Timing is everything. On the very first day of Obama's administration, the U.S. Supreme Court announced the definitive demise of the Child Online Protection Act (COPA). The ACLU's lawsuit to challenge the constitutionality of this law has been grinding along like a glacier for 10 years now. COPA would have made it a federal crime to sell anything on the Web to minors that could be deemed "harmful" to them. Today, after many backings and fillings in the court system, the high court said that it would not hear the government's latest of many appeals.
My publishing company, Wildcat Press, and I were among the LGBT entities involved with this ACLU lawsuit, as well as with the first lawsuit of its kind, namely the one against the Communications Decency Act (CDA). This one was filed in 1996, and took a similar tack on "protecting" minors from "indecency" on the Web. The U.S. Supreme Court found the CDA unconstitutional also.
Wildcat's position was this: these two bills were supposedly aimed at hard-core porn but they were so broadly written that they would be used to criminalize the commercial provision of all kinds of legitimate content to minors on the Internet, whether health information or literature. And such laws definitely would be used by ultraconservatives to limit availability of LGBT content on the Web. For this reason, we felt that it was important for us, as a gay-owned small press, to participate in these lawsuits. The Philadelphia Gay News was also involved.
The Supreme Court decision puts the onus where it belongs -- on parents, who have the right to use software filters to try keeping their minor kids from viewing material that they disapprove of.
The CDA was signed by President Clinton, showing that Democrats can be as wrong-headed about censorship as Republicans. I'm sure that the blue-noses in Congress have another nasty censorship bill waiting in the wings. Let's hope that President Obama and his administration will be more censorship-savvy than the Clinton administration was.