Censorship in the United States

Censorship in the United States involves the suppression of speech or public communication and raises issues of freedom of speech, which is protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Interpretation of this fundamental
freedom has varied since its enshrinement. For instance, restraints increased during the 1950s period of widespread anti-communist sentiment, as exemplified by the hearings of the House Committee on Un-American Activities. In Miller v. California (1973), the U.S. Supreme Court
found that the First Amendment's freedom of speech does not apply to obscenity, which can, therefore, be censored. While certain forms of hate speech are legal so long as they do not turn to action or incite others to commit illegal acts, more severe forms have led to people or
groups (such as the Ku Klux Klan) being denied marching permits or the Westboro Baptist Church being sued, although the initial adverse ruling against the latter was later overturned on appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court case Snyder v. Phelps.
The First Amendment protects against censorship imposed by law, but does not protect against corporate censorship, the restraint of speech of spokespersons, employees, or business associates by threatening monetary loss, loss of employment, or loss of access to the marketplace.
Legal expenses can be a significant hidden restraint where there is fear of suit for libel. Many people in the United States are in favor of restricting censorship by corporations, citing a slippery slope that if corporations do not follow the Bill of Rights, the government will
be influenced.

Analysts from Reporters Without Borders ranked the United States 45th in the world out of 180 countries in their 2018 Press Freedom Index. Certain forms of speech, such as obscenity and defamation, are restricted in communications media by the government or by the
industry on its own.


Colonial government

Censorship came to British America with the Mayflower "when the governor of Plymouth, Massachusetts, William Bradford learned [in 1629] that Thomas Morton of Merrymount, in addition to his other misdeed, had 'composed sundry
rhymes and verses, some tending to lasciviousness' the only solution was to send a military expedition to break up Morton's high-living."

A celebrated legal case in 1734–1735 involved John Peter Zenger, a New York newspaper printer who regularly published material critical of
the corrupt Governor of New York, William Cosby. He was jailed eight months before being tried for seditious libel. Andrew Hamilton defended him and was made famous for his speech, ending in "nature and the laws of our country have given us a right to liberty of both exposing and
opposing arbitrary power ... by speaking and writing the truth". Zenger's lawyers attempted to establish the precedent that a statement, even if defamatory, is not libelous if it can be proved. While the judge ruled against his arguments, Hamilton urged jury nullification in the
cause of liberty and won a not guilty verdict. The Zenger case paved the way for freedom of the press to be adopted in the U.S. Constitution. As Founding Father Gouverneur Morris stated, "The trial of Zenger in 1735 was the germ of American freedom, the morning star of that
liberty which subsequently revolutionized America."


Beginning in the 1830s and until the American Civil War, the US Postmaster General refused to allow mailmen to carry abolitionist pamphlets to the South.

On March 3, 1873, significant censorship legislation,
the Comstock Law, was passed by the United States Congress under the Grant administration; an Act for the "Suppression of Trade in, and Circulation of, Obscene Literature and Articles of Immoral Use". The Act criminalized usage of the U.S. Postal Service to send any of the
following items: erotica; contraceptives; abortifacients; sex toys; personal letters alluding to any sexual content or information; or any information regarding the above items.


WPA poster, 1943
Wilson administration

The Sedition Act of 1918 (Pub.L. 65–150, 40 Stat. 553, enacted May 16, 1918) was an Act of the United States Congress that extended the Espionage Act of 1917 to cover a broader range of offenses, notably speech and the expression of opinion that cast the
government or the war effort in a negative light or interfered with the sale of government bonds.

It forbade the use of "disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language" about the United States government, its flag, or its armed forces or that caused others to view the
American government or its institutions with contempt. Those convicted under the act generally received sentences of imprisonment for five to 20 years. The act also allowed the Postmaster General to refuse to deliver mail that met those same standards for punishable speech or
opinion. It applied only to times "when the United States is in war." The U.S. was in a declared a state of war at the time of passage, the First World War. The law was repealed on December 13, 1920.

Though the legislation enacted in 1918 is commonly called the Sedition Act,
it was actually a set of amendments to the Espionage Act.

