Court strikes down Internet porn law

Senior U.S. District Judge Lowell Reed Jr. has dealt another blow to government efforts to control Internet pornography, striking down a 1998 U.S. law that makes it a crime for commercial Web site operators to let children access "harmful" material. In the ruling, the judge said parents can protect their children through software filters and other less restrictive means: "Perhaps we do the minors of this country harm if (free speech) protections, which they will with age inherit fully, are chipped away in the name of their protection."

The law would have criminalized Web sites that allow children to access material deemed "harmful to minors" by "contemporary community standards." The sites would have been expected to require a credit card number or other proof of age. Penalties included a $50,000 fine and up to six months in prison. Sexual health sites challenged the law arguing that the Child Online Protection Act was unconstitutionally vague and would have had a chilling effect on speech. Technology experts said parents now have more serious concerns than Web sites with pornography, such as online predators on social-networking sites.

To defend the nine-year-old Child Online Protection Act, government lawyers attacked software filters as burdensome and less effective, even though they have previously defended their use in public schools and libraries. "It is not reasonable for the government to expect all parents to shoulder the burden to cut off every possible source of adult content for their children, rather than the government's addressing the problem at its source," a government attorney, Peter D. Keisler, argued in a post-trial brief. Critics of the law argued that filters work best because they let parents set limits based on their own values and their child's age. The law addressed material accessed by children under 17, but applied only to content hosted in the United States.

News source: CNN

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26 Comments

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I can't believe you people. I'd like to believe that if you had a young daughter, you would think differently, but I would probably be wrong. How would you like your six year old daughter to be bombarded with links to porn sites that regularly show girls getting gang banged, getting facials, orgies, homosexuality, and thinking this is all OK and normal activity she can expect to participate in it as soon as she's old enough (middle school or high school approximately). How long do you think it will be before myspace.com is displaying super provocative ads to these sites, like they already do to adult dating/swinger sites. Speaking of swinger sights, they won't need to prove they are an adult to register there either. And have fun trying to keep all of these sites blocked.

This is the equivalent of allowing porn channels on TV, allowing kids to purchase porn mags in stores, and even allowing them to go into adult video/toy stores and strip clubs. Next thing you know it will be on billboards.

We do need some regulations where porn is concerned, it will be darn near impossible to keep your kids away from these sites. And how many of you grew up in an environment (or would want to) where your parents were able to monitor you 100% of the time. It's not feasible or desirable. It would be like being afraid to let your kids going outside to play because of people having sex in public.

Think of the consequences people. As a young boy, I might have thought the same thing. But today I know better. It's a shame the judge doesn't.

Too many liberal thinking teenage boys on this site.

Asking for a credit card number or some other proof of age isn't "going after porn sites", it is a reasonable way to make sure you don't have 8 year olds looking at stuff that 8 year olds have no business looking at. Most of you don't get that because your under the age of 21 and your hormones are out of control. I've been there. You just wait until you have little boys and girls of your own. Watch how your opinions change.

then why again would you be so blind to trust in the US saving the web for you when theres still sites located in canada, mexico, europe, asia, etc...?
it might not be going after porn sites, but it's just not right to actually be forced to give your credit card number if you want to access the site.
if you're worried about your children, just care for them: browse the web with them together, and do whatever you want.

then again (not speaking for the majority of minors) I do have a credit card, its pre-paid, but it validates all the age validators I have tried... not many, but still...

Glassed Silver:mac

I am still not sure I quite understand what the fuss is about. I can think of much worse things I'd hate for my son to see than (gasp) a naked body. Last I checked, it's a pretty natural thing (discounting the prodigious amounts of silicon.) Ninety nine percent of the time, when you come across porn, it's because you were looking for it, or already on an adult oriented site. Seems to me that the ones offended and upset about it are mainly the adults, the same adults who were to prudish or ignorant to teach their kids about the facts of life in the first place. When we were young we all saw bits of porn and it did no lasting harm to us, why do we think today's kids are any different? There is a such thing as being to protective. We can't expect to keep kids in the dark up until their eighteenth birthday then suddenly give them free access to everything.

ThaCrip said,
me personally i think they need to do something... i think a .xxx instead of .com would be the best idea

Slacker said,
the ideal solution would be for these parents to be educated about internet and computer use in general. However, it's probably more difficult to get all the parents of the world to be educated enough to know how monitor thier children effectivly then it is to get all porn sites to use the .xxx sites.

True... many, if not even most, families aren't up to par when it comes to supervising what their children are doing online.

The problems I see with the Child Online Protection Act, creating the .xxx tld for porn, Deleting Online Predators Act of 2006. etc, etc is that they only focus on the "hot topic" of the day & completely ignore the majority of other potential online pitfalls. Those families that aren't up to par on the internet end up with a false sense of security when it comes to protecting their children from objectionable material.

