Judge Grants Preliminary Injunction To Protect Free Speech After EFF Challenge


This post, written by senior staff attorney Matt Zimmerman, was originally published on August 9, 2013 by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Newark, NJ – A New Jersey federal district court judge granted motions for a preliminary injunction today, blocking the enforcement of a dangerous state law that would put online service providers at risk by, among other things, creating liability based on “indirect” publication of content by speech platforms.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) argued for the injunction in court on behalf of the Internet Archive, as the statute conflicts directly with federal law and threatens service providers who enable third party speech online.

“The Constitution does not permit states to pass overbroad and vague statutes that threaten protected speech. The New Jersey statute created that threat and the court was right to block it,” said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman. “Similarly, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act prohibits the state from threatening to throw online providers in jail for what their users do and the statute violated that rule as well. We are grateful that the court recognized the importance of these bedrock principles to online libraries and other platforms that make the Internet the vital and robust tool it is today.”

The New Jersey law at issue is an almost carbon-copy of a Washington state law successfully blocked by EFF and the Internet Archive last year. While aimed at combatting online ads for underage sex workers, it instead imposes stiff criminal penalties on ISPs, Internet cafes, and libraries that “indirectly” cause the publication or display of content that might contain even an “implicit” offer of a commercial sex act if the content includes an image of a minor. The penalties – up to 20 years in prison and steep fines – would put enormous pressure on service providers to block access to broad swaths of otherwise protected material in order to avoid the vague threat of prosecution.

“Within the past month, we’ve seen a coalition of state attorneys general ask Congress to gut CDA 230 to make way for harmful laws like New Jersey’s,” said Zimmerman. “This misguided proposal puts speech platforms at risk, which in turn threatens online speech itself. Law enforcement can and must pursue criminals vigorously, but attacking the platforms where people exercise their right to free speech is the wrong strategy.”

Backpage.com separately filed suit against this law, represented by the law firm of Davis Wright Tremaine, who also joined today’s argument.

For more on this case:

Personal Liberty

Electronic Frontier Foundation

From the Internet to the iPod, technologies are transforming our society and empowering us as speakers, citizens, creators, and consumers. When our freedoms in the networked world come under attack, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is the first line of defense. EFF broke new ground when it was founded in 1990—well before the Internet was on most people's radar—and continues to confront cutting-edge issues defending free speech, privacy, innovation, and consumer rights today. From the beginning, EFF has championed the public interest in every critical battle affecting digital rights. https://www.eff.org/

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  • $36364326

    Am I really reading this in the once great protestant republic?

  • guy r west

    sounds good at any rate and a judge actuaily standing up dang some fokes may still have some comon sence

  • $8012302

    The foolish anti-American people of this country keep trying to take away our freedom in the guise of safety. They don’t understand what they enjoy on a daily basis has been captured and maintained by the blood of our military and patriots. Being safe and free is an oxymoron. The only way to stay free is to remain aggressive against tyranny. We tried passive resistance in the 1930s and Japan attacked Pear Harbor. Kennedy tried it in the 1960s and the USSR moved missiles into Cuba. The European Union tried it and is now overrun by Islam. Obama is doing it today and Islam has become the aggressor against the US as a result of Presidential passivism. Our culture has been destroyed by political attack using our judicial system twisted by socialistic entities, elected officials and political appointment of socialist activists to corrupt our federal democratic system with bureaucratic socialistic and Islamic rhetoric. Without an aggressive defense of our borders, our culture and our Constitution we are doomed to a tyrannical socialistic slavery that the third world and Islamic countries must now endure. The colonist overcome it in 1776 an we must overcome it today.

  • Hussein Hotdawg

    Why hasn’t the TSA been prosecuted for all the child pornography it produced and stored using xray scanners?

  • wavesofgrain

    How hypocritical and biased this government is. Remember the SEC and their downloading of porn? The office staff throughout the country was found watching and loading porn 24/7 while the economy crashed. Not ONE was fired…they were counseled and disciplined for accessing porn…and the harshest reprimand was a 2 week suspension. They were not concerned with government employees surfing the web for porn, as there was no mention of controlling this “sport” for the government staff…no prosecutions. They obviously are attacking private industry and citizens with this bill, and protecting the government “surfers”.