The federal government has a duty to protect children on the Internet. As of yet, it has failed to provide any crucial safety measures for children. A United States judge recently blocked the Child Online Protection Act (COPA), a 1998 law which was never enforced. The law was invalidated by U.S. District Judge Lowell Reed, Jr. on the grounds of the First Amendment, free speech. Reed stated, “perhaps we do the minors of this country harm if First Amendment protections, which they will with age inherit fully, are chipped away in the name of their protection.”
It is time for the government to step up to the plate and create an enforceable law that will actually provide protection for children against indecent Web sites on the internet.
If COPA was enforced it would have criminalized any Web sites that was deemed “harmful to minors.” People would have had to gain entry to such Web sites using a credit card to prove that they were over the age of 17. Reed concluded that commercial filters that can be purchased to protect children on the Internet were more effective than the actual law.
In addition, the law only embodied the threat of commercial Web sites and only sites hosted in the United States, not networking Web sites such as MySpace, which in reality is one of the biggest threats to children. It is expected that the Justice Department will appeal Reed’s decision, however money should be spent to revamp the law and educate children about Internet safety issues.
It is also important that the government take the actions it needs to in order to provide proper Internet protection for citizens. COPA, although made with good intentions, was not serving the peoples needs. A new, more effective and enforceable law pertaining to Internet safety needs to be passed by the government.