The Communications Decency Act passed Congress as part of a broad overhaul of the telecommunications industry. Its goal was laudable, to keep cyberporn away from minors. Sponsors thought the Federal Communications Commission's longtime regulation of radio and television provided precedent for such oversight, but they failed to consider the Internet's interactive nature.
On the Internet, the computer operator receives what he or she orders, by e-mail, chat groups or the World Wide Web's thousands of sites. Erotica generally does not jump out at the computer surfer; it must be sought to be found.
"As the most participatory form of mass speech yet developed, the Internet deserves the highest protection from governmental intrusion," a panel of three federal judges agreed. That means any attempt at controlling the Internet for beneficial purposes should be in the least intrusive manner.
The courts have ruled that obscenity is not protected by the First Amendment. However, "obscene" is a higher standard than "indecent," although it seems like a distinction without a difference.
The ruling will be appealed by the government directly to the Supreme Court, but it gives the first indication of how the federal judiciary will view issues related to the Internet.
Parents, not the government, have the primary role of protecting children from pornography, on computer networks or elsewhere. They can purchase software that filters or blocks indecent material from being seen on their home computers. That is far preferable to the government trying to regulate content on the global chaos of the Internet.
Thailand may have to come to grips with the question of the succession before long. But for now the Thais can celebrate 50 years of the enlightened reign of Bhumibol Adulyadej.
Rupert E. Phillips, CEO
John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher
David Shapiro, Managing Editor
Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor
Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors
A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor