Why is the concept of “local community standards” difficult to apply to the Internet?

Local community standards are difficult to apply on the global medium of the Internet because Web publishers cannot limit access to their sites based on the geographic location of Internet users. For this reason, several U.S. Supreme Court justices expressed their discomfort with applying local standards in determining what material is harmful to minors under the now-defunct Child Online Protection Act (COPA) in Ashcroft v. ACLU (2002).

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, for example, advocated the adoption of a “national standard for regulation for obscenity of the Internet.” Justice Stephen Breyer reasoned that COPA should be read to include a national standard. Other justices expressed concern about the notion of local community standards, as well.

Category: Freedom of Speech