Supreme Court lets COPA die

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 25, 2009

The U.S. Supreme Court this past week dismissed an appeal of the Child Online Protection Act (COPA) without comment.

COPA — first signed by President Bill Clinton in 1998 — would require commercial Web sites to block access to children by requiring user information. The idea of the act is to protect children from sexually explicit material.

But as more and more children use the Internet, the technology of filters — which COPA critics say are far more effective than the act itself — has advanced significantly.

COPA supporters like Congressman Spencer Bachus (AL-6), however, say filters are not enough to protect our children’s eyes.

“As opposed to saying that pornographers ought to be protected by the Constitution when they expose our children to pornography, I would have hoped the Supreme Court would have said there was a constitutional right to protect children from pornographers and not protect pornographers from the people’s desire to stop their children from being exposed to pornography,” Bachus said. “Protecting children ought to be the goal of every civilized nation.”

Five years ago, the Supreme Court said the act could impose on individuals’ First Amendment rights and by a 5-4 vote sent the case back to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia. In 2008, the lower court deemed computer software was as effective as COPA without the restrictions.

In turn, the federal government appealed to the Supreme Court on the grounds that 50 percent of U.S. homes lacked Internet filters.

The American Civil Liberties Union pointed out weaknesses in the law, however, which did not cover foreign Web sites, e-mail and chat rooms, all of which are used as gateways to pornography.

“Exposing children to pornography at an early age should be prohibited, not made a constitutional right,” Bachus continued. “This is truly bad news for parents, grandparents and our children. Pornography is a tool of choice for pedophiles and sexual predators. I would have hoped the Supreme Court would have decided that was a more worthy goal than protecting the right of pornographers to send unsolicited pornography indiscriminately to every computer in America.”