Issue 63, Fall 1996

The Communications Decency Act, the provision of the 1996 Telecommunications Act designed to restrict the flow of information over the Internet, has now been struck down twice by federal court judges. The cases will be joined on appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court and are expected to be heard in the fall term. In the most recent case, Joe Shea, editor of an on-line newspaper, challenged the CDA by publishing and transmitting "indecency" — an article written by Judge Steve Matthews, a Texas state judge and law professor.

The U.S. District court ruled that the section prohibiting the dissemination of "indecent" speech was unconstitutional because it was overbroad and affected protected speech between adults. The court also found that there is no practical way to block material using currently available blocking software and that "there is no persuasive evidence that a substantial proportion of Internet content providers can make available material potentially within the scope of the CDA without fear of prosecution and criminal liability."