The most well known legislation on online content regulation is the US Communication Decency Act (CDA), which passed as part of the Telecommunications Act in 1996. The CDA sought to impose criminal penalties on anyone who used Internet to communicate material that, under contemporary community standards, would be deemed patently offensive to minors under 18 of age. The law was passed by congress and signed by the president in January 1996, but was ruled unconstitutional first by the District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in June 1996 then by the Supreme Court in June 1997
Following CDA, the Child Online Protection Act (COPA) was enacted in Congress in October 1998, as an attempt to cure the constitutional defects of CDA. COPA sought to impose criminal penalties against any commercial website that made material that is deemed "harmful to minors" available on the World Wide Web to anyone under 17 years of age. Thus COPA was narrower in scope aiming only at commercial communications published on WWW. Federal judges struck down COPA in 1998, 1999 and 2000 and the Supreme Court has now (2001) decided to hear the arguments on COPA.
The latest initiative from the American Congress aiming at protecting children on Internet is the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CHIPA) targeted at all schools and public libraries that accept federal money. The law mandates that Internet-connected computers be equipped with software that block or filter out material deemed “obscene” or “harmful to minors.” In March 2001, the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Library Association, along with several individual users, libraries and public agencies, filed lawsuits in federal court calling the law unconstitutional
Another important case concerning public libraries and Internet is the Loudoun Co. Library Case; a US civil action concerning a public library policy, which prohibited library patrons’ access to certain content-based categories of Internet publications. In its judgment, the District Court for the Eastern district of Virginia stressed that although defendant is under no obligation to provide Internet access to its patrons, it has chosen to do so and is therefore restricted by the First Amendment in the limitations it is allowed to place on patron access.