Jesse: the reason that's not really easy is due to the different locations of the dock connector on each generation or style of ipod. It would require a system of adapter plates for it to really work well, if you didn't want the ipod moving around a lot.

I currently have a pioneer stereo with the first gen ipod interface, and it's pretty terrible. Even the newer ones have their limits. I hope that this one delivers.


http://www.ipodconverter.com

I agree that parents should be taking responsibility for what thier children do with thier time. However, I think that it's also very often true that the children know more about how to use a computer and hide what they have been doing than thier parents do. In this case, the ideal solution would be for these parents to be educated about internet and computer use in general. However, it's probably more difficult to get all the parents of the world to be educated enough to know how monitor thier children effectivly then it is to get all porn sites to use the .xxx sites.

I think that it's good that we recognize that it's not really a good thing for children to have free access to porn. Since it is so difficult for parents to get informed about how to effectivly monitor thier children's time, I have no problem with governments effecting laws to assist them. I don't see it as a shift in responsibility as a recognition that many parents are ill-equipped at this time. From what I see, the big downside to the 1998 laws was that there could potentially be less porn available on the internet, but it's not like we're running out of porn. Even in a worst case situation it looks like fair trade to me, a few less porn sites in exchange for keeping children away from porn. There's still more than enough porn to go around.

how many billions of porn sites are there? and they want to sue every single onf of them that doesn't comply with "contemporary community standards"?

me personally i think they need to do something... i think a .xxx instead of .com would be the best idea even though it might cost alot to get everything up and running (to bad it's a world issue so this will never happen, cause even if it happens in the USA without pretty much everyone doing it, it wont all worth your time unless u can stop atleast 90-95percent of sites from not using the .xxx domain name) .. this way it would be easier for those software filters to block porn related sites from children... cause even though a good portion of this is the parents responsibility you cant put it ALL on them if you ask me.

but i do have to agree with what the judge said about ... "Perhaps we do the minors of this country harm if (free speech) protections, which they will with age inherit fully, are chipped away in the name of their protection"

i guess when is all said and done nothing will change and it's all on the parents as usual :(

p.s. im 27 years old.... but i aint got to worry to much myself since i dont plan on having kids anytime soon (if ever).

and political desent against bush can be .lie instead of .com or .org would be the best idea even though it might cost alot to get everything up and running (to bad it's a world issue so this will never happen, cause even if it happens in the USA without pretty much everyone doing it, it wont all worth your time unless you can stop atleast 90-95percent of sites from not using the .com or .org domain names) .. this way it would be easier for those software filters to block anti bush related sites from republicans... cause even though a good portion of this is the republicans responsibility you cant put it ALL on them if you ask me.

-----government has no place on the internet to be enforcing arbitrary rules. i don't care what right wing nut job you put into office.

"Perhaps we do the minors of this country harm if (free speech) protections, which they will with age inherit fully, are chipped away in the name of their protection."

woah... thats deep...
i dun get it :P

who friggin cares, children are subjected to many worse things other than porn these days.

I think the Judge made the right desicion in this case, freedom of speech must be protected and it's up to parents too "protect" their kids.

striking down a 1998 U.S. law that makes it a crime for commercial Web site operators to let children access "harmful" material.

Since it's hard to enforce, and a warning page only tend to attract children (taboo psychology), I think this is alright. The most important part is that children visiting sites shouldn't be the responsibility of the site operators. They can just click past a warning page anyway, and then the site *will* let the children access it.

Well, it could be nice to have this to not have porn thrown right in your face if you happen to mistype a web address, but today it seems really hard to enforce anyway. As in, operators wishing to bring in ad revenue by hijacked domains put their servers outside the US and this legislation, and there you go.

peterish said,
does this mean those annoying "Enter Only If You Are 17 and Over" pages will now be done away with?

I say that they should stay. They mean that a minor can't accidentally view inappropriate material. Just because it's not illegal any more doesn't mean they need to let anyone and everyone view the sites.

bsnappy said,

I say that they should stay. They mean that a minor can't accidentally view inappropriate material. Just because it's not illegal any more doesn't mean they need to let anyone and everyone view the sites.

I agree, they should stay.

Now, I wish instead of going back over what lawmakers do they'd go and actually do just and fair decisions on things that really matter and stop bowing down to the political bosses of our day ...

HELL YES! Finally a judge with some sense to say that parents still have to be responsible for their own children. What a NOVEL idea

My god, I was beginning to lose hope in this country... It seems like everybody wants to place blame on somebody else. Hopefully this is a sign of change... Or maybe I'm just being a bit too optimistic.

Yes, judges like this one which actually have some sense in their head are indeed one in a million in the US. Good to see they're not yet extinct.