UNSHACKLING NET SPEECH

IN ITS FIRST FORAY INTO CYBERSPACE, THE SUPREME COURT SAYS THE FIRST AMENDMENT APPLIES THERE TOO

One of the key ideas behind the Internet was to build a computer network that could withstand a nuclear holocaust. Last week the Net proved its resilience in the face of another sort of attack. The Communications Decency Act, signed into law by President Clinton last year, was designed to protect children by prohibiting "indecent" speech or images from being sent through cyberspace. But even before Congress passed the legislation, free-speech advocates were blasting it as an unacceptable infringement on the First Amendment.

Now the Supreme Court has agreed that the CDA is precisely that. The court, while disagreeing about some...

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