Back to News & Commentary

How Do You Spell Censorship?

Share This Page
October 24, 2006

Though I’m Web editor here at the ACLU now, I was once an editor in the Kids and Teens area of — and the COPA trial reminds me of the craziness we faced at About when COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998), note the extra P, was first passed by Congress.

COPA with one P (Child Online Protection Act) is the latest in a long, long line of attempts to regulate and restrain the uniquely universalist space of the Internet. If you read Rufus Griscom’s entries about testifying in the current trial, you can get a sense of the surreal quality of the proceedings relative to the subject and of the history that has with COPA and Internet censorship.

For the folks at About, COPPA meant that if we didn’t retool the entire site, basically, we were looking at $30,000 dollars a day in fines and the CEO, someone who at the time I thought was a good guy, would be carted off to jail. All our good, healthy access to kids and all our useful, vital information about thousands of topics was put in jeopardy by a hysterical, ill-informed response to the infinite possibilities of the Internet.

Working at the ACLU I know now that there is even more confusion in the world of Internet censorship-related acronyms: There’s COPA, COPPA, CPPA, CIPA, and CDA, to name just a few.

Happily, the news from Philadelphia, the testimony and the commentary — like’s courthouse blog — show that we’re still keeping it straight, that we are still focused on the basic point: online speech must be free speech.

Learn More About the Issues on This Page