Black World Wide Web protest

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This article is about the original Web blackout protesting "online indecency" legislation. For later actions against "online piracy" legislation, see Protests against SOPA and PIPA.

The Turn the Web Black protest, also called the Great Web Blackout,[1] the Turn Your Web Pages Black protest,[2] and Black Thursday,[1] was a February 8–9, 1996, online activism action, led by the Voters' Telecommunications Watch and the Center for Democracy and Technology, paralleling the longer-term Blue Ribbon Online Free Speech Campaign organized by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. It protested the Communications Decency Act (CDA), a piece of "rider" legislation for Internet censorship attached to the Telecommunications Act of 1996, and passed by the United States Congress on February 1, 1996. Timed to coincide with President Bill Clinton's signing of the bill on February 8, 1996, a large number of web sites had their background color turned to black for 48 hours to protest the CDA's curtailment of freedom of expression. Thousands of websites, including a number of major ones, joined in the protest. The campaign was noted by major media such as the CNN, Time magazine and The New York Times.[3][4]


The legislation which gave rise to the protest threatened fines or imprisonment for those accused of distributing "indecent" or "patently offensive" materials without providing some way of blocking access to minors.[5] Opponents of the bill compared this to demanding librarians assess the age of library users before allowing them access to a particular book in the collection.[6]

The Communications Decency Act was stuck down as unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in a 9-0 vote on June 26, 1997, upholding an earlier federal district court ruling. The majority of Justices found the CDA violated adults' First Amendment free speech rights with its overbroad suppression and vague language, despite any legitimate interest of the government in protecting children from "harmful materials". A concurring minority opinion, penned by Justice Sandra Day O'Conner and Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, argued that the law might have been constitutional if limited to situations concerning an intent and knowledge to provide indecent materials to children.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Mitchell, Dan (February 8, 1997). "Remembering the Great Web Blackout". Wired. Retrieved 2010-05-15. 
  2. ^ Initial announcement from Center for Democracy and Technology, retrieved from the Internet Archive
  3. ^ Collings, Anthony (February 9, 1996). "Home pages to go black in protest". CNN. Retrieved 20 November 2013. 
  4. ^ Lewis, Peter H. (February 8, 1996). "Protest, Cyberspace-Style, for New Law". New York Times. Retrieved 20 November 2013. 
  5. ^ Henderson, Harry (2004). Library in a book : power of the news media. New York: Facts On File. ISBN 9780816047680. 
  6. ^ Murray, Andrew D. (2006). The regulation of cyberspace : control in the online environment (1st ed.). Milton Park, Abingdon, UK: Routledge-Cavendish. ISBN 9781904385219. 
  7. ^ Flagg, Gordon (May 1997). "Supreme Court strikes down Communications Decency Act". American Libraries 28: 11–12. 

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