First Amendment

Twenty years ago, the Supreme Court was faced with the question of whether a federal statute that imposed a content-based restriction on online speech violated the First Amendment. That case, Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union, marked the first instance in which the Supreme Court weighed in on the role of the Internet in the marketplace of ideas, and decided affirmatively that speech on the Internet is afforded protection under the First Amendment.

Over the course of the twenty years following Reno, the Internet has changed in size, shape, and substance. In 1997, about 40 million people used the Internet and “most colleges and universities,” “many corporations,” “many communities and local libraries,” and “an increasing number of storefront ‘computer coffee shops’” provided the public access to the Internet. Today, at least 280 million Americans use the Internet, 102 million U.S. households have in-home broadband Internet access, and 225 million Americans access the Internet through their mobile device. In 1997, popular uses of the Internet included e-mail, listservs, newsgroups, chatrooms, and the “World Wide Web” (which then consisted of around 100,000 websites), but today, social media dominates, with an estimated 81% percent of Americans participating.

Despite the seismic changes to the Internet since the Reno case was decided, the Court’s views on online speech have remained largely consistent, albeit more tailored to the times. Recently, in Packingham v. North Carolina, the Court struck down a content-neutral state law that restricted sex offenders’ access to “social networking” websites, finding that it violated the First Amendment. The significance of the Packingham opinion, particularly in its partial extension of Reno, goes beyond the four corners of the Court’s holding.Continue Reading Reno at 20: The Packingham Decision and the Supreme Court on Online Speech

By Rani Gupta

More than 50 commenters have offered their thoughts on privacy and transparency issues regarding non-government use of unmanned aircraft systems, better known as drones or UAS.

The comments responded to a request by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.  As we previously reported, the NTIA is planning a multi-stakeholder process to formulate best practices for drone-related privacy, transparency, and accountability issues.  That process was spurred by a White House memorandum calling for further study of these issues as the Federal Aviation Administration issued a proposal to allow the limited commercial use of drones.Continue Reading Groups Weigh In On Drone Privacy

Recent news that the U.S. Justice Department obtained telephone records for two months covering more than 100 journalists working for the Associated Press has prompted lawmakers to propose new statutes meant to strengthen protections against the kinds of requests that our Jeff Kosseff described as “undermin[ing]” the “entire Fourth Estate.”Continue Reading New Statutes Proposed in the Wake of AP Spying Scandal

Last week, the Supreme Court issued its much anticipated decision in the Brown v. Entertainment Merchant’s Association case.  Justice Scalia, writing for Justices Kennedy, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan, held that a California law restricting the sale or rental of violent video games to minors, and mandating “18” labels for such games, violates the First Amendment.

The decision