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Unconstitutional "save the children" bites the dust

After losing an appeals court challenge last July, proponents of 1998’s Child Online Protection Act received a final blow to their cause – this time from the United States Supreme Court, who quietly declined to review the law without comment.

COPA – not to be confused with COPPA – was passed overwhelming by congress under the Clinton administration; it sought to bar for-profit websites from allowing children access to materials deemed harmful for inappropriate to them, as judged by “contemporary community standards.”

How exactly COPA was supposed to have manifested is unclear. Many feared that the law would require sites hosting any kind of pornography – among other kinds of “harmful” material – to wall themselves off behind age-verification services (AVS), which generally require a credit card to use. No site would ever be prosecuted under the law, however, as in both 1998 and 2007 US courts enjoined against its enforcement, after finding the law overbroad and unconstitutional.

This is, in fact, the second time COPA faced the high court’s scrutiny. A 2004 Supreme Court decision agreed with previous court rulings – noting that filtering and other initiatives appeared to be a better option – and kicked the law back down to a U.S. district court for a new trial, which began in 2006.

By March 2007, COPA’s second trial ended on a note similar to the first one, and the law once again began its doomed trek up through the U.S. appeals system.

COPA’s main proponent was the U.S. department of justice, and it enjoyed considerable support from advocacy groups like Enough is Enough and the Bush Administration. Challengers to the law included the American Civil Liberties foundation, the Electronic Frontier Foundation,, and adult goods retailer Condomania, among others.

COPA opponents of a “very carefully whipped up hysteria and paranoia,” said Enough is Enough in 1999, who felt the law to be “very reasonable.”

“For over a decade the government has been trying to thwart freedom of speech on the Internet, and for years the courts have been finding the attempts unconstitutional,” said ACLU lead attorney Chris Hansen, in a Wednesday press release.

In 2006, DoJ and White House investigators requested search engines data from companies like Google and Yahoo to support their, asking for a random sample of a million web site addresses in its search index, as well as a list of search queries received over a period of one week. While AOL, MSN, and Yahoo complied with the request – “on a limited basis,” according to a statement by Yahoo – Google resisted, and ended up facing down a subpoena instead.

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Here's my plan
By AntiM on 1/22/2009 8:30:42 AM , Rating: 5
If protecting children online is so important as to violate Constitutional rights, then we shouldn't stop there. Here are a few ideas that will protect children online without violating anyone's Constitutional right.

Option 1 . We already have a minimum drinking age and driving age, we should also have a minimum online age. NO ONE under the age of 18 should be allowed to use the internet.
It may sound harsh, but I'm just trying to protect the children. We should stop at nothing to protect our children, it's very important.

Option 2. Parents are obviously unable to ensure the safety of their own children, so at the age of 5, all children should be taken from their parents and put into federal bootcamps that will educate them and teach them how to be good citizens and how to protect themselves online. Patents can visit them once a month. They should remain wards of the government until at least age 16, provided they meet certain minimum graduation requirements.

Option 3. We require licenses for operating a motor vehicle; we should also require a license for anyone that plans to have a child. In order to obtain a child license, you must demonstrate that you have an IQ of at least 100 and prove that you are financially able to care for the child.

Option 4 . All children between the ages of 2 and 18 should be required to wear a GPS tracking device so their location can be monitored 24/7 by the FCTA (Federal Child Tracking Agency).

If you oppose any of these ideas, then you are obviously a child molester.

Any other ideas??

RE: Here's my plan
By Regs on 1/22/2009 8:53:20 AM , Rating: 5
lol. Thank god for the constitution is all I can say. How it amazes me everyday that the constitution is over 200 years old, yet the authors of it were genius enough to articulate in a way that it keeps its relevance generations after them.

RE: Here's my plan
By dever on 1/22/09, Rating: 0
RE: Here's my plan
By foolsgambit11 on 1/22/2009 5:15:43 PM , Rating: 3
"They are all unconstitutional."

