= C =
The "Communications Decency Act" of 1996,
passed on Black Thursday as section 502 of a major
telecommunications reform bill. The CDA made it a federal crime in
the USA to send a communication which is "obscene,
lewd, lascivious, filthy, or indecent, with intent to annoy, abuse,
threaten, or harass another person." It also threatened with
imprisonment anyone who "knowingly" makes accessible to minors
any message that "describes, in terms patently offensive as
measured by contemporary community standards, sexual or excretory
activities or organs".
While the CDA was sold as a measure to protect minors from the
putative evils of pornography, the repressive political aims of the
bill were laid bare by the Hyde amendment, which intended to
outlaw discussion of abortion on the Internet.
To say that this direct attack on First Amendment free-speech
rights was not well received on the Internet would be putting it
mildly. A firestorm of protest followed, including a February 29th
mass demonstration by thousands of netters who turned their
home pages black for 48 hours. Several civil-rights groups
and computing/telecommunications companies mounted a constitutional
challenge. The CDA was demolished by a strongly-worded decision
handed down in 8th-circuit Federal court and subsequently
affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court on 26 June 1997 (`White
Thursday'). See also Exon.
--The Jargon File version 4.3.1, ed. ESR, autonoded by rescdsk.