Court Blocks Michigan Internet Censorship Law
Source: Arts Wire CURRENT at Arts Wire
DETROIT, MI -- Saying that Internet speakers faced an unconstitutional "Hobson's Choice" between free speech and criminal prosecution, last week a federal judge halted enforcement of a state law criminalizing online communications deemed "harmful to minors," according to the American Civil Liberties Union. (ACLU)
The law, which took effect August 1, makes it a crime to disseminate or display "sexually explicit matter" to minors. Violations are punishable by up to two years in jail, a fine of up to $10,000, or both. However, the ruling prevents implementation of the law until a full trial is held later this year.
"The Internet is an international free flow of ideas and information," Judge Tarnow wrote. "Enforcement of this Act would stifle one of the cornerstones of American Society -- what Thomas Jefferson called 'The Marketplace of Ideas.'"
"This decision is a victory for free speech on the Internet," said Michael Steinberg, Legal Director of the ACLU of Michigan. "The law would have criminalized a wide array of valuable speech in cyberspace ranging from advice about safe sex and AIDS prevention to art and literature."
"In the past four years, at least 25 states have considered or passed Internet censorship laws. However popular the laws may seem, they do not hold up well to constitutional scrutiny," the ACLU states.
In addition to halting enforcement of such laws in New Mexico and New York, last October the ACLU filed a challenge to the federal law known as the Child Online Protection Act. (COPA) In February 1999, a federal judge blocked enforcement of the law. A full trial is expected to take place later this year.
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