After the judicial demise of the Communications Decency Act and Child Online Protection Act and the continued impotency of CAN-SPAM to curb unsolicited commercial email, children remain vulnerable to harmful, indecent content via their inbox. In a recent attempt to curtail such exposure, several States have created Child Protection Registries. In essence, the laws allow children to register their email addresses with the state. The state laws impose significant criminal and civil penalties on senders of indecent material who send such emails to registered minors. Because the States retain the list of protected emails, senders of potentially indecent emails must, prior to sending emails, submit email addresses to the State and pay the State to remove protected emails listed with the state registry. Such registries, however, pose a myriad of constitutional and practical concerns. By compiling a list of minors’ emails, the States may be undermining minors’ safety while exposing them to increased spam by potentially providing pedophiles and spammers with a verified list of emails. Additionally, given the inability to discern geography from a normal email address, such registries will hinder email as an open, cost-effective means of communication by requiring all indecent emails to first be submitted to States with registries. In addition to these practical concerns, the Supreme Court will likely strike down such statutes on First Amendment grounds as overbroad and not narrowly tailored to protecting minors.
As a constitutional alternative to child protection registries, this article will propose the creation of a new email domain for minors and adults who do not wish to receive indecent material. The domain, such as @kids.ut.gov, would provide notice as to both geography and the recipient’s status as a minor or non-consenting adult on the face of the email. Such a proposal by not creating an identifiable list of emails or limiting registration to only minors will address many of the practical concerns with current child protection registries. Also by providing easy notice of recipients’ status on the face of the email, protected expression among adults will not be overburdened by asking that emailers simply not send indecent material to such domains, and hence, will survive strict scrutiny under the Supreme Court’s First Amendment analysis.
- Child Protection Registry
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/david_pool/1/