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Netizens blast CDA

Netizens overwhelmingly believe that free speech should reign on the Internet, according to the latest NEWS.COM Poll.

Netizens overwhelmingly believe that free speech should reign on the Internet, according to the latest NEWS.COM Poll.

New legislation expected
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CDA backers focus on children
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CDA technology takes the stand
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blast CDA
An informal survey conducted over the last few days asked readers whether they thought that adults' right to free speech superseded protection of children from indecent material and whether it is easier to monitor kids when they watch TV or when they surf the Net.

An astounding 91 percent of those polled believe that Communications Decency Act, which had its hearing in the Supreme Court this morning, should be struck down as it could limit adults' rights to express themselves. They argued that the law is too broad, impossible to enforce, and above all, unconstitutional.

Not surprisingly, these same readers also rejected the basis of the government's argument--that it is easier to monitor children's viewing habits when they watch TV. Sixty-two percent of those polled said that the government has it all wrong: It is is easier to screen out what kids see on the Net than on TV since parents and teachers can install filtering software that blocks inappropriate content.

The CDA, which would make it a crime to "knowingly transmit indecent materials to minors," is virtually impossible to enforce, readers say. "The ends do not justify the means," one reader wrote. "While the goals of protecting children is a worthy one it is virtually unachievable in the sense that we could possibly prevent them from ever seeing something offensive...The Internet is a worldwide medium and the law has no force outside the United States."

Vincent Riley, another reader, added: "You don't take all cars off the road because children can get knocked over if they aren't being watched properly. The same with the Internet. It's an adult network by nature--children need to be watched by responsible adults."

Protect free speech
Consider this. We allow free speech to be compromised because we want to keep children safe from objectionable material. Well, what about the elderly? Now, how about minorities? You see where it leads. Free speech must be protected, even if it means that some might be offended in the process.
--Neal F. Cox
A few readers did express concern about the unlimited access the Net can provide to minors. One reader from "the Schneider family" wrote, "The CDA's basic intent--protecting children--is both noble and necessary. Children can't walk into a store and buy Playboy, cigarettes, alcohol, etc. Why should the electronic world have different rules?"

But far more readers were outraged by the law. "The government's goal can't be as important as the need for freedom," Chris Wuestefeld wrote.

Dr. Bob Lade says, "Ben Franklin said it best: To paraphrase "Those who would give up a little freedom to obtain a little security deserve neither." The government should not be the body to control what your children see or read, you should!"

A healthy majority also disagreed with the government's fundamental arguments for supporting the CDA. Most had faith that technology, such as filtering software, could help them screen inappropriate content from their children.

Filtering software protects kids
It's much easier to monitor Internet viewing habits because it's automatic. Once you configure the monitoring software, it works automatically to keep little eyes from viewing things you don't want them seeing.
--Doug Glenn
Doug Glenn said, "I can password protect the PC from use, not so the TV. As an additional step, the software is loaded on my network which requires yet another password...However there is a TV in the other room, and unless I check every 30 minutes I have no way of knowing what they are watching."

Another reader, who preferred to remain anonymous, said that in a perfect world every parent would monitor what programs their kids watched on TV and on the Net. But he added, "It's much easier to monitor Internet viewing habits than TV viewing habits because it's automatic...You don't have to worry about looking over their shoulder to make sure they're not seeing something that was designed for an older audience."