Dever - is that short for Sandra Day O'Connor? I've never heard that abbreviation. But it must be you, Justice O'Connor, since you're the only living former Supreme Court Justice - therefore, imminently qualified to comment on the constitutionality of laws without fears of having to recuse yourself for commenting on issues that may come before the bench.

Oh. No? Well, then, please explain your qualifications to judge whether something is or isn't constitutional, given that imminent experts in the field of constitutional law have already weighed in on the validity of these programs.

RE: Here's my plan
By dever on 1/26/2009 12:03:54 PM , Rating: 2
You're right. I'm wrong. Everyone agrees that we should live in a welfare state. Statism is best, and there is no argument.

RE: Here's my plan
By omnicronx on 1/22/09, Rating: -1
RE: Here's my plan
By Regs on 1/23/2009 10:37:24 AM , Rating: 1
You're taking it a little far and you're also looking it at the wrong way. You have every right to stop your kid from looking at underage porn. A kid with a guardians approval also has the right to look at all the porn they want to. What are we protecting these kids from, you're embarrassment?

Passing this law does not justify the means.

RE: Here's my plan
By Regs on 1/23/2009 10:39:14 AM , Rating: 2
Ok, this site automatically rated me down for saying porn. Hah, freedom of speech and censorship at its finniest.

RE: Here's my plan
By Regs on 1/23/2009 10:49:24 AM , Rating: 2
underage porn

RE: Here's my plan
By Regs on 1/23/2009 10:49:51 AM , Rating: 2

RE: Here's my plan
By Regs on 1/23/2009 10:50:29 AM , Rating: 2

RE: Here's my plan
By Pneumothorax on 1/22/2009 9:13:44 AM , Rating: 5
You implement Option 3 and the USA will be rid of 70% of it's problems in about 4-5 generations...

RE: Here's my plan
By Master Kenobi on 1/22/2009 10:33:04 AM , Rating: 2
I'm a fan of Option 2 as well.

RE: Here's my plan
By Dreifort on 1/22/2009 12:25:58 PM , Rating: 2
I thought Obama has found a way to deliver Option 2?

Manditory Voluntary Civil Service (for kids of course).

RE: Here's my plan
By HighWing on 1/22/2009 1:44:28 PM , Rating: 3
You implement Option 3 and the USA will be rid of 70% of it's problems in about 4-5 generations...

I would be all for option 3 for the same reasons. However, I would be curious at how it would be enforced. As any possibly way of enforcing it would spark a lot of debate/controversy in it's actions. ie what do you do when someone is caught pregnant without a license.

RE: Here's my plan
By Some1ne on 1/22/2009 4:50:15 PM , Rating: 3
Not really, an IQ of 100 is still distressingly low. I know 100 is supposed ro represent the "average" intellect, but have you ever tried actually talking to someone with an IQ of only 100? They're not exactly college material.

The minimum IQ needs to be about 120, or preferably, at least one standard deviation above the mean score.

RE: Here's my plan
By foolsgambit11 on 1/22/2009 5:18:35 PM , Rating: 4
It'll be okay - a good portion of IQ seems to be inherited. Therefore, since IQ is a judge of an individual's intelligence in relation to the average intelligence, culling those below 100 will continually improve the intelligence of the whole, since the definition of a 100 IQ will be higher and higher every generation.

RE: Here's my plan
By PrinceGaz on 1/22/2009 8:35:53 PM , Rating: 3
I agree. Only allowing parents who both have an IQ of over 100, from creating offspring makes sense in a world that is increasingly focussed on IT, and which is also over-populated. We need to at least stop population growth now, and ideally reduce the number of humans on this planet. China had the right idea with their one-child policy, it is a shame that more countries didn't adopt it (along with enforced sterilisation of people in less-developed countries who already have a child so as to ensure a population reduction).

Limiting human reproduction generally, and where possible to only the upper 50% in IQ tests would be an excellent idea to ensure the best prospects for future human survival on Earth.

