February 18, 2018

Children’s Internet Protection Act Is Struck Down

By Walter Minkel

In a historic decision, the U.S. District Court this morning ruled that the
Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) violates the First Amendment and is
therefore invalid.

The law, which requires that all public libraries receiving federal funds
install filtering software on their computers, was to take full effect on July
1. The American Library Association (ALA) and a number of libraries, however,
challenged the constitutionality of the law. Many library advocates and
librarians testified at the eight-day trial, which took place in March.

Although there was speculation that the court would rule in early May, it
took them several weeks longer. “We are constrained to conclude that the library
plaintiffs must prevail in their contention that CIPA requires them to violate
the First Amendment rights of their patrons, and accordingly is facially
invalid,” ruled a three-judge panel from the federal court for the Eastern
District of Pennsylvania.

“I don’t yet know what impact the ruling will have on schools,” says Emily
Sheketoff, executive director of ALA’s Washington office. “But we’re very
pleased; it’s a very strong opinion. We’re confident that if the government
appeals [the ruling] to the Supreme Court, we’ll prevail.” If the Supreme Court
does not reverse the decision, public libraries will not be required to install
filters. A full text of the decision may be seen at www.paed.uscourts.gov/documents/opinions/02D0415P.HTM.