Franklin D. Roosevelt administration

The Office of Censorship, an emergency wartime agency, heavily censored reporting during World War II. During World War I, and to a greater extent during World War II, war
correspondents accompanied military forces, and their reports were subject to advance censorship to preserve military secrets. The extent of such censorship was not generally challenged, and no major court case arose from this issue, and even the Supreme Court found it
constitutional on the grounds that it "protected free speech from tyranny". On December 19, 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 8985, which established the Office of Censorship and conferred on its director the power to censor international communications in
"his absolute discretion." Byron Price was selected as the Director of Censorship. However, censorship was not limited to reporting; postal censorship also took place. "Every letter that crossed international or U.S. territorial borders from December 1941 to August 1945 was
subject to being opened and scoured for details."

Truman administration

McCarthyism is the term describing a period of intense anti-Communist suspicion in the United States that lasted roughly from the late 1940s to the late 1950s when the Smith Act trials of communist party
leaders occurred. The Alien Registration Act or Smith Act of 1940 made it a criminal offense for anyone to "knowingly or willfully advocate, abet, advise or teach the ... desirability or propriety of overthrowing the Government of the United States or of any State by force or
violence, or for anyone to organize any association which teaches, advises or encourages such an overthrow, or for anyone to become a member of or to affiliate with any such association." Hundreds of Communists were prosecuted under this law between 1941 and 1957.
Eleven leaders of the Communist Party were charged and convicted under the Smith Act in 1949. Ten defendants were given sentences of five years and the eleventh was sentenced to three years. All of the defense attorneys were cited for contempt of court and were also given prison
sentences. In 1951, twenty-three other leaders of the party were indicted including Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, a founding member of the American Civil Liberties Union, who was removed from the board of the ACLU in 1940 for membership in a totalitarian political party.
By 1957 over 140 leaders and members of the Communist Party had been charged under the law. In 1952, the Immigration and Nationality, or McCarran-Walter, Act was passed. This law allowed the government to deport immigrants or naturalized citizens engaged in subversive activities
and also to bar suspected subversives from entering the country.

Eisenhower administration

The Communist Control Act of 1954 was passed with overwhelming support in both houses of Congress after very little debate. Jointly drafted by Republican John Marshall Butler and
Democrat Hubert Humphrey, the law was an extension of the Internal Security Act of 1950, and sought to outlaw the Communist Party by declaring that the party, as well as "Communist-Infiltrated Organizations" were "not entitled to any of the rights, privileges, and immunities
attendant upon legal bodies."

John W. Powell, a journalist who reported the allegations that US was carrying out germ warfare in the Korean War in an English language journal in Shanghai, the "China Monthly Review", was indicted with 13 counts of sedition, along with his 2
editors. All defendants were acquitted of all charges over the next six years, but Powell was blackballed from the journalism industry for the rest of his life.

The book-burning of Wilhelm Reich's work took place in 1956, which has been cited as the worst example of censorship
in the United States. With that argument, censorship was corrected in 1960.

Nixon administration

In later conflicts, the degree to which war reporting was subject to censorship varied, and in some cases, it has been alleged that the censorship was as much political as military
in purpose. This was particularly true during the Vietnam War. The executive branch of the federal government attempted to prevent The New York Times from publishing the top-secret Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War, warning that doing so would be considered an act of treason
under the Espionage Act of 1917. The newspaper prevailed in the famous New York Times Co. v. United States case.

Reagan administration

American journalists were not allowed onto the island during the initial United States invasion of Grenada in 1983, leading media organizations
to accuse the Pentagon of censorship. The restriction was lifted after three days.

George H. W. Bush administration

In 1991, during the Gulf War under the presidency of George H. W. Bush, The Pentagon placed restrictions on media coverage of the ground war to protect
confidential military information.

Clinton administration

The Child Online Protection Act, passed in 1998 and signed by Bill Clinton, was criticized and legally challenged by civil liberties groups, claiming that it "reduces the Internet to what is fit for a six-year-old".
Through legal actions and permanent injunction, the act never took effect.


George W. Bush administration

Press Freedom Ranking of the United States.
Press censorship issues arose again during the administration of President George W. Bush during the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, when many embedded reporters accompanied soldiers as they made their way into the country. These reports were subject to censorship in that they were not
allowed to reveal a unit's exact location.

