Communications Decency Act Of 1996 Essay, Research Paper
During the past decade, society has become increasingly dependent upon computers, which have the ability to move large amounts of information across large distances quickly. Computerization has influenced everyone’s life. The forced evolution of computers, and the need for ultra-fast communications, has caused a global network of interconnected computers to develop. The problem with so much information being accessible to the public is that some of it is deemed inappropriate for minors. The government attempted to save the children in February 1996, when President Clinton sign into law the Communications Decency Act (CDC), as Title V of the Telecommunications Act. To its supporters, protecting children from disgusting, repulsive pornography on the internet was the prime purpose of the Communications Decency Act. The federal government argued that its compelling interest to protect minors overshadows any infringement on the First Amendment rights of adult users of the Internet. During debate on the Senate floor, Senator James Exon (D) Nebraska, who sponsored the original bill, expressed that it is not an exaggeration to say that the worst, most vile, most perverse pornography is only a few click-click-clicks away from any child on the Internet.” His fellow Senators agreed, passing the measure overwhelmingly. Supporters, including President Clinton, saw the bill as an aid to parents struggling to protect their children in an increasingly complex world. Opponents of the Communications Decency Act maintained the bill was nothing short of censorship and an over-board, vague and unenforceable attempt, at that. Existing laws, they noted, already ban obscenity, harassment, child pornography, and enticing minors into sexual activity. Opponents stated that the Communications Decency Act duplicated those laws, and added one problematic point, its indecency standard , which creates a separate category of illegal material by defining indecency as that which is patently offensive by contemporary community standards. Senator Patrick Leahy (D) Vermont, wrote in Roll Call that what strikes some people as indecent or patently offensive may look very different to other people in other parts of the country. ACLU attorney Christopher Hansen stated in an interview on National Public Radio that frankly, I m not comforted by advocacy groups or even the government saying, Oh trust us, we promise not to abuse this broad power. We promise only to use it against real bad guys. The opponents also argued that this government interference is stripping parental responsibility in an area where parents can easily demonstrate such responsibility. America Online chairman Steve Case argued that unfortunately, Congress passed this law without understanding the many technological tools available and under development that empower parents, rather than the government, to determine what their children receive on the Internet.
A diverse group of plaintiffs quickly filed lawsuits to try to stop enforcement of the new law, including the American Civil liberties Union, solid blue-chip companies such as Microsoft and Apple, and the American Library Association. A week later, A U.S. district judge issued a restraining order temporarily blocking the indecency amendment on the grounds that it was too vague. But the government appealed that ruling, sending the case to the Supreme Court, where it began taking up the matter of Reno v. ACLU, on March 19, 1996. In Reno v. ACLU, the United States Supreme Court rejected the Communications Decency Act in part, holding that the Communication Decency Act s indecent transmission and patently offensive display provisions abridge the freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment, and was therefore Unconstitutional. CNN.com Cornell University Law Online American Law sources online