Potential legal challenges to the application of the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) in public libraries: Strategies and issues

Paul Jaeger, Charles McClure


When the United States Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), the ruling was limited to issues of whether the statute, as written, was an unconstitutional limitation of freedom of speech. In holding that the wording of the law did not present an unconstitutional limitation on the exercise of free speech, the Supreme Court did not address the constitutionality of the application of the law. Two of the Justices who concurred that CIPA was legal on its face, in fact, suggested the possibility of future legal challenges to CIPA as it is applied in public libraries. This paper discusses potential problems related to the implementation of CIPA that could affect the exercise of free speech in public libraries. It also suggests possible legal challenges to the application of the law that could be made using established First Amendment jurisprudence. The legal issues that might be used to challenge the Court’s decision include least restrictive alternative, vagueness, overbreadth, request policies, prior restraints, public forum, and limitations on political speech. The discussion of each legal issue offers an approach that could be taken in formulating and raising a legal challenge to the application of CIPA.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v9i2.1117

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