Free expression and censorship on the internet the cda and the cipa
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Free Expression and Censorship on the Internet: The CDA and the CIPA. Michael Weiss September 14, 2004. What are the CDA and the CIPA?. CDA = Communications Decency Act Prohibits “patently offensive” sexual material being made available over the internet to anyone under 18

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Free Expression and Censorship on the Internet: The CDA and the CIPA

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Free expression and censorship on the internet the cda and the cipa

Free Expression and Censorship on the Internet: The CDA and the CIPA

Michael Weiss

September 14, 2004


What are the cda and the cipa

What are the CDA and the CIPA?

  • CDA = Communications Decency Act

    • Prohibits “patently offensive” sexual material being made available over the internet to anyone under 18

    • Aimed at website operators

  • CIPA = Children’s Internet Protection Act

    • Libraries must adopt internet safety policies

    • Libraries must use filtering software


Obscenity law is complicated

Obscenity law is complicated

  • Obscenity is illegal, but

    • Pornography is legal, but

      • Child pornography is illegal, but

        • Virtual child pornography is legal

  • Three part “Miller” test for obscenity

    • “Community standards”

    • Different test for minors


History of the cipa

History of the CIPA

  • Signed into law by Clinton, December 21 2000

  • 2nd provision struck down May 30 2002 by 3rd Circuit Court

  • Supreme Court, June 23 2003 overturns decision and upholds CIPA (6 – 3)


Problems with filters

Problems with filters

  • “Porn” filters have blocked

    • Knights of Columbus Council

    • California Jewish Community Center

    • Republican National Committee's Web site,

    • Juggling site

    • Health sites devoted to baldness and halitosis

  • Legal definition of obscenity calls for human judgment


Some issues in cipa decision

Some issues in CIPA decision

  • Adult patrons can request that filters be turned off

  • Is restricting access similar to choosing which books to get for the library?

  • Penalty for violating CIPA: loss of federal funds

    • “unconstitutional conditions” doctrine


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