KidsPrivacy.org - From the Center for Media Education - A parent's guide to online privacy including terms and COPPA provisions.


eSchool News online - The online edition of eSchool News - Article regarding deadlines and requirements for complacence with CIPA and E-rate funding.


Since its inception, the Web has provided a variety of information to its users. However, along with it have come sites that are inappropriate for children. The United States government has always been pressed to regulate the Internet. But doing so has a catch - when is it protecting children and when is it restricting free speech?

The first federal law to address this issue was the Communications Decency Act, part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The law made it illegal to transmit "indecent" material with an electronic device. In 1997, CDA was overturned by being declared unconstitutional through a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union challenging that it restricted freedom of speech.

The second federal law to address this issue was the Child Online Protection Act of 1998 (COPA). Much like CDA, COPA was enacted for "Restriction of access by minors to materials commercially distributed by means of World Wide Web that are harmful to minors." In other words, any commercial sites deemed "harmful to minors" and that can be accessed by minors were declared illegal. Again, the ACLU and several interest groups successfully argued in federal court to hold COPA unconstitutional due to its restriction on free speech.

Enacted at the same time as COPA was the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA). COPPA, while sounding similar in name to COPA, sought for the "Regulation of unfair and deceptive acts and practices in connection with collection and use of personal information from and about children on the Internet." This law required for sites directed towards children, or that collect information from children, to provide privacy policies explaining the use of any information a child provides to that site. Additionally, it allows parents to retrieve that information and also to not allow that site to solicit information from their child. This law is still enforced and applies to children 13 or younger.

The Children's Internet Protection Act (also known as CIPA or the CHIP Act), requires public and school libraries to have a policy of Internet safety for children. CIPA's amendments specifically require protection that "blocks or filters" access to visual depictions that are obscene or harmful to minors. If libraries fail to comply, they will not receive federal funding through the E-rate program, which provides a bulk of the federal funding for library Internet connectivity.

However, in March of 2001, both the ACLU and the America Library Association (ala.org) filed suits against CIPA, in argument that "filters are not effective in blocking all content that some may find objectionable, but they do block much useful and constitutionally protected information." The cases are still pending.

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