January

An Illinois state law went into effect making it punishable by up to five years in prison to solicit minors, by computer, into having sex.

The Federal Trade Commission held an Internet hunt for scams. In three hours it managed to turn up more than 500 Web sites that may be fronts for illegal pyramid schemes.

The American Library Association and the ACLU sued New York state in federal court, claiming the state's version of the Communications Decency Act -- which makes it a criminal offense to distribute pictures or text that are harmful to minors -- is an unconstitutional restriction of freedom of speech and unduly interferes with interstate commerce. The case is ALA v. Pataki.

February

Legislation was introduced in Maryland that would make it illegal to send "annoying" or "embarrassing" e-mail. It is similar to a bill in the New York Legislature.

Sen. Patrick Leahy introduced a bill that would repeal amendments to the Communications Act made by the CDA. In the meantime, 22 members of Congress filed an Amici Curiae brief with the Supreme Court in Reno v. ACLU in support of the Communications Decency Act.

In Nevada, legislation was introduced to prohibit sending unsolicited e-mail to solicit a person to purchase real property, goods or services unless the recipient has a pre-existing business relationship with the message sender.

The Consumer Internet Privacy Protection Act of 1997 (H.R. 97) was introduced in the House. The Act provides that "an interactive computer service shall not disclose to a third party any personally identifiable information provided by a subscriber to such service without the subscriber's prior informed written consent."

March

The Dallas Morning News published a story on the alleged confession by Oklahoma City bombing suspect Timothy McVeigh on its Web site before running the story in its print edition. Apparently, the paper feared the judge would impose a restraining order to prevent coverage of the incident, so the paper decided to run the story on its Web site immediately to moot any order restraining publication.

Legislation in California proposed by Assembly Member Bill Campbell required all school districts that were connected to the Internet to purchase and use software that would filter out any sites that contain or make reference to any of the following: sexual acts, drugs or the drug culture, gambling, illegal activity, and alcoholic beverages and tobacco. This also prohibited hyperlinking to works such as the Bible, the State of the Union Address, some court decisions, anti-smoking literature, etc.

A bill was proposed in the Texas Legislature that would, under threat of a criminal penalty, require anyone who provides Internet access for a fee to provide to customers free content-blocking software (free for at least 30 days).

April

New York joined the list of states considering anti-commercial e-mail legislation. The New York bill would ban unsolicited commercial e-mail sent without permission or without a previous business relationship.

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) introduced the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act of 1997, which would make illegal the transmission of any information related to gambling, including bets, wagers or the chance to win a prize or lottery.

Sen. Ron Wyden introduced S. 442, The Internet Tax Freedom Act, which established a two-year moratorium prohibiting state and local governments from imposing new taxes on Internet transactions. Rep. Chris Cox introduced a similar bill in the House. The Tax-Free Internet Act (HR99), a separate piece of legislation, was also introduced in the House by Rep. Dave Weldon (R-Fla.).

May

The Clinton administration released a new white paper on privacy entitled Options for Promoting Privacy on the National Information Infrastructure. Comments are being solicited. The paper is available at .