The First Amendment protects American’s right to free speech. This right has been upheld as it applies to the Internet. However, those who hope to utilize the Internet for chatting purposes, emailing, forums or blogging, should be aware that protection does not protect citizens it their entirety. Additional laws have been passed limiting speech and media in some aspects – primarily in the realm of child pornography.
Indecency laws may seem contrary to the First Amendment. On their surface, they may appear to violate our right to free speech; however, nothing could be further from the truth. The law, which was originally passed in 1996, was designed to prevent the use of certain sexually explicit words, phrases and language on the Internet. While the law was partially overturned in 1997, the heart of it still stands.
For example, a sexual predator can be legally prosecuted for sexually propositioning a minor via chat or email. Those who utilize the Internet to exchange child pornography can be held legally responsible for doing so.
Maybe it isn’t entirely true that we can say or do anything we want on the Internet, but the First Amendment still stands to protect our right to free speech as a whole. With the exception of very few subjects, Americans are free to use the popular chat features of the Internet to discuss anything they want.
It is likely that the debate over ‘decency’ on the Internet will continue, much as George Carlin’s famous “Seven Words You Can’t Say” is still relevant today, decades after he first, famously, uttered them. Technology may change, but our rights, as American’s, will continue to be protected under the First Amendment.