Will The Courts Finally Find One Of Congress's Attempt To Protect Children Online Constitutional?
from the we'll-soon-find-out dept
By now it should be clear that politicians just can’t resist passing new legislation that they can use to claim they’re “protecting the children” — even when those laws quite often tend to be unconstitutional restrictions on free speech. While state legislatures keep on passing unconstitutional bans on video game sales to children (and keep getting smacked down by the courts), at the federal level, Congress basically just keeps trying to rewrite laws that get trashed by the courts, hoping that eventually, it will find that magic formula that’s allowed. As you may recall, the worst parts of the Communications Decency Act got thrown out in court about a decade ago, only to be followed up by similar, but slightly different laws. There was the Child Online Protection Act (COPA) which was smacked down earlier this year.
The Supreme Court is apparently hearing a case about another, similar, but more narrowly focused law, called the Child Pornography Prevention Act — and even though a lower court found the law unconstitutional, some feel that the Supreme Court’s early questioning suggests it might not have a huge problem with the law. Of course, it sounds like they were helped along by the lawyer making the case against the law. When the justices asked him to describe a situation where an innocent person would be harmed by the law, he was unable to do so. The key issue is whether or not advertising that you have child pornography is still a crime — even if what you have isn’t actually pornographic, and apparently many of the justices don’t have a problem with that being illegal. Of course, the lines are a little blurred by the details of this particular case, where the guy in question did, in fact, have child pornography — it’s just that it happened to be different child pornography than what he had offered. So while there is no question over his guilt on possession of child porn, there is the question of whether or not he’s guilty of advertising it — even though what he advertised didn’t exist. Either way, it sounds like maybe, just maybe, Congress has finally constructed a statue for protecting children that is narrowly defined enough to remain constitutional.