CDT and the Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a "friend of the court" brief late last week in a case in Washington State challenging a refusal by a local library system to "unblock" or remove content filtering software that blocks library users' access to lawful Internet websites. We argued that the refusal to unblock violates the First Amendment, as well as a key U.S. Supreme Court decision. We also explained in detail that Internet access in libraries is particularly important in the rural communities at issue in the Washington case.
Back in 2003, the Supreme Court upheld the Children's Internet Protection Act ("CIPA"), in which Congress required that libraries that receive federal funds must use filtering software to block content thought to be harmful to minors. CIPA was unclear, however, on whether adults would be able to avoid the filters. Three Justices thought that CIPA was unconstitutional in all instances, but the six Justices who voted to uphold CIPA had to strain to find a way to find the law to be constitutional. Since the text of the statute was unclear, the Justices instead - very unusually - directly relied on the statements of the U.S. Solicitor General in oral argument before the court, who assured the court that CIPA did in fact allow adults to avoid the filters.
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