President Bush's administration also attempted to censor results of climate studies, "nearly half of 1,600 government scientists at seven agencies ranging from NASA to the EPA had been warned against using terms like 'global warming' in
reports or speeches, throughout Bush’s eight-year presidency".

Obama administration

In July 2014, the Society of Professional Journalists published an open letter to Barack Obama, criticizing efforts to "stifle or block" coverage, despite his 2008 campaign promises to provide
transparency. 38 journalist organizations signed the letter, which bulleted several examples of the administration's obstruction, including blocking reporters from specific staff people. The letter also states that reporters were blackballed by Federal agencies who were written
about critically. Obama used the Espionage Act to put a record number of reporters' sources in jail.

Trump administration

Following the election of Donald Trump, his administration pursued means of preventing federal staff from speaking publicly, with the American Association
for the Advancement of Science, "the largest scientific society in the world", warning of possible "censorship and intimidation" of the American scientific community. The Trump administration "issued de facto gag orders to government science agencies like the EPA and USDA,
ordered that the EPA take down its climate webpage, and have mandated that any studies or data from EPA scientists must undergo review by political appointees before they can be released to the public". The White House had also denied access to a select group of media outlets
including The New York Times, CNN, BBC and The Guardian during a press "gaggle" while allowing right-wing outlets and blogs to participate, with the National Press Club describing the move as "unconstitutional censorship".

In 2017, Trump threatened to revoke network licenses of
NBC and other TV news networks that demean him. On October 11, 2017, Donald Trump posted a tweet saying, "With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License? Bad for country!"

In December 2017, the Washington
Post said that the Trump administration had potentially banned the use of certain words by the Centers for Disease Control in its written budget proposal for FY2018. The Director of the CDC, Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, refuted this in a statement saying, "I want to assure you there
are no banned words at CDC. We will continue to talk about all our important public health programs."

In May 2020 during the George Floyd protests, CNN reporter Omar Jimenez and camera crew were arrested by Minnesota State Patrol officers as Jimenez reported live on television.
Jimenez identified himself and the crew as journalists. The police officers stated that the news crew did not follow orders and detained them. CNN released a statement saying that the arrest violated the First Amendment rights of the reporters, and calling for their immediate
release. The crew were released later that day, after an intervention from the Governor of Minnesota, Tim Walz.



