The Supreme Court case of Reno v. ACLU

Essay by pattydidyHigh School, 11th gradeB+, November 2009

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The Supreme Court case of Reno vs. ACLU was a pivotal case in American History. It took place in 1996, and was the Supreme Court's first case dealing with the issue of cyberspace. The case involves the Communications Decency Act (the CDA), which makes it against the law for minors to view "obscene or indecent" messages or images on the Internet.1 When the president signed the bill, the American Civil Liberties Union (the ACLU) filed a suit against the CDA.2 The ACLU is an organization designed to protect American citizens' civil liberties, and it felt that the CDA "effectively suppresses a large amount of speech that adults have a constitutional right to receive and to address to one another."3 The ACLU argued that the Act went against the First Amendment, which protects "the freedom of speech."4 Attorney General Janet Reno disagreed, saying that minors must be protected from harmful material.

Reno argued that the CDA actually protects First Amendment principles by censoring the Internet rather than contradicting it.5 The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the ACLU, and found that that the CDA was unconstitutional.6This case was pivotal in our nation's history because it established that "the freedom of speech" applies to the Internet. Not only was it the first Supreme Court case involving cyberspace, but it made it legal for a person to post anything that they want on the Internet including obscene and potentially hurtful material. Because the Internet is something that many Americans access on a daily basis, this court decision plays a large role in the everyday lives of millions of Americans.

With communications web sites, such as MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter, (all having millions of users) people have the right to post anything that they want onto the Internet, even if it is potentially harmful...