If you have been in a cave for the last 18 hours and have not heard the
news, by a unanimous vote of 3-0 the United States Court of Appeals
ruled that the Communications Decency Act -- the act which outlawed the
use of the Internet to distribute "indecent" material -- is
unconstitutional. According to Judge Sloviter, "[t]he CDA is patently a
government-imposed content-based restriction on speech, and the speech
at issue, whether denominated 'indecent' or 'patently offensive,' is
entitled to constitutional protection." The Court went on to say that,
"the evidence and our Findings of Fact based thereon show that Internet
communication, while unique, is more akin to telephone communication, at
issue in Sable, than to broadcasting, at issue in Pacifica, because, as
with the telephone, an Internet user must act affirmatively and
deliberately to retrieve specific information online."
Anyway, if you would like to see the complete text of the Court's
opinion, pop on over to
and click on the words "Full text of decision available." If you want
to be a resident Net-guru, I strongly recommend that you take an hour or
two out of your schedule to download and read the Court's opinion. I do
want to warn you about one thing, though: the Court's opinion is
absolutely HUGE (over 120 pages, or about 250 K).
You can also find pretty much EVERYTHING that you could ever want to
know about the lawsuit that was responsible for overturning the CDA
(ACLU v. Reno) at the American Civil Liberties Union homepage:
I have not read the entire Court opinion (yet), but I did find a
paragraph on page 60 of the opinion that I really do want to share. Not
everyone is happy with this decision, and quite a few parents are
concerned about protecting their children from the "filth" on the Net
that they have heard about from newspapers and television reporters.
The following may not ease their mind any, but this is the Court's
opinion on that subject:
"Even if a broad search will, on occasion, retrieve unwanted
materials, the user virtually always receives some warning of
its content, significantly reducing the element of surprise or
'assault' involved in broadcasting. Therefore, it is highly
unlikely that a very young child will be randomly 'surfing'
the Web and come across 'indecent' or 'patently offensive'