What is the Child Protection Act?
The Child Protection Act is a piece of legislation that was formally proposed in 1998 with the intent of restricting access by minors to any materials defined as harmful to a youthful audience. Although proposed, the Child Protection act never took effect, as three separate rounds of litigation ultimately led to the filing of a permanent injunction against the law in 2009.
The Child Protection Act was part of a series of efforts made by United States Lawmakers, to legislate Internet pornography and other graphic material. Sections of the earlier and exceedingly broad Communications Decency Act had been rejected as a result of their violations of the United States Constitution—this ruling was promulgated by the Supreme Court in 1997.
The Child Protection Act was thus created as a direct response to that decision; it aimed at narrowing the range of material covered by its predecessor.
What did the Child Protection Act Outlaw?
The Child Protection Act required all commercial distributors of harmful material—especially those pictures or content that was depicting, targeting or capable of targeting minors—to restrict their sites from access by minors. The Child Protection Act defined “Material harmful to others” as any material that by contemporary standards was judged to appeal to the erotic interest. This material is defined as any image or media that portrays nudity, sexual acts or graphic situations.
This definition of harmful material was ultimately rejected by Congress as a result of its broadness; the standard set was far more ambiguous than other similar laws, including those created to regulate obscenities.
On March 22, 2007, after years of rejection and subsequent appeal, United States District Judge Lowell Reed, struck down the Child Protection Act, finding the legislation in violation of the United States Constitution–particularly the First and Fifth Amendments of the United States Constitution.
Furthermore, Reed issued a permanent order to enjoin the government from enforcing the child Protection Act, claiming that the nation will be imposing more harm on minors if we continue to chip away at the First Amendment. The government ultimately appealed this ruling and the case was heard before the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court who upheld the 2007 decision. The Child Protection Act was killed for good in 2009, when the Supreme Court blocked the appeal process.