Protecting Children from the Dark Side of the Internet
Education Law Reporter, Vol. 212, p. 553, 2006
23 Pages Posted: 5 Feb 2013
Date Written: November 2, 2006
Allowing children to be exposed to pornography or other harmful materials on the Internet is patently unacceptable. So why are children still exposed to a very real threat of viewing these materials on the Internet a full decade after Congress began its efforts to protect children from this danger? Although it is clear that children need to be protected from harmful materials on the Internet, Congress' attempts to address this problem have raised difficult legal and practical questions. For instance, how can Congress make the Internet safe for children without censoring some constitutionally protected speech and thereby opening a dangerous door to further government censorship of free speech on the Internet? Even if the constitutional problems could be resolved, won't U.S. legislation on this issue still fail to achieve its objectives because of the Internet's international scope? Is legislation necessary to address these problems or can technology alone provide an effective solution?
Congress and the federal courts have been struggling with these questions for over a decade now, beginning with the 1996 Communications Decency Act (CDA), caught in the conundrum of the necessity to protect both children and free speech. To examine the ongoing judicial-legislative dialogue over these issues, this article provides: 1) a brief review of free speech law in the U.S.; 2) summaries of relevant U.S. legislation and cor- responding litigation on Internet speech including: a) the Communications Decency Act (CDA) and the U.S. Supreme Court's response in Reno v. ACLU; b) the Child Pornography Prevention Act (CPPA) and Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition; c) the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA) and United States v. American Library Association; and d) the Child Online Protection Act (COPA) and Ashcroft v. ACLU; and 3) an analysis of the issues raised by this legislation and litigation.
Keywords: CDA, CPPA, COPA, Internet, Free Speech
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation