5 December 2005
Requiring Registration to Access Internet Pornography: Abridging Free Speech or Safeguarding Children? Pornography is the internet's number one income generator. With such an abundance of pornography available, children have increased access to view it than in days before the internet. Most Americans are alarmed by this, with 73% of Americans who believe that "the government should do something about" children's access to pornography (Rourke 56). In addition, "94% of respondents agree it should be illegal for adults to use the Internet to make pornographic material available to children under the age of 18'" (Rourke 56). As a response to this, Congress introduced the Child Online Protection Act (COPA) of 1998, which would make it a crime for "commercial Web sites to post material harmful to minors' unless the site has made a good faith effort to screen out those under the age 17" (Rourke 57). COPA would require that pornographic material be placed behind "screens" that adults could easily bypass. Those opposed to this act initiated a "legal challenge on First Amendment groups" (Rourke 57), which is the foundation of this debate. The Act ultimately was struck down in the Supreme Court with a 5 to 4 vote. But it is likely that legislators will attempt to again pass a similar legislation due to the close loss. Anthony M. Kennedy, Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court, believes COPA abridged free speech. COPA is the second time that Congress has tried to "criminalize" certain Internet speech, making it a safer place for minors. The first failed attempt was the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which was deemed unconstitutional "because it was not narrowly tailored to serve a compelling governmental interest and because less restrictive alternatives were available" (Rourke 58). COPA would impose a $50,000 criminal penalty fine and a six-month prison sentence for violating this act. Since the...