(fwd) Legal challenge to "CDA-II"
Fri, 16 Oct 1998 10:27:31 +1000 (EST)
Rights Groups Prepare Legal Challenge as
President Prepares to Sign Internet "Indecency" Bill
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 15, 1998
WASHINGTON--With a second Congressional attempt to censor the Internet
all but certain, the American Civil Liberties Union, Electronic Privacy
Information Center and Electronic Frontier Foundation today vowed yet
another legal challenge if the measure includes criminal penalties and
fines for communicating protected speech.
During last-minute budget negotiations, the Clinton Administration
reportedly objected to provisions of the bill pushed by Rep. Michael
Oxley, R-OH, citing a Justice Department analysis that it was probably
unconstitutional and would likely draw resources away from more
important law enforcement efforts. But negotiators apparently failed to
strike the Oxley language from the $500 billion Omnibus Appropriations
measure due to be voted on in both the House and Senate and signed by
the President tomorrow.
The ACLU, with EPIC and EFF acting as co-plaintiffs and co-counsel, led
the successful challenge to the Communications Decency Act, which the
Supreme Court struck down last year. The groups said today that they
anticipate filing a legal challenge as early as next week, on behalf of
a diverse range of online speakers representing news organizations, gay
and lesbian groups, artists, musicians, booksellers and any websites
that distributed the Starr report.
"It's deja vu all over again," said Ann Beeson, Staff Attorney for the
ACLU and a member of the Reno v. ACLU legal team that led the fight
against a 1996 federal Internet law. "Just like the CDA, this bill
will once again criminalize socially valuable adult speech and reduce
the Internet to what is considered suitable for a six-year-old."
"Following a landmark Supreme Court ruling and constitutional objections
from the Justice Department," Beeson added, "Congress can plead
politics, but it can't plead ignorance."
Barry Steinhardt, President of the Electronic Frontier Foundation,
agreed. "It is the height of irony that the same Congress that
plastered the salacious Starr Report all over the Internet now passes a
plainly unconstitutional law to suppress a vaguely defined category of
'harmful' material. You would think Congress would have learned that
'harmfulness' is in the eye of the beholder."
David Sobel, EPIC's General Counsel, said, "This law violates both the
free speech rights and the privacy of Internet users. It requires, in
effect, that any adult wishing to receive constitutionally protected
material must register with a website before receiving information."
"The Supreme Court has, on several occasions, said that such procedures
violate the First Amendment," Sobel added. "We are confident that the
courts will continue to protect the right of all Americans to receive
information without sacrificing their privacy."