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Indecency on the Net

             "If it's illegal in print or broadcast to get a Hustler or Penthouse magazine, sell it to a child, distribute it to a child, display it to a child, it should also be criminal in cyberspace," says Donna Rice Hughes, who campaigns to protect children from indecency and is the communications director for Enough is Enough, a Virginia-based anti-pornography organization. She supported the Communications Decency Act (CDA), a law that was passed in 1996 to ban the transmission of obscene or indecent material on the Internet. A number of civil rights and computer groups challenged the constitutionality of the provisions of the CDA under First Amendment grounds in Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union, the first Supreme Court case about the freedom of speech on the Internet. .
             The group of 20 plaintiffs that challenged the law included the American Civil Liberties Union, companies such as Microsoft and Apple, and the American Library Association. The opponents of the CDA argued that the law was censorship and violated their First Amendment rights by restricting their communication with adults. By banning adult material, the law impermissibly reduced the adult population to "only what is fit for children". They also claimed that the CDA was overbroad, vague and unenforceable. The CDA loosely defined indecency as material that is "patently offensive" by "contemporary community standards", which leaves the law open for abuse. Opponents of the CDA objected to the how the law regulated the Internet with standards that are applied to broadcast media such as television and radio. They said that the Internet is unlike the television because the user must actively seek out information. They argued that the Internet is a new form of publishing that deserved the same First Amendment protections as print; the looser print standard was more appropriate because users exercise choice in what they view.

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