US high court refuses Internet age restrictions case

The US Supreme Court refuses to hear a Bush administration appeal of a lower court ruling striking down an Internet age restriction law.

The US Supreme Court has refused to resurrect a law requiring Web sites containing "material harmful to minors" to restrict access based on age, presumably ending a 10-year fight over whether the law violated free speech rights.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday declined to hear an appeal by former President George Bush's administration, which asked that the court overturn a lower court's ruling against enforcement of the Child Online Protection Act of 1998 (COPA). In July, the US Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit struck down the law, saying it was a vague and overly broad attack on free speech.

The Bush administration had asked the Supreme Court to review the 3rd Circuit's decision, saying the law was necessary to protect children from explicit sex material online.

Civil liberties groups praised the Supreme Court's decision to ignore the Bush administration's request.

"For over a decade the government has been trying to thwart freedom of speech on the Internet, and for years the courts have been finding the attempts unconstitutional," Chris Hansen, senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), said in a statement. "It is not the role of the government to decide what people can see and do on the Internet. Those are personal decisions that should be made by individuals and their families."

This is the third time the Supreme Court has declined to resurrect the law after low courts ruled against it.

"We applaud the Court's decision [that] ends the government's Quixotic and wasteful 10-year effort to impose an unconstitutional censorship standard on Internet content," Leslie Harris, president and CEO of the Center for Democracy and Technology, said in a statement. "Despite continuing pressure to force ever more restrictive standards on Internet content, this new political climate provides the right opportunity to say, 'Yes we can,' protect children online without compromising First Amendment principles."

COPA's restrictions applied to a variety of Web content, including pictures, recordings and writing.

COPA defined material harmful to minors as something the "average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find ... is designed to appeal to, or is designed to pander to, the prurient interest." People who posted adult content without blocking minors' access could face up to six months in prison under the law.

Opponents of the law, including the ACLU, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Nerve.com, Salon.com, the Urban Dictionary and the Sexual Health Network, argued the law amounted to government censorship and was so broad that it would affect many Web sites, including those that included information on sexually transmitted diseases.

Opponents of COPA have successfully challenged it in court several times. In 2000, the 3rd Circuit upheld a lower court's injunction against the implementation of the law, and in 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the injunction but sent the law back to U.S. district court. In 2003, the 3rd Circuit ruled that the law violated the U.S. Constitution.

In 2004, the US Supreme Court again looked at COPA, and it again sent the case back to district court, this time to determine whether there had been any changes in technology that affect the implementation of the law, such as whether commercial blocking software was as effective as the banned law might be.

In March 2007, a district judge once again struck down COPA, and the U.S. Department of Justice again appealed.

The Supreme Court in 1997 struck down a similar law, called Communications Decency Act (CDA), passed by Congress in 1996.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Grant Gross

IDG News Service

Comments

Comments are now closed.

Most Popular Reviews

Follow Us

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Latest News Articles

Resources

Best Deals on GoodGearGuide

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?