While the child-related Internet portions are no longer effective, Section 230 of the Act added valuable protection for online service providers and users against action against them for the actions of others, stating in part that "No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider". This portion of the Act remains in force and has been strengthened further for online service providers in the area of copyright liability risk by the OCILLA portion of the DMCA.
On July 29, 1996 a US federal court struck down the portion of the law relating to protecting children from indecent speech as too broad. A year later, on June 26, 1997, the Supreme Court upheld the lower court's decision in Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union, stating that the porion concerned was an unconstitutional abridgement of the First Amendment right to free speech. CDA contained a number of provisions criminalizing the display or transmission to a minor material of a violent or sexual nature. The media affected by this act were the Internet and cable television.
The CDA was criticized for prohibiting the posting of "indecent" or "patently offensive" in public forums on the Internet, which many felt was too ambiguous and could easily be construed. Opponents argued that otherwise protected free speech under the First Amendment would suddenly be unlawful when posted to the Internet, such as printed novels or the use of the seven dirty words. Critics also claimed there would be a chilling effect on access to medical information.
Indecency in (ground wave) TV and radio broadcasting had already been regulated by the Federal Communications Commission - broadcasting of offensive speech was restricted to certain hours of the day, when minors were supposedly be not likely to be exposed to the broadcasting. The violators (broadcasters) would be fined, and potentially face revocation of their license.
A narrower version of this act relating to the internet was later restated in the Child Online Protection Act (COPA).
Cases relying on the CDA include: