Black World Wide Web protest

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On February 1, 1996, U.S. Congress passed the Telecommunications Act, a telecommunications reform bill containing the Communications Decency Act, which threatened fines or imprisonment for those accused of distributing "indecent" or "patently offensive" materials without providing some way of blocking access to minors.[1] 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.[2] 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 Communications Decency Act's curtailment of free speech. The Turn the Web Black protest, also called Black Thursday, was led by the Voters Telecommunications Watch and paralleled the Blue Ribbon Online Free Speech Campaign run by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. 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 Communications Decency Act which gave rise to the protest was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court by a 9-0 vote on June 26, 1997, which upheld a federal district court ruling. The majority ruling found the CDA violated adult free speech rights with its broad suppression and vague language, despite any legitimate ability of the government to protect children from "harmful materials". A concurring opinion, penned by Justice Sandra Day O'Conner and Chief Justice William H. Rehnquest found that the law might be constitutional in situations concerning an intent and knowledge to provide indecent materials to children.[5]

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  1. ^ Henderson, Harry (2004). Library in a book : power of the news media. New York: Facts On File. ISBN 9780816047680. 
  2. ^ Murray, Andrew D. (2006). The regulation of cyberspace : control in the online environment (1st ed. ed.). Milton Park, Abingdon, UK: Routledge-Cavendish. ISBN 9781904385219. 
  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. ^ Flagg, Gordon (May 1997). "Supreme Court strikes down Communications Decency Act". American Libraries 28: 11–12. 

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