Internet Porn The Victor At The Supreme Court In ACLU v. Mukasey

The Supreme Court rejects appeals by the Bush administration to uphold one of the first and biggest instances of Internet regulation.

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Efforts to fight Internet regulation scored a major victory yesterday, as the Supreme Court rejected the Bush administration's appeal of a 3rd Circuit decision that overturned the Child Online Protection Act. COPA, fi required owners of websites with "material harmful to minors" to take it upon themselves to prevent minors from getting access to their sites. The 3rd Circuit, however, ruled that it unnecessarily tramples on the First Amendment to place the burden on the website operators, when tools for parents to control what their children see online exist. Jack Balkin explains:

Not all parents are alike and not all children are alike; different parents might want to block different things. Some might decide not to block access at all but supervise and educate their children about Internet use in other ways. Without criminalizing website operations, the market can produce webservers and browsers to facilitate parental choice, as well third party software solutions, many of which already exist.

Generally speaking, the Internet should place filtering decisions and responsibilities on the end user, not the publisher of the content. There are exceptions to this basic rule, but sexually explicit speech is not one of them.

President Bush has stressed how his administration sought to encourage personal responsibility and an "ownership society." It is quite ironic, then, that one of his last legal pushes as president was to absolve parents of the responsibility to protect their children, and place that responsibility on third parties.

It should be said that by no means did COPA's definition of "harmful" only apply to porn. The definition's standard was much broader than the legal standard for obscenity. This ruling should finally solidify the freedom of web entrepreneurs to produce content without fear that they need to act as parents to the nation's youth.

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