DEVAL PATRICK
SIGNS ONLINE INDECENCY BILL THAT THREATENS BOOKSTORES

As is often the case with acts of censorship, a law signed by Governor DEVAL PATRICK in April 2010 arose out of a very real concern. The state's Supreme Judicial Court had overturned the conviction of a Beverly man who sent sexually explicit messages to an undercover police officer he thought was a 13-year-old girl. The problem, the SJC ruled, was that the state's archaic laws did not cover text messages or e-mails. The new law was intended to fix that.

free speech offender Deval Patrick
But the fix itself was flawed, according to the ACLU of Massachusetts, the Photographic Resource Center, and a coalition of booksellers. Because the new law banned any electronic communication that could be considered "harmful to minors," whether it was intended to be seen by minors or not, legitimate businesses ran the risk of being shut down if they distributed e-mail newsletters advertising erotic literature.

"A lot of the book jackets have photographs of nudes, some of them deal with sexually explicit material, and we are concerned that somebody could decide that's harmful to minors and go after us," Carole Horne, general manager of the Harvard Book Store, told WBUR Radio (90.9 FM).

The damage the law could do to constitutionally guaranteed free speech was so obvious that US District Court judge Rya Zobel issued a preliminary injunction last October to prevent it from being enforced. "Plaintiffs have demonstrated, without question, that the 2010 amendments . . . violate the First Amendment," she wrote.

This past spring the legislature passed, and the governor signed, a bill clarifying the law Zobel had set aside. The new law specified that sexually explicit material that could legally be viewed by adults but not minors could not be punished unless the sender had deliberately targeted minors.

As for who should be assigned responsibility for this exercise in censorship, there is plenty of blame to go around: panicked legislators; Attorney General Martha Coakley, whose office drafted both last year's flawed law and this year's new, improved model; and, of course, Governor Patrick, who signed both bills.

The Muzzle goes to Patrick because the governor, as the official who signs legislation, is the last line of defense in preventing bad bills from becoming law. According to Zobel's ruling, the law's violation of the First Amendment was so clear. It should have been obvious to Patrick and his legal staff, too.

But 2010 was an election year, and it was politically expedient for Patrick to be seen as taking a stand against would-be child molesters while letting others worry about the Constitution.

<< first  ...< prev  1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5  |  6  |  7  |  8  |  9  |  10  |   next >...  last >>

7 of 11 (results 11)
Related: Burn, baby, burn, Time to wake up, A fool for everyone, More more >
  Topics: News Features , Deval Patrick, Tom Menino, free speech,  More more >
| More


Most Popular
ARTICLES BY DAN KENNEDY
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   A LOOK AT 10 ENEMIES OF FREE SPEECH AND PERSONAL LIBERTIES THROUGHOUT NEW ENGLAND  |  June 27, 2013
    Obama's longstanding lack of respect for the role of a free press in a democratic society reached new depths when it was revealed that his Justice Department had snooped on the Associated Press and Fox News' James Rosen in trying to ferret out leakers.
  •   THE 15TH ANNUAL MUZZLE AWARDS  |  July 13, 2012
    Liberal dreams that Barack Obama would somehow usher in a progressive paradise were always misplaced.
  •   INTERVIEW: RORY O’CONNOR DIGS SOCIAL MEDIA  |  May 14, 2012
    Rory O'Connor has been thinking about trust and the media for a long time.
  •   UNCOVERING THE SINS OF JOE MCGINNISS  |  October 09, 2012
    Joe McGinniss's 1983 bestseller Fatal Vision offered up Jeffrey MacDonald as a modern exemplar of evil: a narcissistic, remorseless monster who beat to death his wife and five-year-old daughter in a diet-pill-fueled frenzy, then coolly killed the only witness, his two-year-old daughter.
  •   THE 14TH ANNUAL MUZZLE AWARDS  |  June 29, 2011
    To understand just how disappointing Barack Obama has been on civil liberties, you need only consider the case of David House, a founder of the Bradley Manning Support Network.  

 See all articles by: DAN KENNEDY