Internet decency case awaits hearing by the Supreme Court





WASHINGTON, DC — The Supreme Court is set to hear a case testing the legality of new limits on free speech in cyberspace.

The high court has not yet set a date for oral arguments in American Civil Liberties Union v. Reno, but briefs are due between January and March.

The case tests legislation passed by Congress and signed by the president in 1996. Portions of the Communications Decency Act would establish criminal penalties for the distribution of “indecent” or “patently offensive” material to minors online.

Lawyers for the ACLU contend the law would limit First Amendment rights. Student journalists and their advisers, many of whom publish and do research on the Internet, have spoken out against the potential harm the law could cause.

A federal district court in Pennsylvania derided the Communication Decency Act’s “content-based regulation” last summer. The three-judge panel unanimously held in June that the law is unconstitutional.


reports, Winter 1996-97