Federal Internet Law & Policy
An Educational Project

Free Speech & Internet Censorship

Dont be a FOOL; The Law is Not DIY
- 1st Amendment
- Internet Freedom
- Children, Protection
- - COPA
- - CIPA
- - CPPA
- - Child Porn
- - Child Porn, Reporting
- - Protect Act
- - V Chip
- - Deceptive Content
- - Sex Offenders
- - Privacy
- Filters
- - Notification
- SPAM Labels
- Taxes
- Reports
- Obscenity
- Annoy
- Good Samaritan Defense
- Notes

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. -- First Amendment to the US Constitution

"Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers." Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19.

Although children can use the Internet to tap into the Library of Congress or download pictures from the surface of Mars, not all of the material on the Internet is appropriate for children. As a parent, you can guide and teach your child in a way that no one else can. You can make sure that your child's experience on the Internet is safe, educational and enjoyable. - President Bill Clinton (1997).

Since 1996, every Congressional session has passed at least one piece of legislation attempting to censor the Internet, almost always in the name of protecting the youth of America.  The first such attempt came with Sen Exon's Communication's Decency Act (CDA), passed as an amendment to the Telecommunications Act of 1996.  The CDA constituted both the worst and the brightest moment in Internet legal history.  It was the worst moment in that the legislation was so wrong headed, so ignorant of the technology it sought to regulate, and so unconstitutional that it was overturned by a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court.  It also constituted a bright moment in legal history in that it cause the US legal system, at an early point of Internet development, to stop and reflect on the importance of the Internet for free speech in our society.  The declaration that "the Internet is a never ending market place of ideas" set the tone of the policy debate to come for many years.

The CDA has been followed by a flurry of other mostly unsuccessful attempts: The Children's Online Protection Act, also known as the Son of the CDA, has suffered under the judgment of "unconstitutional" almost from the beginning. The Child Pornography Prevention Act, seeking to apply child porn laws to the digital age, hit a problem when there was no child involved and the content was not obscene. The Children's Internet Protection Act has faired better, conditioning the use of Erate by Schools and Libraries upon the use of filters.

In the mean time, the role of ISPs as Internet Police increased. And some stuff is so bad it has always been illegal.

Government Activity

A CommonSense Approach to Internet Safety
Penn and Teller
George Carlin: Seven Dirty Words
Strong Language
Trivia: The Ultimate Frisbee Team for the Federal Communications Bar Association was named "Seven Dirty Words"

U.S. Statutes

Federal Regulations




Webcasts & Podcasts




  • Wu, Tim, Machine Speech (May 1, 2013). 161 U. Pa. L. Rev. 1495 ; University of Pennsylvania Law Review, Vol. 161, No. 1495, 2013.
  • Jack M. Balkin, Free Speech and Press in the Digital Age, 36 PEPP. L. Rev. 427 (March, 2009).Recommended Reading
  • Russell B. Weekes, Cyber-Zoning a Mature Domain: The Solution to Preventing Inadvertent Access To Sexually Explicit Content on the Internet?, V Jolt 5/14/03
  • Racist and Xenophobic Content on the Internet - Problems and Solutions: Strategies to Tackle Racism and Xenophobia on the Internet - Where are we in Europe?, IJCLP 1/21/03
  • Christopher S. Yoo, The Rise and Demise of the Technology-Specific Approach to the First Amendment, 91 GEO. L.J. 245 (2003)Recommended Reading
  • A Parents Guide to Supervising a Child's Online Experience |
  • CAIDA:  Internet Measurement: Myths about Internet data (5 dec 01) Myth: Most Internet file transfers are porn
  • Jerry Berman and Daniel J. Weitzner, “Abundance and User Control: Renewing the Democratic Heart of the First Amendment in the Age of Interactive Mediapdf,” 104 Yale Law Journal 1619 (1995)
  • Books


