Arguments Against the CDA


"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."
--Amendment I, the U.S. Constitution

The Citizens Internet Empowerment Coalition (CIEC) formed in February of 1996 to challenge the CDA. The CIEC is described as a coalition of 35 library and civil liberties groups, online service providers, newspaper, book, magazine, and recording industry associations, and more than 56,000 individual Internet users. The coalition was a loud voice in the overturning of the CDA. (1).

In an online article entitled "The Internet is Not a Television," the CIEC argued that unlike television and radio, which allow viewers limited control over stations, the Internet allows every user to become a publisher, and provides millions of sites to choose from at a very low cost. The CIEC emphasized individual users have great control over the information they recieve online and there are technological devices designed to allow users to block any types of inappropriate information. The article also noted laws already exist to control child pornography, obscenity or stalking children over the Internet. The CEIC requested that the Internet at least be extended the same First Amendment protection that printed materials like books, newspapers and magazines enjoy (2).

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) was a major opponent of the CDA. Leahy proposed the only legislative alternative to the CDA, according to the online "Petition to Help Senator Leahy Fight the Communication Decency Act and to Prevent the Federal Government from Regualting Online Speech." Leahy proposed the "Child Protection, User Empowerment, and Free Expression to Interactive Media Study Bill," a five-month study to examine, among other things, "the availability of technological capabilities, consistent with the First Amendment and the free flow of information in Cyberspace, to protect children from accessing controversial commercial and non-commercial content" (6).