RE: Here's my plan
By Seemonkeyscanfly on 1/22/2009 10:35:57 AM , Rating: 5
Oh these are much better then how I grew up.... :)
act:............................................. Punishment:
brake something in store...........stick broke over butt at home.
Rude to people...........................same as above
do something I was told not to..same as above
look at dirty mag........................same as above
lie to anyone..............................same as above
talk back to an adult..................same as above
Play with parents stuff...............same as above
have temper tantrum in public...same as above
play with an electric outlet........Nothing, told bet you'll
never do that again.

It seems to me we are trying to loss the days of being responsible for our own actions - which would include raising a child to know good from bad, right from wrong.

RE: Here's my plan
By Hyperion1400 on 1/22/2009 11:04:14 AM , Rating: 2
So uh... who wants to get a petition together for option 3? I'll sign.

RE: Here's my plan
By Seemonkeyscanfly on 1/22/2009 11:25:19 AM , Rating: 2
errr not against, but how are you going to enforce it? At say age 12 people take an IQ test if you do not pass you have your nut snipped off or eggs remove?

RE: Here's my plan
By Etsp on 1/22/2009 11:31:06 AM , Rating: 2
Unfortunately, IQ scores aren't static. 100 is supposed to be "Average", so, enforcing this law would prevent half the population from reproducing, year after year. 4 generations down the road, we'd tell someone who has an IQ of 140(by today's standards) that they're too stupid to reproduce.

Let's not forget, McDonalds needs employees too. Lower that mark to 90, and I'll sign gladly.

RE: Here's my plan
By HotFoot on 1/22/2009 3:39:17 PM , Rating: 2
Not to be pedantic, but considering we're having a discussion about IQ and I'm a deeply sarcastic person, I'd just like to point out that average doesn't mean median.


Yes, I'm bored enough to have posted this. Sorry for wasting your time, all!

RE: Here's my plan
By Etsp on 1/22/2009 4:04:36 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, you're right. It wouldn't be exactly half, but given the size of the sample, it would be very close to half.

RE: Here's my plan
By mikecel79 on 1/22/2009 11:23:33 AM , Rating: 2
Option 1 . We already have a minimum drinking age and driving age, we should also have a minimum online age. NO ONE under the age of 18 should be allowed to use the internet.

I wonder if most of the trolls on DT would disappear then?

RE: Here's my plan
By Seemonkeyscanfly on 1/22/2009 11:27:44 AM , Rating: 2
No, we still have underage drinkers in bars, so they would just get fake ID's to surf the web. However, their would be less trolls.

RE: Here's my plan
By Dreifort on 1/22/2009 12:29:00 PM , Rating: 2
They would just steal their dad's online identity.

And just like they teach safe sex to elementary school kids, they would still teach the Internet to underage/unlicensed children.

Take a look at society right now. It's illegal for kids to do almost everything they are taught how to do in elementary & middle schools.

Ironic is not a strong enough word for that statement.

RE: Here's my plan
By icanhascpu on 1/22/2009 5:14:14 PM , Rating: 2
Ive always been a fan of something like #3.

However it would be extremely hard to implement in a good way. I dont think people need to have a high IQ, but i do think they need to have a good understanding about how to take care of a child. Preventative things that give a kid a better chance not to have issues later in life. Obviously some issues may not be preventable by the parent, bu tthe things that are should be done, and the parent should know it. Makes everyone happier in the end.

I think that everyone should be free to have a child with they have a license or not. However I think there should be a system people can opt into to get a license, or a degree, or whatever, that gives them perks for their children. Funds for their college, funds for books and help with diapers ect ect.

RE: Here's my plan
By misuspita on 1/23/2009 3:30:21 AM , Rating: 2
Well, even if I found it funny, the number 3 actually might be necessary some time in the future. We already expand beyond our means to support ourself. And there are some who just reproduce themselves and then expect the state to support them and their offspring. That should be somehow restricted. My 0.02$

RE: Here's my plan
By misuspita on 1/23/2009 3:37:47 AM , Rating: 2
Blah, I posted this too late. It seems everybody here is a fan of option nr. 3. So where do I sign for the admittance in the club?

