Society - Internet

Train kept rolling...

      The article ran as the 1995 Senate telecommunications bill, S. 652, was moving through Congress — a bill which contained the Communications Decency Act, then known as the “Exon bill,” named after co-author Senator James Exon (D-Neb.). Aimed at clamping down on pornography on the Net, its opponents considered the bill overly broad and a threat to free speech.

      The “Cyberporn” article created new concern over the allegedly widespread problem and was employed by Exon bill advocates to generate congressional support. Language from the article was even added in the legislation.

      Within a few months, the holes in the Carnegie-Mellon study were exposed. The furor over the faulty study and Time’s article should have signaled the bill’s death knell, at least as to its core substance. But it didn’t. On February 1, 1996, Congress approved a modified version of the CDA as part of a telecommunications reform bill. With it came stiff penalties for distribution of obscene materials to minors on the Internet, tracking with those proposed by Exon and others. On February 8, the bill was signed into law.

      The Electronic Privacy Information Center, in conjunction with 19 other organizations, immediately initiated a constitutional challenge to the Communications Decency Act by filing a lawsuit in federal court in Philadelphia on February 8, calling for a temporary restraining order.

      They eventually won the relief they sought and a ruling that the CDA was unconstitutional.


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