• Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court struck down the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which had made it a felony to display “obscene or indecent” material over the Internet in ways that might make it available to minors.

After 1957 the Supreme Court often held that the First Amendment protected indecent materials but not obscene materials. Speaking for a 7-2 majority, Justice John Paul StevensStevens, John Paul;Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union[Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union] emphasized that the Communications Decency Act of 1996 did not adequately define obscenity and that it did not define indecency at all. Therefore, people using the Internet had no adequate notice of what specific communications were prohibited. The law’s definition of obscenity, moreover, went beyond the Court’s standards in Miller v. California[case]Miller v. California[Miller v. California] (1973), and it did not guarantee protection for materials with serious political, scientific, or educational value. Although he recognized the government’s legitimate interest in protecting children from inappropriate expression, Stevens wrote that this objective did not justify limiting the access of adults to only materials that are appropriate for children. The two dissenters would have sustained those portions of the law that prohibited indecent communications from an adult to one or more minors.Communications Decency ActObscenity and pornographySpeech, freedom of;Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union[Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union]Communications Decency ActObscenity and pornography

Miller v. California and Paris Adult Theatre v. Slaton

Obscenity and pornography

Speech and press, freedom of

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