THE "DARK SIDE" OF FREE SPEECH
A Web-Surfing Assignment
NOTE: This assignment involves material that you may find shocking
or repugnant. You are not required to complete any part of this
assignment that you find objectionable. If you omit part of the
assignment, however, please make an effort to discuss with a classmate
the results of his or her browsing in a general way, so that you can participate
meaningfully in class discussions.
You are not required to register with, provide information
or money to, patronize, or in any way endorse, support or approve of the
Websites that you visit.
Although doing so may inhibit your access to these sites, you may wish
to disable "cookies" before completing the browsing part of this assignment.
(For a good, brief description of what "cookies" are and do, click
In Internet Explorer, cookie control appears under "View, Internet
Options, Advanced, Security." In Netscape, it appears under "Edit,
Preferences, Advanced." In each case, click on the "disable cookies,"
button, make sure the button is marked, and click "OK."
Using a personal computer with a Web browser, locate and browse at least
one example of each of the following:
1. A "fringe" political Website, well outside the "mainstream" of
2. A pornographic Website; and
3. A "hate group" Website.
In defining these terms, use your own definitions and sensibilities, in
accordance with Justice Stewart's famous dictum "I know it when I see it."
Jacobellis v. Ohio, 378 U.S. 184, 197, 84 S.Ct. 1676, 12 L.Ed.2d 793
(1964) (Stewart, J., dissenting, speaking of hard-core pornography).
For each Website that you visit, make note of the following while you
A. How easy or difficult is it to locate the Website? Did
you locate it by using a "search engine" or by other means? Could
impressionable children or other vulnerable people visit the Website by
accident? by design? How?
B. What was your reaction upon browsing the Website? What
specific features evoked that reaction? (Without spending any money,
registering, or promoting the goals of the Website's operators, examine
as much of the site as you can. Try to be as objective as you can,
as if you were a prosecutor investigating the site.)
C. Would you favor eliminating or regulating that particular
Website? in its accessibility to children and other vulnerable
people? in general? If so, how would you do so without curtailing
or "chilling" legitimate speech? How would you define who is "vulnerable"?
D. What about links? If you believe that access to a particular
Website should be regulated without eliminating that Website, how would
you do so? In particular, how would you limit or prohibit others from
providing links to the Website, either in their own Web pages or in e-mails
to associates, correspondents, and friends? Would you criminalize
linking to illicit sites or make linking subject to civil liability? If
so, how far would you carry that liability? Just to the first "linker,"
or to anyone who linked to another linker, knowing that a page on the
other linker's Website contained a link to the prohibited site? Would
that sort of liability withstand First Amendment scrutiny?
We will discuss these issues in class based in part upon the results
of your browsing.
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