The present trial, ACLU v. Gonzales, is expected to last four weeks and counts popular web sites like Salon.com and the Urban Dictionary among the plaintiffs. Evidence will be presented by Internet content distributors ranging from widely-read online news publications to web-based purveyors of safe sex products. Why are so many legitimate web site operators concerned about a law written to limit the dissemination of Internet pornography? If enforced, the broad scope of COPA could have an immensely detrimental impact on free speech and could potentially threaten many sites with considerable value to an adult audience. The law specifies that content is deemed harmful to minors if it is “designed to appeal to… the prurient interest” and “lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors.” Such a broad standard could easily be abused and applied to any number of legitimately useful web sites. Wikipedia, for instance, could be punished for its large assortment of detailed entries about sexual topics, and prominent news sites would be prevented from making certain kinds of content (like the pictures of the detainee abuse from Abu Ghraib) easily accessible to readers.
Read this article from Ars Technica and read a court ruling (as part of ACLU v Gonzales) concerning Google’s request to keep it’s user’s search data private (pdf). Previously from WNM: Should there be a federal privacy law?, Forgot What You Searched For? Google Didn’t and The Center for Democracy & Technology’s legislative “Internet Watch List”