Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union, 521 U.S. 844 (1997)
Congress passed provisions in the Communications Decency Act of 1996 to protect minors from harmful material on the Internet. Two provisions criminalized the display of "indecent" or "patently offensive" online communications. The American Civil Liberties Union and many other groups challenged the constitutionality of these provisions in federal court. They argued that these provisions infringed on First Amendment free-speech rights. A lower federal court ruled the two provisions violated the First Amendment. The government appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Whether federal laws prohibiting the display of "patently offensive" and "indecent" online speech violate the First Amendment.
By a 7-2 margin, the Court held that the two provisions did violate the First Amendment.
The government has a very important interest in protecting minors from harmful material. But the government cannot silence adult free-speech rights simply to protect minors and these provisions swept in sexual speech that was not obscene. "In order to deny minors access to potentially harmful speech, the CDA effectively suppresses a large amount of speech that adults have a constitutional right to receive and to address to one another."
"[O]ur cases provide no basis for qualifying the level of First Amendment scrutiny that should be applied to this medium [the Internet]." (Justice John Paul Stevens)
Read more about this case at firstamendmentcenter.org:
Monday, May 20, 2013 | 06:26:59