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Commentary

Supreme Court Rejects Child Online Protection Act

The Child Online Protection Act is still dead. COPA, signed by President Bill Clinton in 1998, would have required commercial Web sites to block children's access by requiring information from users. Critics said it was overly restrictive and unconstitutional, and the law never took effect.
The Child Online Protection Act is still dead. COPA, signed by President Bill Clinton in 1998, would have required commercial Web sites to block children's access by requiring information from users. Critics said it was overly restrictive and unconstitutional, and the law never took effect.In 2004, the Supreme Court said the Act could restrict access to free speech protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court sent the case back to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia to determine whether young people could be protected from online obscenity through software filters.

Last year, the lower court decided that software was an equally effective, and less restrictive, way to prevent children from viewing sexually explicit material online.

The federal government appealed that decision to the Supreme Court, arguing that half of American homes where children can access the Internet lack filtering software or other technology to block obscenity.

The American Civil Liberties Union challenged the law and argued that filters are more effective than a U.S. ban, which cannot be applied to foreign Web sites. The law also failed to cover e-mail, newsgroups, and chat rooms, which are used to disseminate pornography.

This week, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, in Mukasey v. ACLU, without comment. That prevents the Act from taking effect.

COPA was Congress' second attempt to restrict sexually explicit and indecent material on the Internet. In 1996, the Supreme Court rejected a similar law that was broader in scope.