2009 & Beyond
We need to:
Preserving Free Speech and Protecting Children Online
In order to preserve free speech and protect children online, President Obama and Congress should take specific steps, including the following:
The President and Congress should follow and support the Supreme Court’s ruling that speech on the Internet deserves the highest level of constitutional protection.
- The Supreme Court, in striking down the Communications Decency Act (“CDA”), recognized that the Internet was different from all other electronic media such as radio and television because of its low barriers to entry, abundance of speakers, and lack of gatekeepers. The decision in the CDA case paved the way for making the Internet the innovative global medium it is today.
- Congress should reject legislative proposals to limit access to content online in ways that are at odds with the CDA decision.
- In the courts, the Administration should defend the Internet’s highest level of free speech protection.
- Useful links:
President Obama and Congress should make Internet education and parental empowerment tools the centerpiece of federal government efforts to protect children online.
- The most effective way to address child online safety concerns is through educational policies and programs for both parents and children that promote media literacy and provide practical tools that enable safe and beneficial use of the Internet.
- The President and Congress should support funding for the development of effective educational curricula and the promotion of user empowerment tools.
- Useful links:
- CDT analysis of Child Safety and Free Speech Issues in the 110th Congress (February 6, 2008)
- CDT analysis of Active Child Safety Bills Raising Free Speech Concerns Now Pending in the Senate (December 10, 2007)
- National Research Council report entitled “Youth, Pornography and the Internet” (2002). An expert committee headed by former Attorney General Richard Thornburg prepared this authoritative report.
- Final Report of the COPA Commission (2000)
President Obama and Congress should endorse the current policy that protects Internet websites and communications intermediaries from liability for the postings of others and should oppose burdensome and ineffective technology mandates.
- President Obama should oppose, and Congress should reject, proposals to require social networking websites, Internet Service Providers (ISPs), or other communications intermediaries to block access to content. The current law, which protects ISPs and other intermediaries for content created by others, has enabled service providers to host controversial but lawful speech on the Internet, creating a robust forum for ideas and discourse.
- The President should oppose, and Congress should reject, proposals to require mandatory labeling of websites or Internet content in order to facilitate filtering. Mandatory content labeling is unconstitutional as a form of forced speech, it will not protect children because it cannot apply to content created and hosted overseas, and it would likely result in self-censorship of legitimate content.
- The President should nominate to the Federal Communications Commission, and the next Congress should confirm, individuals who are strong advocates of free speech, cautious about enforcement of regulation in the broadcast arena and opposed to extending content regulation to the online world.
- Useful links:
- CDT Policy Post on Section 230 protections for Internet content venues (March 31, 2008)
- CDT statement to the Senate Commerce Committee regarding protecting children on the Internet(July 24, 2007)
- Amicus brief of CDT and others to the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on behalf of Yahoo! arguing against intermediary liability for the posting of illegal content
President Obama and Congress should ensure that bloggers and all individual American citizens can engage in robust political speech online without the need to comply with burdensome campaign finance limitations and reporting requirements.
- The President should oppose, and Congress should reject, any proposals that would impose on individuals and small speakers ”including bloggers” limitations on their right and ability to express their political views online, or that would require such speakers to file reports about their speech or online expenditures with the Federal Election Commission.
- The President should nominate to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), and Congress should confirm, individuals who are committed to maintaining the FEC rules that exclude most online activities from the limitations and reporting requirements contained in the campaign finance laws.
- Useful links:
- CDT/IPDI Statement of Principles for Internet Speech and Campaign Finance Regulation (May 11, 2005)
- FEC Rules protecting most online political speech from campaign finance regulations (Apr. 12, 2006)
- CDT’s Net Democracy Guide, aimed at helping bloggers and others understand the complex campaign finance rules