CMU Net censorship expert charged with child porn

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MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. (AP) — A professor whose research focuses on Internet censorship and the use of children in advertising has been charged with having child pornography on his Central Michigan University computer, the school announced Thursday.

The school said it suspended William L. Merrill on Monday and barred him from the campus in Mount Pleasant, about 120 miles northwest of Detroit.

"We take this matter very seriously and have strict policies against this kind of conduct," Sherry Knight, a university interim associate vice president, said in a statement. "From the astute employees who discovered and reported the materials immediately, to the police who acted swiftly and continue to investigate this matter, our goal is to ensure the safety of our campus community and beyond."

The Associated Press left phone and email messages Thursday night for Merrill, a 58-year-old tenured faculty member in the College of Education and Human Services.

According to the university, its information technology employees found "inappropriate material" on Merrill's computer Monday, and it suspended him that day.

At a news conference Thursday, Knight said Merrill has no connection with the university's child development and learning laboratory. She said his suspension is with pay.

According to court records cited by The Morning Sun, a campus IT employee shut down the Internet connection to Merrill's computer because of a high volume of traffic that suggested the computer might have been taken over by outside hackers. Merrill contacted the IT staff when he couldn't get on the Net, and that led to the discovery of three videos of child pornography, the records said.

Isabella County prosecutors charged Merrill on Wednesday with distributing child pornography, possessing child pornography, and using a computer to commit a crime. He also was charged with possession of a switchblade. He had not yet been arraigned by Thursday.

The university said it was asking anyone with possible information about the case to call campus police.

According to the university's website, Merrill's areas of research are censorship and the Internet, the effect on society of the use of children in advertising, the use of the Internet in instruction, and the use of technology in education.

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