Making Cyberspace Safe for Children(?): A First Amendment Analysis of the Communications Decency Act of 1996

71 Pages Posted: 31 Jan 1997

See all articles by Alan Lewine

Alan Lewine

Piper Marbury Rudnick & Wolfe LLP

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Abstract

Two three-judge panels have now held that the CDA is unconstitutional. This paper contributes to the argument against the CDA. It argues that such a ban unconstitutionally restricts the First Amendment rights of minors and those who communicate with them about important issues. Because of the nature of the online medium, the CDA essentially bans "indecent" or "patently offensive" speech entirely, thus impermissibly reducing the adult population of the new computer mediated communications medium known as the Internet to "only what is fit for children." By initiating extensive new regulations of expression in a developing medium, the CDA constitutes an unconstitutional expansion of federal authority. The Act presents constitutional problems of overbreadth and perhaps of vagueness. These problems cause uncertainty that will necessarily result in a "chilling effect" on protected speech by criminalizing broad classes of speech otherwise protected by the First Amendment, including material that has serious scientific, literary, artistic, or political value.

Note: This paper represents the views of the author and does not necessarily represent the views of his employer.

JEL Classification: K23, L86

Suggested Citation

Lewine, Alan, Making Cyberspace Safe for Children(?): A First Amendment Analysis of the Communications Decency Act of 1996. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=44451 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.44451

Alan Lewine (Contact Author)

Piper Marbury Rudnick & Wolfe LLP ( email )

1200 Nineteenth Street NW
Washington, DC 20036
United States
202/861.6691 (Phone)
202/223.2085 (Fax)

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