Friday, March 23, 2007

Free Speech victories in France and the US

Via Skeptico, I see that free speech advocates won a victory in France.

French cartoons editor acquitted

A French court has ruled in favour of weekly Charlie Hebdo, rejecting accusations by Islamic groups who said it incited hatred against Muslims.

The cartoons were covered by freedom of expression laws and were not an attack on Islam, but fundamentalists, it said.

Skeptico is critical of the claims that it's a free speech victory, but I think he is wrong. It is a free speech victory, though there are still a way to go. In other words, the free speech advocates won a battle, but they have yet to win the war.

And in the US, there has also been a free speech victory - a much more important one in my eyes.

U.S. Judge Blocks 1998 Online Porn Law

Software filters work much better than a 1998 federal law designed to keep pornography away from children on the Internet, a federal judge ruled Thursday in striking down the measure on free-speech grounds.

The federal law that was struck down was the COPA. The article explains pretty well why it was important that this law was struck down.

The law would have criminalized Web sites that allow children to access material deemed "harmful to minors" by "contemporary community standards." The sites would have been expected to require a credit card number or other proof of age. Penalties include a $50,000 fine and up to six months in prison.

Sexual health sites, the online magazine and other Web sites backed by the American Civil Liberties Union had challenged the law on grounds it would have a chilling effect on speech. Joan Walsh,'s editor in chief, said the law could have allowed any of the 93 U.S. attorneys to prosecute the site over photos of naked prisoners at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.

"The burden would have been on us to prove that they weren't" harmful to minors, Walsh said Thursday.

Does anyone believe for a second that in today's political climate, it wouldn't have been misused? If nothing else, then it could have been used to harass websites.



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