Laws Restricting Internet Content
|"When Hitler attacked the Jews I was not a Jew, therefore I
was not concerned. And when Hitler attacked the Catholics, I was not a
Catholic, and therefore, I was not concerned. And when Hitler attacked
the unions and the industrialists, I was not a member of the unions
and I was not concerned. Then Hitler attacked me and the Protestant
church - and there was nobody left to be concerned." Martin
Niemöller. Quoted in the Congressional Record, 14, October 1968, Page
The Internet represents a problem for those who want to regulate free speech.
Anybody anywhere in the world can put any material on the Internet at any time;
it can then be read by anyone else in the world. Since the Internet has no way
of determining the age of the person who is accessing a web page, there is no
way to effectively prevent all minors from gaining access to material that is
inappropriate for them to view. Some companies produce censorship software to
which a family can subscribe. But this is not completely effective. In addition,
some software developed by conservative organizations bans a wide range of
religious, philosophical, and social material in the name of preventing access
President Clinton signed into law the 1996 Telecommunications Bill on
1996-FEB-8. This law contained two amendments which are related to freedom of speech on
|An amendment to Section 223 of Title 47 of the United States Code.|
|An amendment to the Comstock Act.|
Both restrict what may appear on the Internet. The US Supreme Court, in
a rare 1997 unanimous decision, declared these amendments to be
unconstitutional (Reno v. ACLU; 96-511). The court sided with the American
Library Association, the American Civil Liberties Union, and AIDS
Education Global Information, and others who argued that it was
unconstitutional to remove from the Internet all material that might be
harmful to minors.
A second, more narrowly focused House bill was sponsored by Michael
Oxley (R- OH) and signed into law on 1998-OCT. It is the Child
Online Protection Act (COPA). It became law as part of the federal budget.
It has faced a court challenge by a broad group, ranging from
obstetricians to booksellers. It was declared unconstitutional.
Still another attempt by the federal government, the Children's Internet Protection Act
(CIPA) was also declared unconstitutional. State bills have followed, but are also being declared unconstitutional.
In 2002, President Bush signed the "Dot Kids Implementation and
Efficiency Act of 2002" It creates a special Internet domain with
website names like
http://www.aaaaaa.kids.us Websites in this domain are heavily regulated
for content so that nothing unsuitable for children 12 years of age or
younger will appear. This has not been challenged in the court. But it has
proven to be a failure. Very few websites have appeared in this domain.
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Copyright © 1996 to 2005 by Ontario Consultants on
Latest update: 2005-JUN-18
Author: B.A. Robinson