Washington, D.C. -- U.S. SENATOR JIM EXON (D-NE), issued the following statement today after the court ruling in Philadelphia on the Exon-Coats Communications Decency Act:
"The Communications Decency Act makes it illegal to transmit or make available indecent material to children. From the beginning, we felt that the best chance for a considered opinion would be in the U.S. Supreme Court and that's where the final decision will be made. We are still a land of laws and courts and while I do not agree with the judges' decision today, I respect their right to make it. The court has taken the ACLU line that anything goes on the Internet, even though that overlooks well-established laws protecting children from pornography in other areas. The Decency Act stands for the premise that it is wrong to provide pornography to children on computers just as it is wrong to do it on a street corner or anywhere else. Hopefully, reason and common sense will prevail in the Supreme Court."
A three judge panel in Philadelphia this morning handed down a decision enjoining enforcement of two sections of the Communications Decency Act (CDA). This decision is not a surprise, nor is it a set back for the new law. It in fact clears the way for U. S. Supreme Court consideration.
The ACLU and their fellow plaintiffs did not select the Philadelphia court by accident to launch their challenge to the CDA.
First, it is important to understand what the CDA is and what it is not. The CDA makes it a crime to knowingly use a telecommunications device or interactive computer to send an indecent communication to a child and to use an interactive computer to display an indecent communication in a manner accessible to a child.
The new law does not ban any constitutionally protected material from adults.
The radical decision of the three judge panel in Philadelphia rests on two pillars. From this Senator's point of view, those pillars are made of chalk which will crumble upon Supreme Court review.
The Philadelphia court found that there were no effective measures to determine the age of computers users. This technological argument is faulty because as a relatively, new medium, the Internet and other interactive computer services are infinitely malleable and their architecture can accommodate child screening. The court overlooks that, a number of Internet sites already block child access by requiring credit card or adult PIN numbers to access certain sites. Even if such technology were not available, the statute does not require the impossible only what is "reasonable, effective and appropriate."
The second line of criticism was with the law's "indecency" standard. The Philadelphia court found the term "indecency" and its rendition in the statute to be "vague." The court brushed aside years of U. S. Supreme Court jurisprudence which not only found the indecency standard sufficiently clear, but which applied the very standard to radio, television, telephone and cable use. Here the court's disagreement does not seem to be with the Congress but with the U. S. Supreme Court which has repeatedly upheld the decency standard.
The Philadelphia court also overlooks that no court has applied the indecency standard to prohibit serious works of art, medical information or important literature. In this regard, the court feasted on a plate of red herrings.
The Congress took great care to craft the CDA so that is zeroed in on protecting children from on-line indecency, as the U. S. Supreme Court has repeatedly acknowledged as a compelling state interest. The Congress modeled the statute after the existing DIAL-A-PORN law which the U. S. Supreme Court has found to meet the least restrictive alternative test which is applied to first amendment cases. The CDA can not be violated by accident. There must be a knowing violation.
The Philadelphia court ignores that it is fundamentally wrong to knowingly give pornography to children or to display pornography in public place. I am hopeful that the U .S. Supreme Court, relying on its own precedents will find the CDA to Be Constitutional.
This press release, along with other Congressional press releases and President Clinton's statement, can be found at the CDT Web site