Freedom of Speech is an inherent right granted to all citizens of the United States. So
fundamental of a right is it that it has stood the test of time and the invention of many
paradigmic shifts in media. There is no doubt that, in this new digital age that we are
entering, Freedom of expression will continue to be one of the cornerstones on which our
society is based. It remains to be seen, however, how this age old doctrine will adapt to
the new paradigm. How the Supreme Court will interpret the First Amendment in light of new
media remains to be seen. When confronted with restrictions on some electronic
media--telegraph and telephone communications and over-the-air radio and television
broadcasting--the Court has assumed that "differences in the characteristics of new
media justify differences in the First Amendment standards applied to them." (14)This may prove to
be true with the Internet as well.
The hottest topic in First Amendment application for the Internet has been the plethora of pornagraphy and its ease of accesibility, especially for minors. "There are two difficult issues when you examine the pornographic material found on the internet. First, how do you define obscene? Second, who sets the rules? The American government attempted to solve the problem by passing an Act, the Communication Decency Act (CDA), which would regulate pornographic material on the internet. This act made it illegal to send anything that could be considered obscene to another person with a harmful intent."(15)
A central problem with most legislative initiatives is the effort required to adapt the use of the traditional obscenity test to the demands of the new electronic climate. In Miller v. California, the court set forth the traditional test for obscenity. "The Miller test provides that sexual speech is protect unless obscene; and obscene speech appeals to the prurient interest, is patently offensive according to relevant community standards, and when taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.
Of these problems, the most significant is the use of the "contemporary community standards" portion of the test. In Miller, the court established the meaning of this portion of the test by explaining what the standard does not mean-- contemporary community standards are not national standards. Without a national community standard, the Miller test will be difficult to impose on Internet users because the Internet links together people, nationally and internationally, with different community standards. "(16)
Threre are four proposals for protecting children from unsuitable material. The first three may not be feasible whiel the fourth is very promising.
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