May 18, 2022

Peter Brantley on “The Chaos and Cacophony of Unfettered Speech” (20th Anniversary of U.S. Supreme Court’s Reno v. ACLU Decision)

From Peter Brantley in Publishers Weekly:

On December 8, a remarkable group of Internet policy experts and lawyers gathered in San Francisco for a conference on the 20th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s 1997 decision in Reno v. ACLUa landmark ruling that struck down parts of a 1995 law would have greatly restricted free speech online, while preserving a small part of the law that has in turn enabled online innovation and free speech to blossom.

Authored largely by Senator James Exon of Nebraska, The Communications Decency Act, passed in 1995, sought to impose decency standards on the Internet, much like those that existed for broadcast television.


That the Supreme court struck down the anti-free speech provisions of the CDA in 1997 while leaving Section 230 intact is a testament to the work of a small group of men and women, lawyers and advocates, and the organizations that supported them: The American Civil Liberties Union, the American Library Association, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Center for Democracy and Technology, and many other concerned groups joined hands to bring their concerns to the courts—and to the public.

Read the Complete Article by Peter Brantley (1734 words)

Additional Resources

See Also: Full Text of the U.S. Supreme Court Unanimous Decision (via ||| PDF Version (via Justia)

See Also: Listen to the Oral Argument Before the U.S. Supreme Court (Argued March 19, 1997)

See Also: ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom Report Report About Supreme Court Decision  (July 1997; via Archive-It)

See Also: ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom Report About Oral Argument (April 1997; Archive-It)

See Also: The Citizens Internet Empowerment Coalition
“The Citizens Internet Empowerment Coalition came together to oppose Congress’ first attempt to regulate content on the Internet, the Communications Decency Act, which the U.S. Supreme Court found unconstitutional on June 26, 1997.”

See Also: ACLU Materials and Documents re: CDA

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.