Free Speech Advocates File Lawsuits Against Net-Speech Restrictions
On Thursday, February 8, 11:00 a.m. EST, President Clinton signed the Telecommunications Act of 1996 into law. Included in the bill was an expanded version of the Communications Decency Act, which included language supported in previous measures by Exon, Hyde, and others. Also included were the controversial V-Chip provisions supported by Clinton in his State of the Union address.
Immediately after the signing, three separate lawsuits were filed challenging the Constitutionality of the new speech restrictions.
The ACLU and 19 other organizations filed a complaint seeking the overturning of the CDA and a law prohibiting discussions of abortion on the Net, plus a temporary restraining order to keep the Gov’t from enforcing any of the provisions. See the ACLU’s press release for more details.
This lawsuit was spectacularly successful, leading to a unanimous decision in favor of free speech by a Federal Court followed by an appeal and a nearly unanimous decision supporting the AClU by the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, the American Reporter initiated its own lawsuit by publishing an article written by a former trial judge and carefully crafted to ensure that it violated the “indecency” standard specified in the CDA. More information can be found in the full text of their complaint. On July 29, in this suit also, the court also ruled the CDA unconstitutional. The Center for Reproductive Law & Policy and NARAL have filed a lawsuit on behalf of several parties, challenging the newly-extended restrictions on abortion-related discussion.
Finally, a group called the CIEC (Citizens Internet Empowerment Coalition), in coordination with a number of major on-line services and other organizations, filed a lawsuit on February 26. Their complaint seeks to strike down the “indecency” and “patently offensive” provisions. It will not affect Hyde’s extension of the Comstock Act, which is expected to go nowhere legally.
A related Web page chronicles previous events.
CPSR Cyber-Rights is involved in the ACLU lawsuit through its parent organization, and is committed to promoting free speech and other basic rights on the Internet, and elsewhere. Information on joining the mailing list is here.
A short list of notables in this massive lawsuit include:
- Electronic Frontier Foundation
- Electronic Privacy Information Center
- Planned Parenthood
- National Writer’s Union
- Human Rights Watch
- Institute for Global Communications
- Center for Democracy and Technology
- Interactive Services Organization
- Commerical Internet eXchange Association (CIX)
- Microsoft (and the Microsoft Network)
- America OnLine
- People for the American Way
- American Library Association
- American Booksellers Association
- Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)
- Society of Professional Journalists
Legislative Documents and Records
- Communications Decency Act (final)
- The CDA is basically everything under Subtitle A. Subtitle B covers the V-Chip.
- The Telecommunications Act of 1996 (final)
- The entire bill, as signed into law.
Official Statements/News about the Lawsuits
- Center for
Reproductive Law and Policy
- Also of interest: two official statements posted by Executive Director Audrie Krause to various places, and CPSR’s affidavit.
Privacy Information Center
- Human Rights Watch
- Justice on Campus
- Cyb rWire Dispatch
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Created before October 2004