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Free Expression

Gotta Know When to Fold ‘Em

In a win for free speech and openness online, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety has come to its senses and dropped its campaign to force ISPs in the state to block access to overseas gambling sites. The letter rescinding the earlier demand cited a lawsuit challenging the demand’s legality, filed by the Interactive Media and Gaming Association.

The lawsuit, in which CDT believes iMEGA would likely have prevailed, has been dismissed. As CDT wrote last month, officials had misinterpreted a federal statute in concluding that they had the authority to force the ISPs to filter the gambling sites from their Internet offerings, and that such demands raise serious constitutional concerns. While a spokesman insists that Minnesota has not “folded its hand,” the decision to drop the matter suggests a recognition that the effort would not have held up in court.

We at CDT applaud this reversal; it should serve as a cautionary tale for other government authorities that try to muscle up on ISPs using tenuous legal arguments. We hope the South Carolina Attorney General is paying attention to the lesson learned in Minnesota as he considers the wisdom of his crusade against Craigslist.