News - July 1996

Communications Decency Act ruled unconstitutional

A three-judge panel of the Federal Court in Philadelphia ruled June 12 that the Communications Decency Act (CDA), regarded as the most controversial portion of the Telecommunications Reform Law, is unconstitutional.

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) views the decision as a major victory for lesbians and gay men on the Internet. Had the Act been upheld, individuals could have been subject to criminal penalties for posting information relevant to the gay community.

Gay and lesbian and civil liberties groups are concerned that the vague language of the CDA has already had a chilling effect on information presented on the Internet. Life-saving information about AIDS, safe-sex and abortion, and information relevant to lesbians and gay men could have evoked censure under the Act and providers of such information would have risked prosecution. The CDA failed to make clear what was meant by "indecent" or "patently offensive" materials, and the Court responded accordingly.

"The Federal Court's decision to strike the Communications Decency Act was a firm acknowledgment that the Act would have reduced the Information Superhighway to just one lane," said Loren Javier, GLAAD's Director of Information Systems (javier@glaad.org). "Today's ruling will ensure that gay and lesbian adults and young people, some of whom count on the Internet as their only source of openly gay information, will continue to have access to all the net has to offer."

The Telecommunications Reform Law was passed this February and is a measure designed to keep sexually explicit and objectionable materials on the Internet away from minors. Due to charges of civil liberties violations, enforcement of the Communications Decency Act was suspended by the Justice Department pending a ruling on the Act's constitutionality.

GLAAD, however, continues to caution the gay and lesbian community to keep a vigilant eye on the Internet. It has been reported that several groups, including the American Family Association, have already begun Internet censorship campaigns. GLAAD has initiated an Internet Education Campaign which is a resource for Internet service providers and Internet filtering software manufacturers. Internet users can find GLAAD on the World Wide Web at http://www.glaad.org.

©1996 Oasis Magazine. All Rights Reserved.