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CDT Says Free Speech Online Under Attack
By: Michael Hayes (Courtesy of
Posted: 8/6/2006

Washington — Free speech online is facing its greatest legal opposition in a decade, the Center for Democracy and Technology said about two bills currently working their way through Congress.

Declaring free speech online to be under attach, the CDT commented on a broadband bill before the Senate that contains provisions requiring labeling for adult content sites and the Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA), which recently passed the House, that bans social networking sites from school and libraries.

According to CDT executive director Leslie Harris, “free speech online is facing some of its most serious assaults” since the passage of COPA in 1998.

The U.S. government continues to spend millions of dollars to fight successful court challenges to COPA, which requires adult sites to obtain proof of age before users can see adult content, Harris said.

Harris believes that both bills go too far in their attempts to protect children from pornography online and predators.

The adult labeling provision of the broadband bill, which was written jointly by Sens. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., and John Kerry, D-Mass., requires any website with sexually explicit content to be labeled.

According to the CDT’s director for Internet standards John Morris, such a requirement is overbroad because it would require labels for sites ranging from hardcore pornography to sex education. Labels would also be required for sites without photographic content, Morris said.

According to Harris, DOPA, which is sponsored by Representative Mike Fitzpatrick, R-Penn., would give the FCC “remarkable power” to decide which websites can be blocked from schools and public libraries. DOPA violates the 1st Amendment by restricting an entire category of speech, Harris said.



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