St. Mary's Law Journal


Congress should focus on the receiver's end of Internet transmissions to overcome the anonymity and transmogrification elements of the Internet to protect minors from harmful material. Throughout the years, librarians have struggled with monitoring minors’ access to the accumulating number of controversial texts in the library. The Internet’s unique infrastructure affords librarians virtually no opportunity for the pre-shelf review available with books and videos. Congress enacted the Communications Decency Act (CDA) in 1996 in an attempt to protect minors from the underbelly of the internet. The United States Supreme Court, in Reno v. ACLU, struck down the CDA ruling that the “sender’s end” method of regulation was too vague. In particular, the Supreme Court found that Congress’ attempt to balance the speech rights of adults and the protection of minors went too far and infringed upon First Amendment guarantees. Congress has again enacted a blanket sender’s end Internet regulation, the CDA II, which penalizes the knowing communication of “harmful” materials to minors. Likely, CDA II will be short lived due to its vagueness. A combination of Supreme Court precedent and Internet technology can surpass the weaknesses of CDA and can reconcile adults’ First Amendment rights with the vulnerability of exposing minors to harmful Internet material. Three components must be added to the proposed statute: (1) precise definitions; (2) a single computer library provision’ and (3) a safety valve provision. Addition of these components will correct the likely deficiencies of the legislation and is a technologically advanced solution to the challenges that the Internet poses in light of the First Amendment.


St. Mary's University School of Law