Reno v aclu 1997. Reno v. ACLU :: 521 U.S. 844 (1997) :: Justia US Supreme Court Center 2022-11-01
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Reno v. ACLU (1997) was a landmark Supreme Court case that dealt with the constitutionality of the Communications Decency Act (CDA), a piece of legislation passed by Congress in 1996 that sought to regulate the distribution of "indecent" and "patently offensive" material on the internet. The case pitted the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) against the United States Department of Justice, represented by Attorney General Janet Reno.
At the heart of the case was the question of whether the CDA's provisions violated the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech. The ACLU argued that the CDA was overly broad and vague, and that it could be used to censor a wide range of protected speech, including artistic, scientific, and political expression. The government, on the other hand, argued that the CDA was necessary to protect children from harmful material on the internet.
In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the ACLU, holding that the CDA's provisions were unconstitutional. The Court found that the CDA's broad definition of "indecent" and "patently offensive" material could include a wide range of protected speech, and that the CDA's restrictions on internet speech were not narrowly tailored to achieve the government's goals.
The Court also rejected the government's argument that the CDA was necessary to protect children from harmful material on the internet, stating that there were less restrictive alternatives available, such as the use of filtering software or parental supervision.
The impact of the Reno v. ACLU decision has been significant, as it established the internet as a medium deserving of the highest level of First Amendment protection. The decision has also had a lasting impact on the development of the internet, as it has allowed for the free exchange of ideas and the unfettered growth of online communities.
Overall, the Reno v. ACLU case is an important example of the role that the courts play in protecting the freedom of speech and the right to access information. It also serves as a reminder of the importance of maintaining a balance between the need to protect children from harmful material and the right to free expression.
Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union, 521 U.S. 844, 117 S. Ct. 2329, 138 L. Ed. 2d 874, 1997 U.S. LEXIS 4037
IV In arguing for reversal, the Government contends that the CDA is plainly constitutional under three of our prior decisions: 1 Ginsberg v. At issue is the constitutionality of two statutory provisions enacted to protect minors from "indecent" and "patently offensive" communications on the Internet. This "societal value" requirement, absent in the CDA, allows appellate courts to impose some limitations and regularity on the definition by setting, as a matter of law, a national floor for socially redeeming value. § 97-5-11 1994 no minors in poolrooms, billiard halls, or where alcohol is sold ; Mo. Similarly, the safer sex instructions that Critical Path posts to its Web site, written in street language so that the teenage receiver can understand them, are available not just in Philadelphia, but also in Provo and Prague. §223 d 1 A.
Reno v. ACLU — Challenge to Censorship Provisions in the Communications Decency Act
Normally, this fact would require the Court to reject a direct facial challenge. First, the contention that the Act is constitutional because it leaves open ample "alternative channels" of communication is unpersuasive because the CDA regulates speech on the basis of its content, so that a "time, place, and manner" analysis is inapplicable. Andrew Anker testified that HotWired has received many complaints from its members about HotWired's registration system, which requires only that a member supply a name, e-mail address and self-created password. This argument ignores the fact that most Internet forumsincluding chat rooms, newsgroups, mail exploders, and the Webare open to all comers. 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. Brief for Appellants 19.
The Internet, however, has no comparable history. Moreover, the Government's claim that the work must be considered patently offensive "in context" was itself vague because the relevant context might "refer to, among other things, the nature of the communication as a whole, the time of day it was conveyed, the medium used, the identity of the speaker, or whether or not it is accompanied by appropriate warnings. The Act includes seven Titles, six of which are the product of extensive committee hearings and the subject of discussion in Reports prepared by Committees of the Senate and the House of Representatives. Although gateway technology has been available on the World Wide Web for some time now, id. As stated on the first of its 103 pages, its primary purpose was to reduce regulation and encourage "the rapid deployment of new telecommunications technologies.
