Statements from Reno v. ACLU plaintiffs and witnesses

June 26, 1997 12:00 am

Media Contact
125 Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
United States

Statement of Jonathan Tasini, President, National Writers Union

NEW YORK: The National Writers Union (UAW Local 1981), one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit to overturn the Communications Decency Act of 1996, expressed great satisfaction today at the Supreme Court’s decision to affirm the preliminary injunction against the Act.

“The Court’s decision is a great victory for free speech,” said Jonathan Tasini, president of the NWU. “We were proud to stand with our other plaintiffs and the ACLU in an effort to protect one of the enduring values of our democratic society.”

The National Writers Union represents 4,600 freelance journalists, book authors, poets and technical writers nationwide.

Statement of Candace Perkins Bowen, President, Journalism Education Association


The Court’s decision is definitely a victory for everyone, but it’s particularly important for high school journalists and their advisers. Only by allowing student reporters open access to information — on the Internet and elsewhere — can we help them develop the skills they need to be critical thinkers and to communicate important information to their teen audiences. With skilled journalism teachers guiding them, they not only will be able to explore topics and gather facts vital to their lives, but they will experience first-hand the value the First Amendment offers all citizens. Even those who will not follow a career in journalism will benefit by learning to be better media consumers.

Statement of Jonathan Wallace, Publisher of The Ethical Spectacle


NEW YORK — Jonathan Wallace, a plaintiff in the ACLU v. Reno case, welcomed the Supreme Court ruling today.

“Its a sweeping victory,” said Wallace, publisher of The Ethical Spectacle ( and co-author with Mark Mangan of Sex, Laws and Cyberspace (New York: Henry Holt: 1996) on Internet censorship. “The Court has accorded the Internet the broadest possible protection.”

In the ruling, the seven justice majority agreed with the District Court that the Internet is not “invasive” like broadcast media and cable. While a child may stumble on an indecent television program, accessing content on the Internet requires too many steps for society to be equally concerned about the Net. Additionally, the Court said, warning screens and the availability of other measures to individual parents make the Communications Decency Act unneccessary and therefore unconstitutional.

“This means that the Court is prepared to treat the Internet like print media, which has always been considered sacred in First Amendment law,” Wallace said.

He congratulated the ACLU attorneys and other lawyers who represented the plaintiffs. “They worked hard and did a tremendous job on this, educating the District Court and the Supreme Court in the meaning of the new medium,” Wallace said.

The Ethical Spectacle is a monthly Web-based newsletter focusing on the intersection, or collision, of ethics, law and politics in our society. Wallace joined the ACLU case as a plaintiff because of his concern that socially valuable material in the publication, such as a compilation of Holocaust material ( might be considered indecent under the Communications Decency Act.

Statement of Duff Axsom, Executive Director, Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility


Palo Alto, CA–First Amendment rights in cyberspace won a resounding victory today in the Supreme Court when the Communications Decency Act was declared unconstitutional. Civil liberties advocates hailed the decision as a clear extension of basic rights to communication on the Internet. “The Court has verified that our basic rights of free expression apply in cyberspace and to the vast Internet community” according to Aki Namioka, President of Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR).

In a 7-2 decision, Justice Stevens, speaking for the majority said, “the medium (Internet), unlike radio, receives full First Amendment protection.” The Court found that the CDA’s criminalization of free expression on the Internet was in violation of First Amendment rights. The CDA’s “indecent transmission” and “patently offensive display” provisions abridge “the freedom of speech” protected by the First Amendment. The landmark case, brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, was filed on behalf of CPSR, EPIC and 17 individuals and organizations that provide public information via the Internet. The ACLU and the plaintiffs moved quickly because this telecommunications legislation, CDA, has an immediate impact on the use of the Internet.

A copy of the Court’s decision is available at The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) Website:

Statement of Howard Rheingold, Expert Witness in ACLU v. Reno


The best possible way to protect our children is to maintain a strong democracy. Democracy is not just about voting. It’s about citizens who are free to communicate with one another. The panel of judges in Philadelphia and the Supreme Court recognized that the right of citizens to communicate with one another on the Internet is precisely the kind of speech the First Amendment was designed to protect. We can and should teach our children how to make moral choices, and we can and should teach them how to use media.

Statement of Donna Hoffman, Expert Witness in ACLU v. Reno

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEThis ruling is a deeply satisfying victory because it reaffirms the rights and responsibilities of all individuals to be active and in-control participants in the most revolutionary communication medium since the development of the printing press.

It effectively says that USERS are the best judges of the content they wish to consume online, not the government, or some other organization trying to impose its own views on the rest of a democratic society.

The Justices’ decision takes on an unexpected urgency and relevance today for all citizens of the global Internet. For even as the Supreme Court of the United States of America has declared the CDA to be unconstitutional and a violation of the First Amendment, the German government, for example, is zealously seeking to control and outlaw users’ access to material it has concluded is unacceptable.

This judgment also means that the stunning growth in the commercialization of the Internet may continue freely and without fear. This is important because commercialization is the engine fueling critical mass and universal access to this new medium for all members of our global society.

Donna L. Hoffman
Visiting Scholar, Interval Research Corporation
Associate Professor of Management Vanderbilt University

Every month, you'll receive regular roundups of the most important civil rights and civil liberties developments. Remember: a well-informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny.

Learn More About the Issues in This Press Release