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Regulation of Violent Content

Media violence has increased in quantity and has also become much more graphic, sexual and sadistic in nature.  Lots of children are exposed to various types of violence through television, movies and the internet.  The internet cannot be easily regulated as it is the main source of information for many adults and children alike.  The United States government had taken several steps to keep violent content on the internet away from children, but has not taken steps to eradicate it completely.  The government’s action aimed at regulating internet violence has been very limited compared to the actions taken to restrict broadcasting.  Since it is the government that grants the broadcasters their rights and broadcast licenses, the broadcasters have no option but to comply with government restrictions.  Television, radio, print mediums are also subject to government regulations, whereas the internet is free from government regulations.

The Computer Decency Act of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 prohibits the use of an interactive computer service to willfully transmit, send or display any violent content, indecent or obscene material to minors.  This Act was an attempt to regulate publishing or displaying violent content on the internet.  This Act also took measures to create a system of rating video programming for violent, sexual or other indecent content.  However, the Computer Decency Act of 1996 did not get congressional support for regulating censorship of cyberspace.  The Supreme Court of the United States in Reno v. Aclu,[i] held the Act to be unconstitutional.

Congress enacted the Child Online Protection Act restricting access by minors to any violent content.  However the US Supreme Court in, Ashcroft v. American Civil Liberties Union, held this  Act to be  unconstitutional as violative of the protection of free speech. 

Notwithstanding Supreme Court precedent, there is a wide spread opinion amongst the public that violent content in television programs and the internet  creates a negative impact upon children.  Following these concerns, and upon a request of 39 members of the United States House of Representatives, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has conducted a proceeding seeking public comment on violent programming.  The FCC had sent a report to Congress recommending that the broadcasting industry voluntarily commit to reduce the amount of harmful or violent contents viewed by children.  In light of the widespread concern about obscene, indecent, profane, violent, or otherwise objectionable programming, the FCC along with the approval of courts have succeeded to a great extent in regulating broadcasting of violent content which is harmful to the children.

[i] 521 U.S. 844 (U.S. 1997)

Inside Regulation of Violent Content