Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A recent article in Publisher's Weekly took up the issue of censorship on a very broad scale.  Andrew Albanese reported that a federal judge halted the implementation of a Massachusetts law that would ban certain works from the Internet and punish distributors of works deemed to be “harmful to minors,” deeming it overly broad and in violation of the First Amendment.  The law was highly contested by publishers and a large group took matters into their own hands shortly after the law was passed:
The decision comes after a group of booksellers, advocates and trade associations sued the state in July, arguing that the sweeping new law breached the First Amendment because it could be used to ban virtually anything from the Internet, including material adults have a First Amendment right to view.  Plaintiffs included the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the ACLU of Massachusetts, the Association of American Publishers, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, the Harvard Book Store, the Photographic Resource Center, Porter Square Books.
This is a perfect example of how defense of one cause can lead to limitations of human rights in other areas.  While I am most definitely against promoting gratuitous sex and violence to minors or works/texts that exploit minors, attempting to enact a blanket law is an incredibly ineffective way to go about it.  The article quotes Carol Rose of the Massachusetts branch of the ACLU:
“The problems with this law show the danger of legislating out of fear, and in a hurry,” said Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. “This case is a reminder that we need to remain ever-vigilant in the defense of basic civil liberties against lawmakers who try to capitalize on cases involving children to expand government power in ways that could be used to silence booksellers, artists, healthcare providers, and the rest of us.”
Issues surrounding children, innocence, and the protection of both, are volatile at best.  Those who wish to argue for human rights are often seen as "the bad guys" because by allowing certain rights, there is the opportunity for that right to be abused.  And that is why I so often advocate for the family relationship to be one in which certain rights are regulated.  Parents have the right to know what their children are reading, but not to place their values on every other family in a school.  And people certainly have the right to protect children from potentially threatening literature or sources on the internet, but not by attempting to create some sort of blanket law that hinders the right of the majority of the population to read or seek out the materials they want. 

I know, it's a slippery slope, but certain things on slippery slopes are worth fighting for.

No comments:

Post a Comment