A Brief History of the Communications Decency Act

Free Speech 10, Censorship 2


". . . We agree with the three judge District Court that the [CDA] abridges "the freedom of speech" protected by the First Amendment."
-- Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, writing the majority opinion for JANET RENO, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES, et al., APPELLANTS v. AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION et al.

On June 26, 1997, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled 7-2 in JANET RENO, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES, et al., APPELLANTS v. AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION et al. (No. 96-511) that the so-called "Communications Decency Act" section of the Telecommications Act of 1996 was unconstitutional, upholding the judgment of The United States District Court For The Eastern District Of Pennsylvania--which, at 9:09am, on June 12, 1996, also ruled in the cases of AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION, et al., v. JANET RENO, Attorney General of the United States (No. 96-963), and AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, INC., et al., v. UNITED STATES DEP'T OF JUSTICE, et al. (No. 96-1458) that "the CDA is unconstitutional on its face." And the winners are . . . you and me! Free speech wins!

Highlights from the Supreme Court decision.

Highlights from the District Court decision.

Anti-Censorship Blue Ribbon


Way back when, at 11am EST way back on February 8, 1996, Bill Friggin' Clinton signed into law S652/HR1555, the Telecommunications Bill which includes the "Communications Decency Act," which once made it a federal crime for anyone on the internet to talk/type/post about "indecent" material. How did the feds define "indecent"? Like this:

"[A]ny comment, request, suggestion, proposal, image or other communication that, in context, depicts or describes, in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards, sexual or excretory activities or organs . . .''

(Click here to see footnotes for the above.)

But how the hell can you have "community standards" when the WHOLE WORLD is your community???

The act also made it a violation of obscenity laws to use computers to provide information about how to obtain an abortion, courtesy of Representative Henry Hyde, Republican from Illinois. So, if I said "Holy shit, here's Planned Parenthood's phone number," I could have faced a $250,000 fine and a 2-year jail sentence. WHAT A JOKE!

(Click here to see footnotes for the above.)


Or at least it was black if you had the right browser. Free New York joined the net-wide protest by making its web page black by substituting the <body> code with this code: <BODY BGCOLOR="#000000" TEXT="#FFFFFF">. These groups successfully fought to overturn the CDA. Please visit them for more updates regarding free speech on the Internet:

Oh, and don't forget to email Clinton at president@whitehouse.gov, or call him at 202-456-1111, or fax him at at 202-456-2461 to tell him just how much of an IDIOT he was for knowingly signing an UNCONSTITUTIONAL bill into law.

And, now that the Supreme Court has declared the law unconstitutional, call up Attorney General Janet Reno at 202-842-3200 and tell her not to file any more ridiculous lawsuits like this again. How many times do I have to say it? It's unconstitutional! Even the Supreme Court agrees with me! Sigh . . .

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