Thursday, June 26, 1997 View of First Amendment and Internet Vindicated by Supreme Court

William Bennett Turner
Rogers, Joseph, O'Donnell & Quinn
Telephone: 415/956-2828


June 26, 1997, San Francisco -- Today’s decision by the United States Supreme Court, finding that the Communications Decency Act of 1996 violates the First Amendment, adopts several of the points made by San Francisco-based ApolloMedia Corporation in its amicus curiae brief filed with the Court in February.

The Court declared the CDA’s prohibition of "indecent" speech on the Internet unconstitutional. The Court found that the interest in shielding children from sexual speech and images did not justify an across-the-board criminal prohibition that would deprive adults of materials that are constitutionally protected for them: non-obscene but sexually explicit materials. The Court was critical of the clumsy and heavy-handed approach used by Congress in restricting the free speech of Internet users. The Court specifically rejected the government’s argument that online speech should be restricted in the same way that the government can regulate broadcasts on television and radio.

"We are glad that the Court saw through the government’s argument for censoring Internet speech," said Clinton Fein, ApolloMedia’s president and co-founder. "The CDA was the most sweeping restriction on the speech of ordinary citizens that Congress has ever attempted, and we’re delighted to bid it farewell. However, it would be foolhardy to assume that attempts by government to regulate speech on the Internet will now come to a grinding halt."

Still pending in federal court in San Francisco is ApolloMedia’s own challenge to a different CDA provision. Filed in January, ApolloMedia’s lawsuit challenges the provision that makes it a felony to communicate anything "indecent" online "with intent to annoy" another person. ApolloMedia’s "" web site makes it possible for visitors to annoy President Clinton, Senator Jesse Helms and other public figures by sending them email and blunt electronic "postcards" on a variety of controversial subjects. ApolloMedia’s suit was held by a special three-judge court pending the outcome of the CDA case in the Supreme Court. The government will now have to respond to ApolloMedia’s First Amendment contentions. The court will hear ApolloMedia’s motion for a preliminary injunction against the law in the early fall.

"The issues still to be decided in our CDA challenge will have an important bearing on both free speech and global commerce, and it will be interesting to see what defenses the government serves up now that their political posturing using children has been deemed unconstitutional." Fein added.

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Clinton D. Fein
President, ApolloMedia Corporation
Telephone: 415/552-7655


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