The Communications Decency Act finally reached the US Supreme Court last week as legal representatives for and against the controversial law began giving evidence to establish its constitutionality.
In his opening address for the defence, attorney Bruce J Ennis attacked the law, which seeks to prevent minors from "indecent" material on the Internet. Acting on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union and 47 other plaintiffs, Ennis said: "The government cannot reduce the adult population to reading or viewing only what is appropriate for children."
Ennis went on to illustrate how widely-available software priced at as little as $30 (#19) can be used to protect children from unsuitable material.
But Seth Waxman, deputy solicitor general for the Justice Department, argued the Internet carries material to which access should be barred: "The Internet threatens to render irrelevant all prior efforts to protect children from indecent material.
"All of the laws regulating the display of indecent materials in theatres and book stores, on radio, TV, cable, and telephone ... approach insignificance when the Internet threatens to give every child with access to a connected computer a free pass into the equivalent of every adult bookstore and video store in the country."
Waxman added that any child who can use a mouse can surf the Internet with the aid of search engines to find indecent material. He added: "This law is a small price to pay to protect our children."
ACLU, which is leading the battle against the CDA with several other high-profile civil liberties organisations, condemns the law for infringing the First Amendment rights of all US citizens. In a statement, David Sobel, legal counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said: ``My fear is that they (the court) may buy into some of the hysterical concepts about the Internet - that it is a sea of pornography."
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