Are the 7 Dirty Words Still Dirty on the Internet? Robert Corn-Revere on New Media Censorship

“Technologies, while they expand human freedom, have always led to efforts to repress them,” says First Amendment attorney Robert Corn-Revere. "Censorship is the bastard child of technology. And in many ways, we've seen this pattern repeat itself many times through history."

Corn-Revere is a partner at the law firm of Davis, Wright, and Tremaine and a longtime advocate for freedom of expression. He has defended CBS against indecency charges for the Janet Jackson “wardrobe malfunction” during the Super Bowl, petitioned New York State to grant a posthumous pardon to Lenny Bruce, and was part of the defense of adult filmmaker John Stagliano against federal obscenity charges.

From the Star Chamber of England to the outlawing of typewriters in the Islamic world to the "Great Firewall" of China, Corn-Revere stresses that governments have always reacted to new communication technologies with suspicion. Even in countries where the tradition of free speech runs deep, such as the United States, film and television have faced tighter scrutiny than older forms of expression.

But the Internet, Corn-Revere says, has avoided a repeat of history. In 1996, the Communications Decency Act attempted to restrict obscene” material and the use of “seven dirty words” on computer networks. Had the Supreme Court not ruled that much of the law was unconstitutional, the Internet would look very different that it does today. It was the first time in American history, says Corn-Revere, that a new communications technology beat back regulations in the courts and won full First Amendment protections.

Corn-Revere recently joined Pete Tucker, a new media journalist, to discuss Internet censorship with Reason Foundation analyst Steven Titch at Reason's Washington, D.C. offices. Tucker operates, a website covering the news of Washington D.C. that’s often overlooked by the mainstream media. Tucker, who was arrested for photographing a public meeting of D.C.'s taxi commission, shares his views as a new media journalist who is routinely provided fewer legal protections than his more-establishment peers.

About one hour and 20 minutes.

Produced by Todd Krainin. Camera by Josh Swain and Krainin.

Scroll down for downloadable versions and subscribe to ReasonTV's YouTube Channel to receive notification when new material goes live.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • H. ReardEn||

    Shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, tits.

    I sit and await the enforcers of New Media Censorship.

  • grey||

    Let me correct for you,

    Feces, urine, intercourse, vagina, Obama, Tony, breasts.


  • $park¥||

    You mixed up Tony and Obama.

  • grey||

    Damn, you're right. Please give me a pass, it's a common mistake.


    And tits shouldn't even be on the list! It sounds like a snack - well, it is.

    Cheese Tits,
    Corn Tits,
    Tater Tits!

  • CE||

    Only four of those still qualify.

  • Paul.||

    Eric Posner: The first amendment is like that creepy uncle you thought was cool in your youth, but now just embarasses you.

  • CE||

    Eric Posner probably is someone's creepy uncle they're embarrassed by.

  • Paul.||

    "The problem was, that when it came to issues of technology, the courts were very reluctant to say that those hard fought freedoms also applied to new technology"

    Because the framers never envisioned something that could make your voice louder by using electricity. -Progressive.

  • grey||

    Related, 4th Amendment, the framer's never envisioned the (necessary) government's war on drugs.

    - Red Team

    I thought I was a constitutionalist red teamer, then I realized the oxymoron.

  • CE||

    Benjamin Franklin invented electricity.

  • John Galt||

    More like he experienced electricity.

  • grey||

    He fucked a lot of french women also, for which he doesn't get enough credit. My man Ben just crushes ass.

  • strat||

    Don't be getting too high on Ben Franklin. If he hadn't run to his legislator buddies after Lysander Spooner kicked his ass in mail delivery in the Northeast Corridor, we might not have the USPS monopoly that we still do today.

  • grey||

    I think we can recognize both his positive and negative contributions, this discernment is what separates from the progtards.

  • Capt Ace Rimmer||

    Cursing makes you stronger and smarter. Fucking a it does.

  • Barrett70||

    like Julie implied I am dazzled that a stay at home mom able to make $7893 in a few weeks on the computer. did you look at this site link

  • CE||

    The random callbacks in the spam comments are supposed to actually be from other comments on the same page. Who's Julie?

  • John Galt||

    I know Julie well. She's the 1-800-USA-RAIL lady.

  • lendapatricia||

    like Mike implied I cannot believe that any body able to make $4486 in one month on the internet. did you read this web site

  • John Galt||

    Like and Mikes? I remember those tasty chewy little lemon and lime flavored candies. Delicious.

  • lendapatricia||

    before I looked at the check that said $7390, I did not believe best friend was realey earning money part time from there computar.. there sisters roommate had bean doing this 4 only about 10 months and just paid the loans on their cottage and got a top of the range Mazda MX-5. read more at,

  • John Galt||

    The Internet is one of the last places where there are still places where freedom of speech may be exercised.

  • christacampbell147||

    as Victoria replied I am dazzled that a single mom able to make $6587 in 4 weeks on the internet. have you seen this site

  • grey||

    All for freedom of speech, but how do we crush the spambots? Is this a public space or a business space and the business can decide whom to serve on their forums?

  • strat||

    Spambots will be the first case where we eventually litigate over the free speech rights of artificial intelligences. Mark my words.

  • susan321||

    like Paul implied I'm surprised that anybody able to earn $5133 in 4 weeks on the computer. have you seen this website

  • Chadwick||

    Brayden. you think Vincent`s posting is impressive, on wednesday I bought a great Infiniti after making $4481 this - four weeks past and more than 10-k lass month. this is really the most-comfortable job Ive had. I started this 6 months ago and right away started making a nice minimum $84, per hour. I follow the details on this straightforward website,

  • bajwa||

    I simply got paid $6784 operating off my laptop computer this month. And if you're thinking that that is cool, my unmarried friend has twin toddlers and revamped $9k her 1st month. It feels therefore sensible creating abundant|such a lot|most} cash once others have to be compelled to work for thus much less. this is often what I do,

  • strassnerjordan||

    my roomate's ex-wife makes $74 every hour on the computer. She has been fired for five months but last month her pay check was $13623 just working on the computer for a few hours. Read more here

  • obd2works||

    Obd2works is a Chinese OBD2 supplier. If you have any question, please feel free to contract us

  • margaretsusen||

    my friend's mother makes $65/hour on the computer. She has been out of a job for eight months but last month her pay was $15949 just working on the computer for a few hours. Go to this web site and read more

Click here to follow Reason on Instagram


Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.