US Censorship

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution protects the freedom of speech and expression against all levels of government censorship. This freedom and protection is an essential component of the American experience and allows our country to have the arguably most diverse population in the world. This protection extends to cyberspace and thus there is relatively minimal governmental technical filtering of online content in the United States. However, due to complex legal and private mandates, the internet is nonetheless regulated.

Direct censorship of the internet is prohibited by the First Amendment with the exception of obscenity such as child pornography. Several acts were attempted to further regulate such obscenity and children's ability to access such material, but were then found unconstitutional as they overstepped their bounds. Two such acts were the Communications Decency Act of 1996 and the Child Online Protection Act of 1998. Other similar acts were passed through, including the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 2000 and the Children's Internet Protection Act of 2000, protecting the privacy of minors online and also requiring K-12 schools and libraries receiving Federal assistance for Internet access to restrict minor's access to unsuitable material.

Besides K-12 schools and libraries receiving federal aid, other entities within the United States also employ their own filtering. Many large corporations such as Google and Microsoft practice self-censorship. Read more at (link to Conrad's Google Article). Military institutions also employ filtering for their own personnel for various security reasons.

Another major source of internet censorship was legalized under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, which made legal actions against copyright infringement online easier. For example, a quick Google search for "Hangover 2 download" resulted in several entries removed due to complaints related to the DMCA.