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TBTF Bulletin, 1996-06-12: Communications Decency Act overturned

Keith Dawson (dawson dot tbtf at gmail dot com)
Wed, 12 Jun 1996 14:26:52 -0500

Communications Decency Act overturned

I received this note just now on David Bennahum's Community Memory mailing list. It's history in the making.

This morning at 9:00 a.m. EST a three-judge panel in Philadelphia ruled that the Communications Decency Act violates the principles of the First and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States, and overturned the law. A full text of the decision is available at:


It is a remarkable document [~250K] which describes the origins of the Internet, and the technology which makes the Internet possible, in plain, clear English. The word cyberspace is used extensively. The decision then goes on to conclude that the CDA is unconstitutional in the United States. What follows is an excerpt of the conclusion, written by Judge Dalzell:

"Cutting through the acronyms and argot that littered the hearing testimony, the Internet may fairly be regarded as a never-ending worldwide conversation. The Government may not, through the CDA, interrupt that conversation. As the most participatory form of mass speech yet developed, the Internet deserves the highest protection from governmental intrusion.

True it is that many find some of the speech on the Internet to be offensive, and amid the din of cyberspace many hear discordant voices that they regard as indecent. The absence of governmental regulation of Internet content has unquestionably produced a kind of chaos, but as one of plaintiffs' experts put it with such resonance at the hearing:

What achieved success was the very
chaos that the Internet is. The
strength of the Internet is that

Just as the strength of the Internet is chaos, so the strength of our liberty depends upon the chaos and cacophony of the unfettered speech the First Amendment protects.

For these reasons, I without hesitation hold that the CDA is unconstitutional on its face.

In the United States District Court

for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania"

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Keith Dawson dawson dot tbtf at gmail dot com dawson@atria.com
Layer of ash separates morning and evening milk.


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