In this paper we shall present an important case involving the governments attempt to defend a child-protection law designed to guard minors against internet pornography. In Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition, 00-795, the court heard arguments over the Child Pornography Protection Act of 1996 (CPPA).(Ashcroft)
The production or possession of actual child pornography was illegal prior to 1996; the CPPA broadened the definition of child pornography to include images that merely appear to be children engaged in sexually explicit conduct -- for example, images of adults digitally altered to look like children -- or that convey the impression that the individuals involved are minors. The rationale behind the law was that it is not only the children involved in the creation of child pornography that are harmed, but that the images themselves are harmful because they incite pedophiles to abuse children.
In a 1982 case, the Supreme Court said that child pornography, like obscenity, should not receive First Amendment protection because children were abused in its production. This case raises a bigger issue: whether the mere existence of pornographic images involving children is harmful even if no real children were involved in their creation.
The Free Speech Coalition, a group of adult-oriented businesses and artists, filed suit in federal district court in California, alleging that the law was vague and overbroad in violation of the First Amendment. They lost at trial court, but the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed.
Deputy Solicitor General Paul D. Clement argued in favor of the law before the court, saying that images of children engaged in sexual activity, whether or not they involved real children, pose a real danger to actual children because they could be used by pedophiles to entice children into illicit sexual activity or to pose for pornographic pictures. He said that the provisions at issue...