RENO v. AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION
US Supreme Court, 1997
Attorney General Janet Reno, the appellant appealed directly to the Supreme Court as provided for by the Act's special review provisions against the appellee, ACLU. 2.
The 1996 Federal Communications Decency Act sought to protect minors from “indecent” and offensive Internet materials. The Act made it a crime to transmit obscene or indecent messages over the Internet. Immediately after the CDA became law, twenty parties filed suit. 3.
Does the 1996 Communications Decency Act violate the First and Fifth Amendments of the Constitution by being vague in its definition of the types of Internet communications and if it is unlawful? 4.
The court decided in favor of Reno.
Statement(s) of law and reasoning of the court:
The Supreme Court of the United States, in a 7-2 decision, held the Communications Decency Act violated the First Amendment. The Court reasoned that the Act failed to clearly define "indecent" communications, limit its restrictions to particular times or individuals (by showing that it would not impact on adults), provide supportive statements from an authority on the unique nature of internet communications, or conclusively demonstrate that the transmission of "offensive" material is devoid of any social value. The Court added that since the First Amendment distinguishes between "indecent" and "obscene" sexual expressions, protecting only the former, the Act could be saved from facial over breadth challenges if it dropped the words "or indecent" from its text. The Court felt the act could establish a content-based blanket restriction of free speech and the act did not demonstrate an authority on the unique nature of the internet and its social value.
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