A three-judge panel–Chief Judge Dolores Sloviter, Judge Stewart Dalzell, and Judge Ronald Backwater–heard final oral arguments from the plaintiffs this morning in the case of ACLU v. Janet Reno, a suit filed in February in an effort to overturn the Communications Decency Act (CDA). The CDA criminalizes the posting of “indecent” or “patently offensive” material on the Internet.
There are several factions in the country who are manipulating our government into specific regulations of the Internet. The Internet is a new medium which brings with it new problems and new situations which need to be looked at from a governmental standpoint to make sure no citizen’s rights are infringed and no existing law is broken. That’s a mighty tall order.
Some say the Internet should be like Television. No cursing, No nudity, No extreme violence, No cats and dogs living together, No sex, No drugs, No rock & roll, No twitching Elvis hips. Nothing bad for the American public!
Some say it should be like publishing books and magazines. Check to see if the viewer is over 18 for bad stuff, well sorta. I mean, we all know that it ain’t that hard to get a copy of Penthouse magazine at any gas station or bookstore and it’s also not a chore to get past any given software that mom and dad stick on to filter out bad stuff. Of course, all the bad stuff in publishing, like slander, libel and kiddie porn, would still be fair game for law suits and felonies. This is more workable than the first group but we have a snag:
The Communications Decency Act passed through by Senator Exon and attached to the humongous Telecommunications Bill specifies “indecent” material transmitted through the internet to minors will carry a penalty of up to two years in prison and $250,000 in fines. That sounds like someone on Capital Hill wants to squeeze the Internet into our existing TV laws.
We have here a very precarious situation. In a day or two we will have a decision passed down from three judges in Philadelphia which could change the very fabric of the Internet. Indecent can be interpreted in many different ways. No longer will we be able to curse in our personal emails. No longer will we be able to espouse our views unedited for all to see because someone might find it offensive.
It might not be a problem to everyone, but it’s a problem to me.
Three judges. Our future.