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The current session of the Supreme Court ended this week, and included a number of heavily debated cases, including the long-standing debate over the 1998 Child Online Protection Act, which has never actually been in effect. In its decision, the Court ruled 5-4 against giving the U.S. government the ability to enforce this latest version of a criminal law that requires commercial websites to shield minors from sexually explicit material. In the ruling for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy noted that the original 1998 law "presumes that parents lack the ability, not the will, to monitor what their children see." Kennedy continued by also noting that "By enacting programs to promote use of filtering software, Congress could give parents that ability without subjecting protected speech to severe penalties." An attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union remarked that the ruling "has made it safe for artists, sex educators and Web publishers to communicate with adults about sexuality without risking jail time." Mark Corallo, a spokesman for the U.S. Justice Department was less enthusiastic about the ruling, noting that "Congress has repeatedly attempted to address this serious need, and the court yet again opposed these common-sense measures to protect America's children." In its ruling, the Supreme Court didn't rule out the possibility that the law (or a variation of it) would be upheld, though several commentators have noted that given the recent rejections of restrictions against online pornography it seems that the justices are not terribly receptive to such measures.The first link will take visitors to a recent news article from the San Francisco Chronicle about the recent Supreme Court ruling. The second link leads to an audio commentary from this past Tuesday, offered by National Public Radio's Alex Chadwick, which discusses the Supreme Court's ruling on the enforcement of the Child Online Protection Act and some of the other Supreme Court decisions of this past week. The third link leads to a rather interesting news story from the Ecommerce Times about the potential benefits to companies that sell software for filtering online adult content that may accrue as a result of this recent decision. The fourth link leads to a trenchant staff editorial from USA Today that analyzes the recent ruling, noting that "...monitoring kids' behavior is best left to parents, not politicians." The fifth link leads to the full-text of the recent Supreme Court decision, including the dissenting opinion offered by Justice Stephen Breyer. For a more general portrait of what people are doing on the Internet, this interesting report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project offers some nice insights into the activities of Internet users, including the observation that the most dominant use for the Internet still remains the receiving and transmission of email.
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