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Legislative Memo: Cyber-cafe Restrictions

This bill would institute a regime of regulation for internet cafes. Specifically, registration of these businesses would be required, and significant restrictions would be put on the ability of minors to make use of these establishments.

While the intent of the bill is to prevent violence in these businesses and to provide an avenue for addressing problem businesses, many provisions in the bill would do nothing to further that objective, but would instead unconstitutionally limit minors’ access to these establishments.

Of particular concern is a provision not even mentioned in the sponsor’s memorandum. Section 215-d (7) of the bill would prohibit “a minor [from entering or remaining] in a cyber-cafe […] without the permission of a parent or guardian.”

This requirement is in addition to several other significant time limitations as to when a minor would be allowed to enter such an establishment.

This severe restriction of a minor’s right to patronize an internet cafe is clearly not the narrow, well tailored provision that is constitutionally required when the government places limitations on access to an important source of information, such as the internet. This constitutional infirmity is especially problematic when such access is not widely available in residents’ homes or in libraries.

In fact, placing such limitations on a person’s First Amendment rights, even when the person is a minor, which is exactly what this bill does, is not permissible unless the limitation will have a significant impact in solving the problem that the state is seeking to solve.

In this instance it is doubtful whether the proposed restrictions on access to an Internet café would further in any meaningful way the stated goal of ensuring “the security of communities” and in ending “disorderly, violent behavior which is anathema to community standards of decency and safety…”

In short, this bill is ill-conceived and patently unconstitutional. For the foregoing reasons the NYCLU urges the defeat of this legislation.

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