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Free Speech On The Internet V. United States Constitution

1681 words - 7 pages

The internet became a very popular and huge way of getting millions of different kinds of materials and information for everyday use in the later 80's early 90's. It became easy for anyone to access millions of different kinds of materials ninety nine percent of which is decent according to our governments standards and one or less percent which is considered to be material the is indecent or harmful to minors.(ABC) These facts maybe deceiving however because there are millions of internet sites so the internet may only be one percent indecent but that means there are thousands upon thousands of sites that are indecent.(ABC) The biggest question is how can we protect our children from these indecent sites? The government believed that passing a bill banning indecent material from the internet would help in the protection of the children who use the internet. So in 1996 Congress passed the CDA (communications decency act) along with the TCA (tela communication act).(Lewis) The TCA was purposed and passed by congress in order to band indecent material from the radio and television and the CDA was a last minute add onto this bill.(Greenhouse) The CDA was never heard before congress and many of the members questioned its constitutionality. Clition did signed the bill however it was understood that he was hopping that the courts would declare the bill unconstitutional.(Greenhouse)
     It became obvious very quick that this bill was going to cause problems. In June of 96 the same year the bill was passed a New York internet based paper filed a law suite against the CDA saying “‘This bill is a violation of the rights of not only myself, but a violation of the rights of the American people. Long live the net,’ said Joe Shea, editor in chief of The American Reporter, the electronic newspaper that challenged the law.”(Lewis) This case however was not the first. In Philadelphia a group of some 50 organization filed a lawsuit against the CDA and the court also ruled in their favor. (Lewis) More and more cases began popping up in federal courts until December of 96 when it was finally brought before the Supreme Court in Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union.(ACLU v Janet Reno)
     The problem with the CDA was the fact that it didn’t clearly define indecent material. Many thought the broadness of the terminology used in the bill made it impossible for this law ever to last.(Lewis) It stated that you could be fined up to $250,000 and serve up to 2 years in prison for transmitting “indecent” or “potentially offensive” materials over the internet. (Childs) What is “indecent” material or “potentially offensive” material? Is a website considered indecent if they use curse words and if it is indecent should they be fined $250,000 and serve up to 2 years in prison? This was answered on June 27, 1997 when the supreme court declared the CDA unconstitutional in the case Reno v. American Civil Liberties...

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