News Release from Congresswoman Rick White (R-WA)

June 26, 1997


(Washington, D.C.) -- Congressman Rick White (R-First District) today praised the Supreme Court's decision to protect free speech on the Internet by declaring that the Communications Decency Act violates the First Amendment to the Constitution.

"Today's decision goes beyond the issue of free speech on the Internet," said White. "This case will have a lasting impact on how the government treats the Internet. There is no question that we need to protect our kids from certain kinds of harmful materials - but we also need to protect our rights as Americans. The best way to do those things and encourage the growth of the Internet is through technological innovation, not unconstitutional federal regulations."

Today's decision in American Civil Liberties Union v. Reno (case no. 96-511) is the first time the Supreme Court has addressed government regulation of content on the Internet. At issue was how far the federal government can go in determining what people can access over this new communications medium. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 included the Communications Decency Act (CDA), banning "patently offensive" or "indecent" material on the Internet. In June of last year a three judge panel in Philadelphia ruled that the CDA was an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment right of free speech. The Department of Justice appealed the case to the Supreme Court.

As a member of the select committee that developed the final telecommunications reform bill last year, White offered a compromise proposal to the CDA. The compromise included a proposal, defeated by one vote, to replace the "indecency" standard with the "harmful to minors" standard. Other provisions of White's compromise became part of the final bill. Those provisions included: 1) developing strong, effective laws that target wrongdoers; 2) using parental empowerment software to screen material; and 3) providing incentives for industry to develop new screening technologies.

Following the enactment of the CDA in 1996, White formed the Congressional Internet Caucus (IC) to help educate Members of Congress about the Internet. White believes through the work of the Internet Caucus and with the help of the Internet community, Capitol Hill has gained a better understanding of the Internet and will be better prepared to address content-regulation issues.

White believes that the Court's decision will provide Congress, and the federal government, with helpful guidelines to deal with this and other Internet issues in the future. White is optimistic that Congress has done a better job of educating itself about how the Internet works and improving its understanding of Internet related issues. He will continue to play a lead role in determining how Congress will respond to today's decision.