February 20, 1997 11:00 AM ET
CDA opponents summarize arguments before Supreme Court
By Maria Seminerio

  A wide-ranging coalition of Communications Decency Act opponents are scheduled to summarize their arguments against the legislation before the Supreme Court today, setting the stage for the high court review that will decide its fate.

Officials from the American Civil Liberties Union, representing a host of other free-speech advocates, and the Citizens Internet Empowerment Coalition, speaking on behalf of thousands of individual Internet users, will argue that the CDA's prohibition against transmitting "indecent and patently offensive" materials online to children is vague and nearly impossible to enforce.

On March 19, the high court begins deliberations on the Department of Justice's appeal of a lower court's ruling against the CDA last year. A three-judge panel in Philadelphia in June blocked enforcement of the legislation on the grounds that it violated the First Amendment.

The government's argument for reversal of the lower court ruling has taken an ironic twist--Department of Justice officials now maintain that the future of the Internet is compromised by the presence of pornographic content easily accessible to minors.

The government's latest brief on the case, issued several weeks ago, argues that the CDA would actually bring more people online, assuaging parents' fears that their children will unwittingly stumble onto material they find objectionable.

Meanwhile, legislation is pending in Congress that could repeal the CDA before the Supreme Court hearing.

A bill introduced last week by California Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a San Jose Democrat, would replace the CDA with laws requiring Internet service providers to offer filtering software to all customers.

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