Appeals Court Affirms Child Online Protection Act Is Unconstitutional

July 23, 2008 05:49 PM
by Liz Colville
A federal appeals court ruled that the Child Online Protection Act (COPA) of 1998, intended to protect children from adult content online, is unconstitutional.

30-Second Summary

The court’s decision upholds a lower court ruling that COPA, created to “protect children from sexual material and other objectionable content on the Internet,” is “unconstitutionally overly broad and vague.”

COPA was created in 1998 but has never taken effect; the court of appeals’ ruling is “the latest twist in a decade-long battle” over the legislation, writes the San Francisco Chronicle.

The court of appeals suggested that filters, enforced on federally funded library computers since 2003 under the similarly titled Child Internet Protection Act, are a better means of protecting children from adult or otherwise inappropriate content.

COPA has already reached the Supreme Court and could be headed back there, the Chronicle suggests. In 2004, the Court upheld a previous ruling that COPA violates the First Amendment.

The case was sent back to the lower courts because the Supreme Court believed “there may have been important technological advances in the five years since” COPA was first brought to the court by the ACLU and other plaintiffs.

Family advocates are concerned
that the law’s delays in the courts are happening as larger numbers of children are accessing pornography online. Daniel Weiss of Focus on the Family has remarked that businesses, as well as parents and family advocacy groups, must take some responsibility for the problem in light of legislative delays.

Headline Link: ‘Court affirms online content law unconstitutional’

Background: Child protection and the Internet

Opinions & Analysis: COPA and online safety

Related Topic: Growing number of tweens online

Reference: The appeals court decision, Internet security guide


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