Child porn law at center of free-speech case

The Supreme Court today will take up a First Amendment test of Congress’ ability to tackle child pornography in the digital age.

Justice Department lawyers defending a 2003 law that criminalizes the advertising of purported child porn say such Internet ads fuel the market for smut and hurt children even when the advertised pictures are fake.

Challengers to the law, including the National Coalition Against Censorship and the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, counter that it sweeps too broadly. They say it threatens the marketing of Lolita and other fictional depictions of adolescent sex.

At stake is Congress’ latest attempt to prohibit sexual content on the Internet. Backed by 28 states, U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement stresses the need to curtail the marketing of child porn to protect the children abused to create it.

Clement, who will argue the case today, stressed in a written filing that because of the Internet “the distribution of child pornography has expanded exponentially.” He said even fraudulent offers to buy or sell child porn feed the market.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Law & Legal Issues, Pornography

9 comments on “Child porn law at center of free-speech case

  1. Katherine says:

    We’ve got it backwards, completely backwards. The First Amendment’s primary purpose is the protection of political free speech and the free criticism of government. We restrict that in many ways today, and some would like to restrict it even more.

    And on the other hand here we have people trying to prevent the restrictions on visual and written materials which can reasonably be seen by communities as destructive to personal safety and human dignity.

  2. Br. Michael says:


  3. William P. Sulik says:

    Here’s a good analysis of the oral arguments:

  4. Harvey says:

    #1 Katherine, You have got it right. My kids in Cairo have seen this evil. We can still speak and I don’t think that ACLU or the like can take us to court for speaking the truth

  5. Katherine says:

    Harvey, do you mean the evil of restrictions on political speech? I am in Cairo now, and I can see the press is under pretty tight control.

  6. Paula Loughlin says:

    I have a very strong visceral feeling that there is a more sinister agenda behind this attempt to have current law overturned. That agenda is to normalize the sexualization of children. With the ultimate goal being the cultural acceptance of intergenerational sex ( their term). Unfortunately what is pornography one day becomes cutting edge advertising the next. Then it morphs into a cultural icon. Only in turn to emerge as a chapter in the diversity handbook. Not long after this TEC will no doubt have non public rites for the behind the bishop’s back blessings of intergenarational unions.
    God save us.

  7. Jeffersonian says:

    I think that, to be effecive and not run afoul of the First Amendment, any law on child porn will have to make the prohibitions narrow and unambiguous. IANAL, but I would suspect that this would mean prohibitions of images that involve actual children (or which are derived from such images) or marketing that directs one to such images are probably fair game for banning. Anything outside of that would likely be struck down insofar as no identifiable victim can be shown to exist.

  8. Harvey says:

    #5 Katherine, You have it ma’am. I remember being in a Chicago park years ago ( I think they called it Nuthouse Square. ) Person of all political ilk could stand on their “soapboxes” and speak out against anything. A bystander got steamed up and complained to a policeman about the actions of all the speakers and demanded that he do something about those bad people speaking against our Government. The policeman looked at the man and said “..get your own soapbox and get up and speak your piece….but don’t wish death on him – that’s against the law!…”

  9. SouthCoast says:

    Much as I admire Nabokov’s fiction, I would gladly relinquish “Lolita” forever if it meant that a single child could be saved from rape and exploitation.