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Internet Porn, the ACLU, and Congress
Ashcroft vs. ACLU, 00-1293, deals with a challenge to the Child Online Protection Act (COPA), which Congress passed in 1998. The law, which is the subject of this essay, attempts to protect minors from exposure to Internet pornography by requiring that commercial adult websites containing “indecent” material that is “harmful to minors” use age-verification mechanisms such as credit cards or adult identification numbers.(Child)
An earlier version of the law — the 1996 Communications Decency Act — was struck down as an unconstitutional restriction of free speech when challenged by the ACLU; the 1998 version attempted to address the constitutional concerns by limiting its scope to commercial websites, and carving out an exception for material that has “serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value for minors.” (Communications)
COPA makes adult website operators liable for criminal sanctions — up to $50,000 in fines and six months in jail — if children are able to access material deemed “indecent,” by “contemporary…