We just received word today that the Third Circuit struck down a federal Internet censorship law as unconstitutional. The law, called the Child Online Protection Act, imposed civil and criminal penalties on those who place “harmful to minors” material on the Web. Under this law, no adult, no matter how mature or responsible, would have been allowed to see material that is deemed unfit for a child. The law would have forced vast swaths of constitutionally protected speech off of the Web.
Today’s victory is a huge win that comes as a result of 10 years of litigation by a dedicated group of ACLU clients. All of our clients—from award-winning, established publications such as Salon to individuals such as Heather Corinna, who works largely on her own to provide valuable sexual health information geared toward teenagers—put up with a great deal of hassle and inconvenience and stress. By standing up for their own right to engage in free speech on the Web, they helped protect the rights of all Americans. They deserve our thanks.
Whether today’s opinion is the last to address COPA is up to the government and, ultimately, to the Supreme Court. The government has some time to decide whether it wants to ask the Court to review this case. Hopefully it will conclude that 10 years of litigation is enough.