The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled against the State of California’s attempt to criminalize internet use by registered citizens.
The ruling issued Tuesday, November 18, 2014, affirms an earlier district court ruling in Doe v. Harris, a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Northern California and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) in 2012.
U.S. District Court Judge Richard Kopf about two years ago stopped Nebraska from attempting to criminalize internet use. Kopf pulled no punches in expressing his disdain for what the Nebraska Legislature did.
Our era is reminiscent of the McCarthyism of the 1950s, with the objects of politician-whipped fear not Communists but registered citizens. Even the politicians who know their facts are wrong are cowards when it comes to standing up and correcting the abuses that are built into registry laws.
Courageous court decisions like the recent 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling and that handed down by Kopf remain rare but they are to be noted with hope and optimism. That applies to registered citizens and their loved ones as well as anyone else who one day might find herself or himself labeled “dangerous” and unpopular. That means just about everyone.
“We’re pleased the court recognized important First Amendment principles of free and anonymous speech apply to everyone, regardless of what crimes they may have committed in the past,” EFF Staff Attorney Hanni Fakhoury said. “While the law may be well-intentioned, its broad language opened the door for the government to chill free speech. Restrictions targeting sex offenders are often a stepping stone for the expansion of law enforcement power against other classes of unpopular people.“