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FEPP Archives - Issues - Sex & Censorship


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.

Not In Front of the Children: "Indecency," Censorship, and the Innocence of Youth
(2001, 2nd edition 2007) - From Huckleberry Finn to Harry Potter, censorship is often based on the assumption that children and adolescents must be protected from information about ideas. In the award-winning book, Not in Front of the Children: "Indecency," Censorship, and the Innocence of Youth, Marjorie Heins explores the history and politics of indecency laws and other censorship aimed at youth.

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.)

Commentary: Book Banning in the 21st Century: What's at Stake in the CIPA Case
(March 20, 2002; updated May 31, 2002) - 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.

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

(April 18, 2002) - 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.

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.

Rereading Sex
(December 17, 2002) - If you are interested in the origins of our present-day struggles over sexual information and ideas, Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz’s detailed rendering the 19th century landscape is packed with incidents and insights. Rereading Sex: Battles Over Sexual Knowledge and Suppression in Nineteenth-Century America.

Culture on Trial: The Story of 3 Landmark Censorship Cases
(Winter 2002) - The trial that freed James Joyce's Ulysses; the case that broke the Catholic Church stranglehold over American movies; and the McCarthy Era case that ended teachers' loyalty oaths.


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?

"Your Revolution" is Not "Indecent" After All
(February 20, 2003) - Under pressure from a lawsuit by the feminist rapper Sarah Jones, the FCC changed its mind and ruled Jones's powerful rap poem is not indecent after all.

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.

Ignoring the Irrationality of Internet Filters, the Supreme Court Upholds CIPA
(June 24, 2003) - The June 23, 2003 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.


The Free Expression Policy Project began in 2000 as a project of the National Coalition Against Censorship, 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. 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.

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