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Ashcroft v. American Civil Liberties Union (I)

United States Supreme Court
535 U.S. 564 (2002)


Congress enacted the Child Online Protection Act (COPA) in response to concerns that children were able to access pornography online. COPA restricted the transmission of material deemed harmful to minors. COPA defined this material as any communication that: (1) the average person applying contemporary community standards would find appeals to the prurient interest, (2) depicts a sexual act in a manner patently offensive with respect to minors, and (3) lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) (plaintiff) sued the United States (defendant), claiming that COPA’s use of community standards to identify material that is harmful to minors violated the First Amendment. The trial court and the appellate court both ruled in favor of the ACLU, holding that COPA imposed an overreaching burden and restriction on constitutionally protected speech. The United States Supreme Court granted the government’s petition for certiorari to review the First Amendment challenge to COPA.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Thomas, J.)

Concurrence (Kennedy, J.)

Concurrence (Breyer, J.)

Concurrence (O’Connor, J.)

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