Censorship, the internet, and the child pornography law of 1996: A critique [Book Review]

Ethics and Information Technology 1 (2):105-115 (1999)
After describing the Child Pornography Prevention Act (CPPA) of 1996, I argue that the Act ought to be significantly amended. The central objections to CPPA are (1) that it is so broad in its main proscriptions as to violate the First Amendment rights of adults; (2) that it altogether fails to provide minors and their legal guardians with the privacy rights needed to combat the harms associated with certain classes of prurient material on the Internet; and, (3) that the actual rate of technological advance in home computing, and Congress' failure to appreciate how prurient material may be accessed, combined with CPPA to wrongfully expose an increasing number of individuals to possible prosecution and personal ruination. Several other objections are registered along the way, including one aimed at the draconian punishments the law metes out to violators. I close by offering the outlines of an amended version of the law that promises not to violate the rights of adults, that affords children and adults equal and effective protection against the very harmful practices the current law cannot eradicate, and that prescribes punishments that are consistent with the tolerance necessary to support a more democratic vision of the Internet.
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