Communications Decency Act

1995 bill proposed by Senator Jim Exon, Democrat of Nebraska, to effectively outlaw cybersex. The law–actually an amendment tacked on to the Senate Commerce Committee’s version of the first major reform of U.S.

communications law since the advent of network television–included fines as high as $100,000 and prison terms of up to two years for transmitting material that is “obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, or indecent.” The CDA drew an anti-censorship howl on the Internet and mockery from those acquainted with the impossibility of enforcing such restrictions.

A “dial-a-porn” phone sex law with similarly broad language was judged an infringement on free speech by the Supreme Court in 1989; a dubious Court heard oral arguments over the CDA in 1997 after lower courts blocked its enforcement.

Exon explained the CDA soon after its proposal, saying, “The first thing I was concerned with was kids being able to pull up pornography on… Continue reading