On February 1, 1995, Senator James Exon (D-Neb.) attempted to do what had never been done before--regulate speech on the Internet. Introducing the Communications Decency Amendment (CDA), Senator Exon declared a danger to society: Barbarian pornographers are at the gate and they are using the Internet to gain access to the youth of America. Senator Exon proclaimed:
The information superhighway should not become a red light district. This legislation will keep that from happening and extend the standards of decency which have protected telephone users to new telecommunications devices.
Once passed, our children and families will be better protected from those who would electronically cruise the digital world to engage children in inappropriate communications and introductions. The Decency Act will also clearly protect citizens from electronic stalking and protect the sanctuary of the home from uninvited indecencies.
In a year of deregulation, Senator Exon called for more regulation. In the year when Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich placed the House of Representatives on the Internet, praising it as a landmark for democracy, Senator Exon warned America that the Internet was filled with dark places from which we needed government protection. In a year where Internet users were proclaiming the infinite utility of the World Wide Web, Senator Exon, who has apparently no Internet experience, declared a danger.
The Communications Decency Act would be passed one year later as an amendment to the Telecommunications Act of 1996. It was struck down by a unanimous Supreme Court as a violation of the First Amendment.
For the full history of the Communications Decency Act, see The Legislative History of Senator Exon's Communications Decency Act:Regulating Barbarians on the Information Superhighway