A long legal drive to shield children from sexually explicit material on the Web ended in failure yesterday when the Supreme Court let a 10-year-old anti-pornography law die, reports the Los Angeles Times. In striking down the law on free-speech grounds, the justices said parents could protect their children by installing software filters on their computers. Fewer than half of parents do so, Bush administration lawyers argued in an effort to revive the law.
Anti-pornography activists said the court’s action signaled the government’s bid to restrict pornography on the Web had come to an end. The Supreme Court had struck down an even broader law passed in 1996 that restricted “indecency” on the Internet. After that ruling in 1997, Congress passed a narrow measure that targeted commercial purveyors of pornography on the Web. Steven Shapiro of the American Civil Liberties Union said the court’s decision was consistent with its free-speech principles: “They have said online speech is entitled to the full protection of the 1st Amendment. That means the government can’t adopt a broad censorship measure if there are less-restrictive ways to accomplish the same goal.”