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FEPP Archives - Issues -
"Harm to Minors" and Censorship of Youth

White Paper To The National Research Council: Identifying What Is Harmful or Inappropriate for Minors
(March 5, 2001) - Have adverse effects from pornography been scientifically identified? Or is the issue essentially one of morality and socialization of youth? This White Paper, submitted to the National Research Council's Committee on "Tools and Strategies for Protecting Kids from Pornography and Their Applicability to Other Inappropriate Internet Content," points out that there are non-censorial approaches to concerns about kids' access to pornography - such as media literacy and comprehensive sexuality education. On May 2, 2002, the NRC released a 402-page report that largely agreed with FEPP's White Paper. Click here for a summary.

Supreme Court Brief In "COPA" Case
(September 2001) - Four sexuality scholars' organizations, along with the National Coalition Against Censorship, filed a brief with the Supreme Court explaining that there is no body of scientific evidence establishing that minors are harmed by reading or viewing sexual material. Hence, the "Child Online Protection Act," which criminalizes "harmful to minors" expression online, is not justified by any compelling governmental interest. In May 2002, the Supreme Court ruled that using the vague notion of "community standards" as part of the definition of what is "harmful to minors" is not in itself unconstitutional, and sent the case back to the lower courts for further consideration. (See Supreme Court Punts.)

Not In Front of the Children: "Indecency," Censorship, and The Innocence Of Youth
(2001, 2nd edition 2007) - From Huckleberry Finn to Harry Potter, Internet filters to the v-chip, censorship is often based on the assumption that children and adolescents must be protected from "indecent" information - whether in art, in literature, or on a Web site. In Not In Front of the Children, FEPP Director Marjorie Heins explores the fascinating history of indecency laws and other censorship aimed at youth. Not in Front of the Children won the 2002 American Library Association's Eli M. Oboler Award for the best published work in the area of intellectual freedom.

Scholars Ask American Academy of Pediatrics to Reconsider Misstatements About Media Violence
(2001-02) - FEPP and a group of media scholars asked the American Academy of Pediatrics to reconsider its November 2001 Policy Statement on Media Violence because of its "many misstatements about social-science research on media effects." The AAP responded, but refused to allow its letter to be published.

Commentary: Book Banning in the 21st Century:
What's at Stake in the CIPA Case

(March 20, 2002; updated May 31, 2002, June 23, 2003) - The "Children's Internet Protection Act" - or CIPA - mandates that all public schools and libraries using federal funds for Internet use or connections must install a filtering system. Given the well-documented fact that all Internet filters mistakenly block thousands of sites that don't even have sexual content, CIPA poses a major threat to intellectual freedom, and indeed, to the very function of libraries.

Commentary: Our Children's Hearts, Minds, and Libidos:
What's at Stake in the COPA Case

(April 18, 2002) - Salon.com and the Kama Sutra screen saver were just a few of the sites threatened with censorship as the Supreme Court prepared to rule in Ashcroft vs. ACLU.

Censorship Through Civil Lawsuits, and Threats Against a University Press
(April 23, 2002) - What was all the fuss about Judith Levine's controversial book Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex? Also, a review of Robert O'Neil's The First Amendment and Civil Liability, which describes how lawsuits against movie directors and book publishers are threatening creative freedom

National Research Council Adopts FEPP’s Approach to Internet and Youth
(May 2, 2002) - The NRC released a 402-page report that largely agreed with a white paper that FEPP submitted to the Council on three crucial issues: Internet filters, media literacy, and "harm to minors" from sexually explicit content.
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Youth Free Expression Network: The Making of a Movement
(May 22, 2002) - A Report on the May 2002 Colloquium, "Strategies for Advancing the Free Expression Rights of Youth."

CIPA Bites the Dust
(May 31, 2002) - A federal court ruled that requiring Internet filters in public libraries violates the First Amendment. See Ignoring the Irrationality of Internet Filters for commentary on the Supreme Court's reversal of this decision.

Comments Submitted to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA): Internet Protection Measures and Safety Policies
(August 26, 2002) - FEPP's White Paper to the NTIA, outlining the serious educational problems that are inherent in Internet filtering technology, and suggesting more effective ways of addressing concerns about minors' access to the wide variety of content on the World Wide Web. The agency's report, released in August 2003, recognized the limits of filtering technology as a response to concerns about minors' Web surfing, but it also read like a sales pitch for filter manufacturers. See Government Report a Sales Pitch for Internet Filters.

Friend of the Court Brief by 33 Media Scholars in St. Louis Video Games Censorship Case
(September 25, 2002) - 33 media scholars, historians, psychologists, and games researchers filed a brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, opposing a law that bars minors from video games containing "graphic violence." The scholars' brief explains that, contrary to popular belief, most efforts to prove adverse effects from media violence have yielded null results, and that "experts on childhood and adolescence have long recognized the importance of violent fantasy play in overcoming anxieties, processing anger, and providing outlets for aggression."

Media Literacy: An Alternative to Censorship
(2002; second edition, 2003) - FEPP's survey of media literacy education and why it is preferable to TV ratings, Internet filters, "indecency" laws, and other efforts to censor the ideas and information available to the young.

The Strange Case of Sarah Jones
(January 24, 2003; updated February 20, 2003) - Where does the federal government get the power to ban a feminist rap poem?

The Disastrous State of Sex Education
(April 4, 2003) - In Talk About Sex, Janice Irvine concludes that America must rid itself of the "the culture of stigma" before it can have a sane policy of sexuality education.

Appeals Court Strikes Down St. Louis Video Games Law
(June 3, 2003) - The June 3, 2003 decision agrees with FEPP's brief on behalf of 33 media scholars that experimenters have not proven violent content to have widespread adverse effects.

Ignoring the Irrationality of Internet Filters, the Supreme Court Upholds CIPA
(June 24, 2003) - The Supreme Court's decision allowing Congress to mandate Internet filters in public libraries as a condition of federal aid ignores or understates the massive censorious effects of filters. In many ways, they are more insidious than flat bans on "indecent" speech.

More Than Seven Dirty Words
(August 4, 2003) - The FCC's threat to revoke broadcast licenses because of vulgar radio content focuses on a truly gross call-in show describing such bizarre sexual practices as "the Rusty Trombone," but the broader issue is the unconstitutionality of the agency's vague "indecency" standard.

New Government Report is a Sales Pitch for Internet Filters
(August 20, 2003) - The National Telecommunications and Information Administration's flawed August 2003 report naively accepts the claims of filter manufacturers.

Media Researchers Cancel
(November 21, 2003) - Why did two media violence researchers back out of their scheduled appearance at the FTC?

image: www.freeimages.co.uk


The Free Expression Policy Project began in 2000 to provide empirical research and policy development on tough censorship issues and seek free speech-friendly solutions to the concerns that drive censorship campaigns. In 2004-2007, it was part of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. The FEPP website is now hosted by the National Coalition Against Censorship. Past funders have included the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Educational Foundation of America, the Open Society Institute, and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

All material on this site is covered by a Creative Commons "Attribution - No Derivs - NonCommercial" license. (See http://creativecommons.org) You may copy it in its entirely as long as you credit the Free Expression Policy Project and provide a link to the Project's Web site. You may not edit or revise it, or copy portions, without permission (except, of course, for fair use). Please let us know if you reprint!