Oct. 30, 2006 – Civil rights and media organizations went to court last week to challenge the government over an Internet censorship law they say is vague and violates the First Amendment.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit on behalf of itself and several media organizations to strike down the Child Online Protection Act (COPA), which Congress passed in 1998 to protect children from online pornography. The law has yet to be enforced.
The controversial Act makes it illegal to put material deemed harmful to minors on the Internet in a way that is accessible to them. Offenders can be fined up to $50,000 and imprisoned for a maximum of six months.
In challenging the law, the ACLU claims that Congress does not have the right to censor information on the Internet and argues that COPA violates the right to free speech. The plaintiffs say the lawâ€™s overly vague language will result in the suppression of constitutionally protected communications, including web sites devoted to sexual health and gay rights.
"It is not the role of the government to decide what people can see and use on the Internet," said ACLU Senior Staff Attorney Chris Hansen in a press statement. "Those are personal decisions that should be made by individuals and their families."
The trial is expected to last about three more weeks. Today, Adam Glickman, operator of the online store and website Condomania.com, Mitchell Tepper, Sexual Health Network.com and Professor Henry Reichman, Associate Editor of the American Library Association's "Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom" are all scheduled to testify.