Friday, February 21
Few [if any] sentences have exerted a greater influence on the American judicial system than the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."
Among the various exceptions officially recognized by the Supreme Court are issues dealing with slander, copyrights, and pornography. However, specific definitions and interpretations are often left to the community (i.e. local and state governments) in which an individual resides. Both private and public governing bodies tend to offer stricter standards than national laws; for example, students are expelled and/or employees fired for using racial slurs or any harassing comment. A lay definition may state that your rights of expression extend to the tip of my nose.
The CDA (Communications Decency Act, see http://www.epic.org/free_speech/exon_bill.txt) was passed by Congress in 1996, then signed into law by President Clinton, however the US Supreme Court ruled the following year that the Internet is protected by the First Amendment and the CDA was a violation of the First Amendment. To salvage this legislation, it was rewritten as COPA (Child Online Protection Act, see http://www.ggtech.com/hr774_ih.html) with the intent of amending the Communications Act of 1934 to allow freedom of speech on the Internet while simultaneously protecting children from unsuitable online material. COPA was combined and passed along with the Congressional Spending Bill of 1998.