While its primary selling point with legislators was to combat pornography, it also is designed to protect registered minors from content promoting alcohol, tobacco, gambling, firearms and drugs.

Both Utah and Michigan, which has a similar registry, link mass e- mailers to Park City-based Unspam Technologies. The company charges a half-cent for each address that is removed. The registry is free for schools, parents and other guardians of minors to use. Commercial e-mailers argue that the registry’s time and cost are unfairly burdensome. The Free Speech Coalition – a porn trade organization – is challenging the constitutionality of the Utah law in U.S. District Court. Judge Dale Kimball has set a Nov. 9 hearing on the coalition’s motion for an injunction, and the state’s request to dismiss the coalition’s lawsuit. Jerome Mooney, a Salt Lake City attorney representing the coalition, said Thursday he was surprised by the citations when the statute itself is at issue.

“There are important constitutional [free speech] issues involved here,” he said. “And the big difference at the end of the day is that the nature of the Internet is so international that the more narrowly you try to regulate it, the more problems you create.”

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