Supreme Court refuses to hear Mukasey v. ACLU

The Raw Story

The Supreme Court’s refusal to hear Mukasey v. ACLU is the final nail in the coffin of the Child Online Protection Act (COPA).  An act written so broadly that it would have had the effect of reducing the internet to Romper Room.

Of course, the real purpose of COPA was not protecting children, it was an attempt to censor the content of the internet — for all Americans.

The American Civil Liberties Union announced Wednesday that the Supreme Court will not hear Mukasey v. ACLU, the Bush administration’s attempt to appeal federal court rulings against the Child Online Protection Act (COPA), passed by Congress in 1998 after the fall of the 1996 Communications Decency Act.

“For over a decade the government has been trying to thwart freedom of speech on the Internet, and for years the courts have been finding the attempts unconstitutional,” said ACLU senior staff attorney and lead counsel Chris Hansen. “It is not the role of the government to decide what people can see and do on the Internet. Those are personal decisions that should be made by individuals and their families.”

If parents are worried about what their little tykes might see or do on the internet, then get the computers out of kids’ bedrooms, and into the family room.  That way everyone knows when little Johnny finds Daddy’s porn collection.  It’s really not that hard to figure out…

COPA, as codified, would have made it an offense punishable by a fine up to $50,000 and/or up to 6 months’ imprisonment for transmitting “any material that is harmful to minors” for commercial purposes on the World Wide Web if not put behind a safeguard such as a requirement for payment or a special access code. Additional fines would have been levied for “intentionally” violating the law.

Material deemed “harmful to minors” under COPA included written, photographic, recorded and otherwise “communicated” material that, based on the average person’s interpretation of “contemporary community standards,” is “obscene” or “designed to appeal to, or is designed to pander to, the prurient interest.” The law further reads that any material that “depicts, describes, or represents, in a manner patently offensive with respect to minors, an actual or simulated sexual act or sexual contact, an actual or simulated normal or perverted sexual act, or a lewd exhibition of the genitals or post-pubescent female breast,” that “taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value for minors.”

That. Could. Be. Anything.

Internet Censorship Coming to Australia

Australia plans to join China in implementing mandatory internet censorship.  The Australian government will not allow internet users to opt out of the national filter, something originally provided in the initial proposal.

Originally outlined as a way to combat child pornography and adult content, this censorship proposal is reported to possibly include sites containing information on euthanasia and anorexia.

Mr Conroy said trials were yet to be carried out, but “we are talking about mandatory blocking, where possible, of illegal material.”

Many groups have come out against the proposal saying it would “unfairly restrict Australians’ access to the web, slow internet speeds and raise the price of internet access.”

EFA board member Colin Jacobs said it would have little effect on illegal internet content, including child pornography, as it would not cover file-sharing networks.

“If the Government would actually come out and say we’re only targeting child pornography it would be a different debate,” he said.

Not everyone is against this proposal.  The Australian Christian Lobby welcomed it saying, “The need to prevent access to illegal hard-core material and child pornography must be placed above the industry’s desire for unfettered access.”

I have read unsubstantiated stories about Rogers (AT&T) and Telus (both in Canada) looking into blocking the internet, but the original story I read is no longer available (and since it contained no links to any sources) and upon further reading, it appears that what Rogers is trying to do is charge extra for long streams of data which tie up the networks. Capitalism being what it is, I cannot complain about that.  Hopefully, there is enough competition in Canada to allow customers to shop elsewhere should they not want to pay for these extra services.

That said, it  is too reminiscent of rumblings here in the US that providers were going to allow their business customers to pay additional revenue so that their sites load faster, which could lead to limited competition if consumers get tired of one site taking forever to load (remember those “World Wide Wait” commercials?)  Each tiny step taken to place limitations on a free internet is a step in the wrong direction.

And should a western country implement any type of censorship, one must ask oneself, how long before it arrives here?

Read up on Net Neutrality and take action.  Do not allow this to ever come to pass, for what you are reading right now, may become nonexistent in the future.

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