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Tuesday, April 16, 2002
Victory for free speech
The Supreme Court has just voted to strike down a ban on child pornography that didn't involve actual children. The law proscribed pornography involving adults that looked like children, pornography involving computer-generated images that looked like children, and pornography marketed in such a way that it "conveys the impression" that children are involved. A surprisingly strong 6-3 first amendment vote -- which was actually even stronger, as all nine justices expressed concern about elements of the law. Only the section of the law forbidding "virtual child pornography" had any support, with three justices voting in favor and a fourth, Clarence Thomas, suggesting that if evidence arose that this hindered the prosecution of real child pornography cases, that he'd rethink his vote.

It's extremely encouraging that the court did not buy into the For The Children rhetoric of the law's proponents; politicians, after all, have a tendency to insist that everything from highway construction to farm support payments are necessary because of the welfare of children. One of the arguments made by proponents of the law was that this non-child-child-pornography could be used by pedophiles to seduce children; the Court didn't buy into this speculative causal link between speech and child abuse.

My initial impression of such a strong pro-free speech vote on such an unpopular subject, is that it suggests that other litigation which threatens free speech is in trouble. That includes lawsuits against Hollywood over Columbine-like tragedies, and McCainShaysFeingoldMeehan's campaign finance censorship law.

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