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Class 03




To what extent can/should the government regulate indecent and obscene speech on the internet? What, if anything, is different about indecency and obscenity on the internet? Are there alternatives to direct government regulation, e.g. filtering & rating? Are these alternatives better or worse than direct government regulation?


  1. ACLU v. Reno (Reno I), 117 S. Ct. 2329 (1997) (Communications Decency Act)

  2. ACLU v. Reno (Reno II), 217 F.3d 162 (3rd Cir. 2000) (Child Online Protection Act), cert. granted sub nom. Ashcroft v. ACLU, 2001 U.S. LEXIS 3820 (U.S. May 21, 2001)

  3. U.S. v. Thomas, 74 F.3d 701 (6th Cir. 1996), cert. den., 117 S. Ct. 74 (1996)

  4. Mainstream Loudoun v. Board of Trustees of the Loudoun County Library, 24 F. Supp. 2d 552 (E.D. Va. 1998) (public library's use of filtering software)

  5. Jonathan Weinberg, Rating the Net, 19 Hastings Comm/Ent L.J. 453 (1997).

  6. Lawrence Lessig, What Things Regulate Speech, 38 Jurimetrics J. 629 (1998)


  1. Browse the material describing the WC3's Platform for Internet Content Selection (PICS).

  2. Lawrence Lessig & Paul Resnick, Zoning Speech on the Internet: A Legal and Technical Model, 98 Mich. L. Rev. 395 (1999).

  3., Cyberpatrol Decoding Brawl Gets Ugly and International (Mar. 21, 2000).

  4. Explore the Peacefire Web site.

  5. Children's Internet Protection Act (the ChIP Act), Pub. L. No. 106-554, and codified in relevant part at 47 U.S.C. 254(h), 254(l).


You are a legislative aid to a Senator who is a strong supporter of the First Amendment, but at the same time very concerned that minors be protected from unwanted exposure to obscene and indecent materials on the internet. Prepare a short memo outlining how the government might accomplish this goal while surviving a First Amendment challenge in light of Reno I and Reno II.

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Updated: April 16, 2002
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