Another Online Censorship Bill Struck Down By Alaska Judge

Another Online Censorship Bill Struck Down By Alaska Judge

7/20/2011

 

A federal judge has added the state of Alaska to the rapidly growing list of states that have been legally smacked down for their attempt to censor the Internet. Alaska Governor Sean Parnell has signed into law last year a measure that would have made adults criminally liable for disseminating sexually explicit materials to minors over the Internet.

Subsequently, a coalition of plaintiffs filed a case against the measure last year in August, claiming that the measure is in violation of the First Amendment. Judge Ralph Beistline yesterday agreed with the arguments of the plaintiffs and struck down the law.

The decision of Beistline, just like earlier court decisions regarding online free speech, revolved around the fact that the Internet lacked a dependable mechanism to verify the age of online users. In his decision, Judge Beistline wrote, “Individuals who fear the possibility of a minor receiving speech intended for an adult may refrain from exercising their right to free speech at all. The Government may not reduce the adult population to only what is fit for children.”

The state of Alaska argued that the measure was designed to only seek out sexual predators that send pornography to minors. However, the court threw out this argument, with the observation it is not what the statute actually says. “If the Legislature intends this statute to only criminalize the grooming of children for sexual abuse, the Legislature can say so,” wrote Beistline.

The plaintiffs included the ACLU of Alaska, as well as industry groups like the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, the Entertainment Merchants Association, and the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression.

 

WRITTEN BY:

blakeh@wellsdrew.com