The conflict began on February 8, 1996, when President Clinton signed the CDA law and ACLU, along with EPIC and eighteen other plaintiffs, immediately filed its legal challenge. ACLU v. Reno represents the first legal challenge to censorship provisions of the Communications Decency Act (CDA). The CDA makes it a crime, punishable by up to two years in jail and/or a $250,000 fine, for anyone to engage in speech that is “indecent” or “patently offensive” on computer networks if the speech can be viewed by a minor. The ACLU is a nationwide, non-partisan organization dedicated to defending and preserving the Bill of Rights for all individuals through litigation, legislation and public education. EPIC is a non-profit, education and research organization based in Washington, D.C. EPIC examines civil liberties and privacy issues that arise in new electronic media. Janet Reno was the attorney general for the U.S.
The kind of “indecency” identified as potentially criminal by government witnesses in Reno v. ACLU included Internet postings of the photo of the actress Demi Moore naked and pregnant on the cover of Vanity Fair, and any use online of the famous “seven dirty words”. In addition, the CDA would put at risk much of the socially valuable material posted online by the plaintiffs, including the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, Stop Prisoner Rape, Human Rights Watch and Critical Path AIDS Project. The ACLU argued that everyone, including minors, are entitled to have access to such socially valuable information.
Chief Judge Dolores K. Sloviter, Judge Stewart Dalzell, and Judge Ronald L. Buckwalter were appointed to hear the preliminary injunction, which included five days of live testimony, written testimony, docum...
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