The Child Online Protection Act is Dead

Jan 21, 2009

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Today, the Supreme Court said it won't consider reviving the Child Online Protection Act (COPA), which lower federal courts struck down as unconstitutional in 2007 and 2008.
COPA is a law in the U.S., passed in 1998 with the declared purpose of protecting minors from harmful sexual material on the Internet. COPA was enacted after the Supreme Court struck down a much broader law, the Communications Decency Act of 1996.  The federal courts have since ruled that COPA is in violation of the First and Fifth Amendments of the United States Constitution, and therefore have blocked it from taking effect.
COPA is not to be confused with Children's Online Privacy Protection Act(COPPA), which is a law that applies to the online collection of personal information by persons or entities under U.S. jurisdiction from children under 13 years of age. It details when and how to seek verifiable consent from a parent or guardian, and what responsibilities an operator has to protect children's privacy and safety online including restrictions on the marketing to those under 13.
The judges who have presided over the appeals, conclude that existing elective filtering technologies and parental controls are less restrictive to free speech than the 'ineffective' and 'overly broad' ban. I couldn’t agree more. If such a law was passed how would it be enforced? Who would enforce it? Who would determine what is ‘decent’ and what content is appropriate for what age?
The answer is quite simple. Parents, care-givers, guardians, and teachers are the frontline when it comes to protecting kids online. They need the ‘three-legged stool’ of education, legislation and technology to assist them. Education about the safety issues, solid legislation that is forward thinking and effective, and powerful technology solutions that include filtering, blocking and monitoring of a child’s online activities.
While it is important that we protect free speech in the U.S., it is equally important to take responsibility and protect children from harmful and inappropriate content as well. Net Nanny does both.