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Promoting Online Safety: The Home-School Partnership


Brought to you by CoSN


Supreme Court Upholds Constitutionality of CIPA

In a 6-3 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court June 23 overturned a lower court ruling and said that the Children's Internet Protection Act did not amount to an unconstitutional restriction on the 1st Amendment rights of library patrons.

The American Library Association and American Civil Liberties Union had filed suit to block the enforcement of provisions of the law that required libraries that accepted certain kinds of E-rate and other federal technology funding to install filters on computers that accessed the Internet. The portions of CIPA that apply to schools were not challenged in the case.

The decision marks the first time since Congress passed the Communications Decency Act in 1996 that the Supreme Court has upheld a law designed to restrict children's access to in appropriate Internet content. In the case of CIPA, the law requires schools and libraries that receive certain kinds of federal technology funding to install a "technology protection measure" that blocks or filters "visual depictions" that are considered obscene, child pornography or "harmful to minors."

An opinion signed by four justices said, "Concerns over filtering software's tendency to erroneously 'overblock' access to constitutionally protected speech that falls outside the categories software users intend to block are dispelled by the ease with which [library] patrons may have the filtering software disabled." The justices wrote that "when the government appropriates public funds to establish a program, it is entitled to broadly define the program's limits."

In a statement, the ALA said it was "very disappointed" in the decision, which it said forced libraries to choose "between federal funding for technology improvements and censorship." It said it would begin compiling information from filtering companies on their products to assist their members in evaluating how restrictive various filtering products were.

The full Supreme Court decision can be reviewed at www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/02pdf/02-361.pdf.

2006 Consortium for School Networking. All rights reserved.