At the COPA
Sometimes the most eloquent form of communication is silence. Ten years after President Clinton’s administration introduced the Child Online Protection Act, the Supreme Court declined to hear the Bush administration’s final attempt to establish the Act in law. This case has changed names several times – you can follow the paper trail via the Electronic Frontiers Foundation’s overview. Alternatively, Ars Technica is a good source for a more spirited version of the saga.
Basically, COPA was supposed to protect children from seeing anything online that might violate “contemporary community standards” or appeal to “prurient interest” under penalty of up to $50,000 in fines and six months in prison. (These are the same vague concepts that led Facebook to ban photos of breastfeeding infants if the areola was visible.) The Supreme Court determined that it violated the First and Fifth Amendments (that’s the free speech one and the due process one).
There are many important observations and statements in this whole truckload of legal briefs, but a particular favorite of mine comes from U.S. District Lowell A. Reed Jr.: “Perhaps we do the minors of this country harm if First Amendment protections, which they will with age inherit fully, are chipped away in the name of their protection.”
(Thanks for the title/lyrics go to Barry Manilow, Bruce Sussman, and J. Feldman. Creative Commons photo by Seabamirum/Tim.)