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Communications Decency Act of 1996

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Communications Decency Act of 1996
This was a part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.  It was the U.S. Congress' first attempt to protect children on the Internet from pornography.  The act prohibited knowingly sending or displaying “indecent” material to minors through the computer, defined as: “any comment, request, suggestion, proposal, image, or other communication that, in context, depicts or describes, in terms of patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards, sexual or excretory activities or organs.”

The ACLU immediately challenged the act with a law suit and was blocked by a lower court. A year later the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the indecency provisions in the historical case of Reno v. ACLU (1997). The Supreme Court held that a law that places a “burden on adult speech is unacceptable if less restrictive alternatives would be at least as effective in achieving” the same goal.  The court did, however, reaffirmed the application of obscenity and child pornography laws in cyberspace—an important victory for the protection of children online.