The old Comstock laws came back to haunt us again in the debate about using the Internet to send and receive pictures and writing that are "indecent or patently offensive." The Internet links personal computers in homes, schools, libraries, museums, and other public places around the world. It also allows people to have sexually explicit conversations and exchange sexually explicit pictures and stories very quickly and with great freedom.

In June 1995, as a response to public concerns about children viewing pornographic materials on their home computers, the U.S. Congress passed the Communications Decency Act. The act was an attempt to regulate obscene language and images on the World Wide Web. The penalty for sending any "indecent" or "patently offensive" information over the Internet was two years in jail and a $250,000 fine.

In June 1996, the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and other organizations challenged the law and won a court injunction that postponed its enforcement. The federal court declared in its decision that existing laws that limit the kind of speech publicly broadcast over television or radio cannot be applied to electronic speech such as the Internet.

In June 1997, the U.S. Supreme Court delivered its decision in ACLU and Others è Reno/Communications Act and found that restrictions on Internet communication were unconstitutional.


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