Meddling With The Internet: Cda2 Censorship Act Halted Until February 1

Meddling With The Internet: Cda2 Censorship Act Halted Until February 1

As reported in the November 1998 issue of the ‘Online Newsletter’, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and other interested parties filed lawsuit in the Federal District Court in Philadelphia in October to restrain implementation of the “Child Online Protection Act” [“CDA2” or “CDA II” or “COPA” as it is being called] as part of the “The Internet Tax Freedom Act”, [now included in that act as Title IV — “Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998”] — and further hidden in the $500 billion Omnibus Appropriations bill that was sent to the President, who signed it into law. The act would have become effective in 30 days.

The act would not only have serious repercussions for all Americans, but for the Internet community worldwide as well.

In a November 20 ruling, Federal District Judge Lowell A. Reed, Jr. issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the court until February 1, 1999. The next hearing in the case is slated for January 20-21, in which ACLU, EFF, and EPIC will argue to turn the TRO into a lasting preliminary injunction pending conclusion of the trial and act’s constitutionality.

Significantly, the judge emphasized that the TRO applies to -all- Internet users – not just the plaintiffs in the case – and that, even if the law is ultimately upheld, the Administration cannot prosecute online speakers retroactively.

Even the U.S. Department of Justice advised the Congress prior to passage of the act that much of it appeared unconstitutional, noting in a letter that “… we would like to bring to your attention certain serious concerns we have about the bill.” … Now the Justice Department must attempt to -defend- the act, which it is clearly not predisposed to do.

While the ACLU, EFF, and EPIC filed their lawsuit in October, the American Library Association (ALA), an ally in the original CDA Act which was overturned – was noticeably missing in action. ALA’s Web site has remained silent on the subject.

Complete up-to-the-minute information on COPA can be obtained at: ACLU (http://www.aclu.org), EFF (http://www.eff.org), and EPIC (http://epic.org) [RSH]

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