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Free Expression

Statement of John Morris before the Joint Committee on Business, Research, and Economic Development Maine State Legislature

Chairman Schneider, Chairman Smith, and Members of the Joint Committee: On behalf of the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT), I thank you for the opportunity to testify today. Although we appreciate the concerns that have motivated the legislature to consider this issue, and recognize the efforts by Senator Schneider and others to narrow the focus of the bill before the Committee today, we continue to have concerns about the constitutional implications of restricting minorsʼ online access to health-related information. As a note of introduction, I am an attorney and serve as General Counsel for CDT, which is one of the leading civil liberties organizations in the United States focused on the application of the First Amendment to speech on the Internet. In 1996, CDT led one of the consolidated legal challenges to the federal Communications Decency Act that resulted in the 1997 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that speech on the Internet warrants the highest level of First Amendment protection. Since then, CDT has brought and litigated constitutional challenges to a number of state laws that sought to regulate or restrict speech over the Internet. Last fall, CDT was actively preparing to pursue a constitutional challenge against PL 2009 Chapter 230. Once a separate legal challenge was filed, we put our planned lawsuit on hold. We applaud the Legislature’s decision to revisit that law, and to avoid further litigation we urge this Committee to act to repeal the prior statute.