RENO, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES v. AMERICAN CIVIL
The Government argues that the statute is no more vague than the obscenity standard this Court established in Miller v. Access to most Web pages is freely available, but some allow access only to those who have purchased the right from a commercial provider. The interest in encouraging freedom of expression in a democratic society outweighs any theoretical but unproven benefit of censorship. In full, §223 e 5 provides: 5 It is a defense to a prosecution under subsection a 1 B or d of this section, or under subsection a 2 of this section with respect to the use of a facility for an activity under subsection a 1 B of this section that a person- A has taken, in good faith, reasonable, effective, and appropriate actions under the circumstances to restrict or prevent access by minors to a communication specified in such subsections, which may involve any appropriate measures to restrict minors from such communications, including any method which is feasible under available technology; or B has restricted access to such communication by requiring use of a verified credit card, debit account, adult access code, or adult personal identification number. We contribute to teachers and students by providing valuable resources, tools, and experiences that promote civic engagement through a historical framework.
Although such verification is actually being used by some commercial providers of sexually explicit material, the District Court's findings indicate that it is not economically feasible for most noncommercial speakers. The government's main defense of the CDA was that similar decency laws had been upheld in three prior Supreme Court decisions: In In Reno v. The dramatic expansion of this new forum contradicts the factual basis underlying this contention: that the unregulated availability of "indecent" and "patently offensive" material is driving people away from the Internet. Individuals can obtain access to the Internet from many different sources, generally hosts themselves or entities with a host affiliation. Our cases require a proof of "real" and "substantial" overbreadth, Broadrick v.
The Government's assertion that the knowledge requirement somehow protects the communications of adults is therefore untenable. The record does not contain any evidence concerning the reliability of these technologies. Justice STEVENS delivered the opinion of the Court. Michigan, Sable Communications of Cal. And the purpose of the CDA is to protect children from the primary effects of "indecent'' and "patently offensive'' speech, rather than any "secondary'' effect of such speech. From the publishers' point of view, it constitutes a vast platform from which to address and hear from a world-wide audience of millions of readers, viewers, researchers, and buyers.
The second prong of the Miller test-the purportedly analogous standard-contains a critical requirement that is omitted from the CDA: that the proscribed material be "specifically defined by the applicable state law. Conrad, Red Lion Broadcasting Co. §571-B:2 I 1986 ; N. I would therefore sustain the "indecency transmission" and "specific person" provisions to the extent they apply to the transmission of Internet communications where the party initiating the communication knows that all of the recipients are minors. We distinguished Pacifica in Sable, 492 U. Youngs Drug Products Corp.
In addition to posting a message that can be read later, two or more individuals wishing to communicate more immediately can enter a chat room to engage in real time dialogue--in other words, by typing messages to one another that appear almost immediately on the others' computer screens. Having struggled for some time to establish a definition of obscenity, we set forth in Miller the test for obscenity that controls to this day: " a whether the average person, applying contemporary community standards would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest; b whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law; and c whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. Finally, unlike the conditions that prevailed when Congress first authorized regulation of the broadcast spectrum, the Internet can hardly be considered a "scarce'' expressive commodity. However, more elaborate documents, commonly known as Web "pages," are also prevalent. In arguing that the CDA does not so diminish adult communication, the Government relies on the incorrect factual premise that prohibiting a transmission whenever it is known that one of its recipients is a minor would not interfere with adult to adult communication. The CDA's vagueness undermines the likelihood that it has been carefully tailored to the congressional goal of protecting minors from potentially harmful materials. Under the CDA, a parent allowing her 17 year old to use the family computer to obtain information on the Internet that she, in her parental judgment, deems appropriate could face a lengthy prison term.
United States, 354 U. She also determined that the affirmative defenses were not "technologically or economically feasible for most providers," specifically considering and rejecting an argument that providers could avoid liability by "tagging" their material in a manner that would allow potential readers to screen out unwanted transmissions. Nor, given the vast array of plaintiffs, the range of their expressive activities, and the vagueness of the stat- ute, would it be practicable to limit our holding to a judicially defined set of specific applications. Justia case law is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect current legal developments, verdicts or settlements. The CDA's broad categorical prohibitions are not limited to particular times and are not dependent on any evaluation by an agency familiar with the unique characteristics of the Internet.