Leslie Harris, Free Expression: Keeping the Internet Free For a New Generation of Speakers, The Huffington Post, Oct. 9, 2008
Sometimes I just want to grab our government leaders by their collective collar and yell: "What part of 'free' in 'free speech' don't you understand?!" when it comes to the issue of digital communication being afforded the same First Amendment protection as traditional print media.
Free expression in the digital world stands on twin legal pillars that ironically both flow from a 1996 law that sought to place restrictions on web-based speech, The first legal pillar was established in a 1997 Supreme Court decision, Reno v. ACLU, which struck down the Communications Decency Act (CDA) as unconstitutional and provided the legal baseline of free expression heading into the new millennium. In the Reno case the Court recognized that web-based speech is deserving of the highest level of First Amendment protections. The CDA has been rightly maligned as a law that -- if allowed to stand -- would have brought the Internet to its knees. But a section of that law which was not challenged in Court actually provides the second critical legal pillar for digital free expression. That section relieved Internet Service Providers from liability for the content posted by their subscribers, freeing them from assuming a "gatekeeper" role that would have chilled both speech and innovation.