    News & Blogs

    Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
  • FCC sends dirty joke to email list , CNET (May 1999) (" In an ironic mishap, the Federal Communications Commission--which monitors the airwaves for what it considers obscene and indecent language--forwards a dirty joke to its external email list. ")
  • FCC e-mails dirty joke instead of daily report, AP - FindArticles May 1999
  • eDisaster Stories, ePolicy Institute
  • FCC employee in nun joke spam shock, The Register May 10 1999
  • Companies Compete to Provide Saudi Internet Veil, NYT 11/19/01
  • Court Says France Can't Censor Yahoo Site, NYT 11/9/01
  • Yahoo! allowing Offensive content: Group, India Times 11/2/01
  • Campaign Will Urge Tags for Net Content, LATimes 10/22/01
  • Va.'s Online Porn Law Rejected, Washtech 10/16/01
  • U.S. To Help China Evade Web Censorship, Reuters 09/01/01
  • France, U.S. Tangle Over Internet Censorship Issues, Newsfactor 9/5/01
  • House Committee Report on Pornography and File-Sharing Confirms ACLU Concerns With Blocking Software Friday, July 27, 2001
  • Congressmen urge parents to beware of online pornography, Nando 7/27/01
  • Lawmakers Say Napster's Heirs Expose Kids To Porn, Newsbytes 7/27/01
  • Congressmen Warn Parents about Internet Pornography, Washtech 7/27/01
  • Anti-Porn Groups Hope for a More Sympathetic DOJ, Standard 5/4/01
  • Protecting Children From Net Ills, Washtech 5/3/01
  • FCC Chair: Net Content To Stay Unregulated, Infoworld 4/25/01
  • Net Porn Fight: In The Name Of The Children?, MSNBC 3/29/01
  • Canadian Parliament to consider Web decency laws, Nando 3/16/01
  • Canada To Criminalize Surfing For Child Porn, Reuters 3/14/01
  • Florida High Court: AOL Immune From Porn Lawsuit, AP 3/9/01
  • New Weapon In Net Child Porn Battle MSNBC Aug 11
  • House Passes Obscenity Bill In 412-4 Vote Aug 1, 2000 washtech
  • Dan Gillmor: Librarians are heroes of Net censorship fight Mercury News 4/7
  • Cyber-hate elicits a federal response Philly News 3/17
  • HUD announces new anti-hate task force in cyberspace NandoTimes 3/17
  • Yahoo! v. France

  • Timeline
  • Mar. 2005 Ninth Circuit rehearing with 11 judges
  • Yahoo! Inc. v. La Ligue Contre Le Racisme Et L'Antisemitisme, 01-17424
    Three-Judge Panel Opinion: 379 F.3d 1120 (9th Cir. 2004)
    Order Taking Case En Banc: 399 F.3d 1010 (9th Cir. 2005)
    Date of Order Taking Case En Banc: February 10, 2005
    Status: Argued and submitted March 24, 2005
    Members of En Banc Court: Mary M. Schroeder, Warren J. Ferguson, Diarmuid F. O'Scannlain, Michael D. Hawkins, A.W. Tashima, William A. Fletcher, Raymond C. Fisher, Ronald M. Gould, Richard A. Paez, Richard R. Clifton, Carlos T. Bea
    Subject Matter: Whether the federal district court has personal jurisdiction over defendants, French organizations in an action brought by Yahoo! seeking a declaratory judgment that orders issued by a French court were unenforceable. Whether the exercise of personal jurisdiction requires wrongful conduct by the defendant and whether the Supreme Court’s “express aiming” test may be met by a defendant’s intentional targeting of actions at plaintiff in the forum state.
  • Aug. 23, 2004 Ninth Circuit Decision reversing lower court
  • Nov. 7, 2001 NDCa Federal district court enjoins enforcement of French Court order
  • Dec. 21, 2000 Yahoo! files complaint in federal district court seeking to block enforcement of French order
  • Nov. 20, 2000 French Court affirms its order
  • May 22, 2000 French Court orders Yahoo! to remove nazi stuff from website
  • Apr. 10, 2000 LICRA filed complaint against Yahoo! in French court
  • Apr. 5, 2000 LICRA sent cease and desist letter to Yahoo!
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