Yesterday, U.S. District Judge Lowell Reed issued an order to permanently block enforcement of COPA on First and Fifth Amendment grounds (thanks, Kiltak). This law required content providers to verify the age of viewers if their content was “material that is harmful to minors”, defined as:
(6) Material that is harmful to minors.--The term<br /> `material that is harmful to minors' means any communication,<br /> picture, image, graphic image file, article, recording,<br /> writing, or other matter of any kind that is obscene or<br /> that--<br /> <br />(A) the average person, applying contemporary community
standards, would find, taking the material as a whole and
with respect to minors, is designed to appeal to, or is
designed to pander to, the prurient interest;
(B) depicts, describes, or represents, in a manner<br /> patently offensive with respect to minors, an actual or<br /> simulated sexual act or sexual contact, an actual or<br /> simulated normal or perverted sexual act, or a lewd<br /> exhibition of the genitals or post-pubescent female breast;<br /> and<br /> <br />(C) taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic,
political, or scientific value for minors.
We should all be relieved. Regardless of how you personally feel about pornography, legislation of morality is by definition an attack on liberty. Morality should be governed by the conscience of the individual, or by parents in the case of minors. Not to mention the fact that this broad brush could conceivably cover sites dealing with non-pornographic material such as breast cancer prevention and sexual health and education.
Judge Reed also noted that the provisions of the law are not as effective for the intended purpose as content filters (though those aren’t perfect either). But that’s really beside the point. Government has no business dictating what your children should be able to view online. That is your job as a parent. If we abdicate that responsibility to government, we might as well surrender the whole job of parenting to the collective.
People will point to examples of very bad parenting to argue for government intervention to protect the children. Yes, some parents will allow their kids to view anything online — they probably don’t even know that it’s going on. I’m very sorry for children who are neglected by their parents, but we can’t let those cases justify swatting a fly with a sledgehammer. Someone needs to step up for those children specifically, without tying Nanny-state apron strings around the throats of the rest of the population.
Near the end of the adjudication Judge Reed wrote, “Perhaps we do the minors of this country harm if First Amendment protections, which they will with age inherit fully, are chipped away in the name of their protection.”