Fundementally flawed, but it has some benefits
By lifeblood on 1/22/09, Rating: 0
By judasmachine on 1/22/2009 10:47:20 AM , Rating: 2
too uh um distracting? (just kidding)

you can turn 'safe search' on, and it for the most part keeps them to a minimum.

By mindless1 on 1/22/2009 11:10:30 AM , Rating: 2
As with any basic web search, if you want to filter out certain hits you should refine your search parameters. How about with google, adding -sex -nude, etc? It would be silly to think sex should be filtered out any moreso than recipes if googling for "corn", eating as well as sex is a basic human function.

On the other hand, I agree more diligence is needed to keep 'sites that try to artificially inflate their search hit rates, in check with what the normal hit rate should be.

By the same token, I'm often annoyed when I want data or product info and instead I'm presented with links from people trying to sell something. It's an even worse problem than pron, IMO, but google is an advertising outfit and that's their bread and butter so what are you going to do? "-buy" won't make much of a dent in that kind of problem.

By TomCorelis on 1/22/2009 1:15:18 PM , Rating: 2
A long time ago, just after Google's IPO, I read about some engineers claiming they could implement that, specifically with their shopping engine at Froogle. They said they couldn't and wouldn't, however, because they had to answer to their shareholders -- who wouldn't like such a feature.

RE: Fundementally flawed, but it has some benefits
By Dreifort on 1/22/2009 12:31:19 PM , Rating: 2
Google Image search "Daily Tech"

I bet you find porn (or scantily clad women) in first page of results.

By consumerwhore on 1/22/2009 3:00:50 PM , Rating: 2
Heck, if I want to see scantily clad women on DailyTech, I just have to check out articles about Sony!

internet filtering
By Screwballl on 1/22/2009 2:16:39 PM , Rating: 2
There is a reason why there are internet filtering companies... if people do not want access to that stuff then pay a little bit of money (most charge $3-5 per month) to have that stuff blocked.

This goes right back to displaced responsibility... too many lazy people would rather have the government mandate and require something that they do not have to do anything about, rather than actually take responsibility for their own lives, and the lives of their children.

Get off your lazy butt and stand up to your children, spank them, pop their mouth if they talk back, let them rot in jail and do not bail them out if they do something stupid.

My 6 year old is now learning this herself. She needs to take responsibility for her school supplies and backpack. If she forgets something at home like her home work or daily folder, then it is her own fault. We help where we can but it is better to teach them to start now rather than baby them until they're 18 and wonder why they can't live their own life, can't hold a job because they think they are entitled to a $30/hr job right out of high school, never had a day of hard work in their life.

Cut the crap and lay down the parental law.

RE: internet filtering
By JDHack42 on 1/22/2009 4:10:57 PM , Rating: 2
What ever happened to .xxx ?

RE: internet filtering
By foolsgambit11 on 1/22/2009 5:22:01 PM , Rating: 2
People realized that the decision of what had to be a .xxx domain and what didn't have to be was a much too political decision. One that varied from country to country. One that was totally unenforceable. So they dropped that unworkable solution.

By dj LiTh on 1/22/2009 7:15:17 AM , Rating: 1
I mean, nothing to see here....carry on.

RE: w00t!
By dj LiTh on 1/22/2009 7:38:15 AM , Rating: 2
Ok but seriously, This is definitely going overboard in the vain of trying to be politically correct. Let the full grown man have steak!

The most harmful environment of all
By hsr0601 on 1/22/2009 4:40:10 PM , Rating: 2
The world looks full of verbal love for children, not love from the bottom of the heart, no future-oriented energy plan can explain it along with no children online protection. Folks care about healthy diets, though, children are in dire need of attention above food as we know the simple message from an outsider changed their wrong behaviors significantly. The society devoid of hearty love put the economic progress on hold, I BELIEVE. In case the supreme court deems watching harmful porns as their liberal acts, it needs sweeping retooling as well, I think.

"I f***ing cannot play Halo 2 multiplayer. I cannot do it." -- Bungie Technical Lead Chris Butcher
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