A widely publicized case of prosecuting alleged obscenity occurred in 1990 when the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati agreed to hold an art
exhibition featuring the work of photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. His work included several artistic nude photographs of males and was deemed offensive by some for this reason. This resulted in the prosecution of the CAC director, Dennis Barrie who was later acquitted.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulates "indecent" free-to-air broadcasting (both television and radio). Satellite, cable television, and Internet outlets are not subject to content-based FCC regulation. It can issue fines if, for example, the
broadcaster employs certain profane words. The Supreme Court in 1978 in FCC v. Pacifica Foundation upheld the commission's determination that George Carlin's classic "seven dirty words" monologue, with its deliberate, repetitive and creative use of vulgarities, was indecent.
But the court at that time left open the question of whether the use of "an occasional expletive" could be punished. Radio personality Howard Stern has been a frequent target of fines. This led to his leaving broadcast radio and signing on with Sirius Satellite Radio in 2006.
The Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show controversy increased the political pressure on the FCC to vigorously police the airwaves. In addition, Congress increased the maximum fine the FCC may levy from US$268,500 to US$375,000 per incident.
The Supreme Court, in its 5-4 decision in FCC v. Fox Television Stations, Inc. (2009), said it did not find the FCC's policy on so-called fleeting expletives either "arbitrary or capricious", thus dealing a blow to the networks in their efforts to scuttle the policy.
But the case brought by Fox to the high court was a narrow challenge on procedural grounds to the manner in which the FCC handled its decision to toughen up its policy on fleeting expletives. Fox, with the support of ABC, CBS, and NBC, argued that the commission did not give
enough notice of nor properly explain the reasons for clamping down on fleeting expletives after declining to issue penalties for them in decades past. The issue first arose in 2004, when the FCC sanctioned but did not fine, NBC for Bono's use of the phrase "f*cking brilliant"
during the Golden Globes telecast. The present case arose from two appearances by celebrities on the Billboard Music Awards. The first involved Cher, who reflected on her career in accepting an award in 2002: "I've also had critics for the last forty years saying I was on my way
out every year. Right. So f*ck 'em." The second passage came in an exchange between Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie in 2003 in which Richie asked, "Have you ever tried cleaning cow sh*t off a Prada purse? It's not so f*cking simple."
The majority decision, written by Justice Antonin Scalia, reversed the lower appellate court's decision that the FCC's move was "arbitrary and capricious." "The commission could reasonably conclude," he wrote, "that the pervasiveness of foul language, and the coarsening of public
entertainment in other media such as cable, justify more stringent regulation of broadcast programs so as to give conscientious parents a relatively safe haven for their children." Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, dissenting, wrote that "there is no way to hide the long shadow the
First Amendment casts over what the commission has done. Today's decision does nothing to diminish that shadow." Justice John Paul Stevens, dissenting, wrote that not every use of a swear word connoted the same thing: "As any golfer who has watched his partner shank a short
approach knows," Justice Stevens wrote, "it would be absurd to accept the suggestion that the resultant four-letter word uttered on the golf course describes sex or excrement and is therefore indecent... It is ironic, to say the least, that while the FCC patrols the airwaves for
words that have a tenuous relationship with sex or excrement, commercials broadcast during prime-time hours frequently ask viewers whether they are battling erectile dysfunction or are having trouble going to the bathroom... The FCC's shifting and impermissibly vague indecency
policy only imperils these broadcasters and muddles the regulatory landscape." For 30 years, the FCC has had the power to keep "indecent" material off the airwaves from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., and those rules "have not proved unworkable" Stevens added. Justice Breyer, dissenting,
wrote that the law "grants those in charge of independent administrative agencies broad authority to determine relevant policy," he observed. "But it does not permit them to make policy choices for purely political reasons nor to rest them primarily upon unexplained policy
preferences." Scalia's majority opinion was joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts and Justices Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. and (for the most part) by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. Justices Stevens, Ginsburg, Souter, and Breyer dissented. Four justices wrote concurrences or
dissents speaking only for themselves.

But the decision was limited to a narrow procedural issue and also sent the case back to the 2nd Court of Appeals in New York to directly address the constitutionality of the FCC's policy. The 2nd Court of Appeals is already on record in
its 2007 ruling that it was "skeptical" that the policy could "pass constitutional muster." Scalia said that the looming First Amendment question "will be determined soon enough, perhaps in this very case." The decision provided hints that the court might approach the
constitutional question differently. Some dissenting justices and Justice Clarence Thomas, who was in the majority, indicated that they might be receptive to a First Amendment challenge. Thomas, in a concurrence, said he was "open to reconsideration" of the two cases that gave
television broadcasters far less First Amendment protection than books, newspapers, cable programs and Web sites have.

The FCC is also responsible for permitting transmitters, to prevent interference between stations from obscuring each other's signals. Denial of the right to
transmit could be considered censorship. Restrictions on low-power broadcasting stations have been particularly controversial, and the subject of legislation in the 1990s and 2000s (decade).

The Guardian reported U.S. censorship of U.S. media regarding a CIA employee implicated
in murder in that "A number of US media outlets learned about Davis's CIA role but have kept it under wraps at the request of the Obama administration." Colorado station KUSA censored an online report indicating Davis worked for the CIA when the station "removed the CIA reference
from its website at the request of the US government."

On July 26, 2018, two WKXW radio show hosts were fired for calling New Jersey attorney general Gurbir Grewal "turban man" on air.

Journalism in warzones

Reporters are often obliged to "embed" themselves with a squad or
unit of soldiers before being granted official access to fields of battle. Reporters are limited in what they may report by means of contracts, punishment or forced relocation, and the inherent nature of being tied to and reliant upon a military unit for protection and presence.
Wartime censorship often involves forms of mass surveillance. For international communications, like those done by Western Union and ITT, this mass surveillance continued after the wars were over. The Black Chamber  https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Chamber received the information after World
War I. After World War II NSA's Project SHAMROCK  https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_SHAMROCK performed a similar function.


The first act of movie censorship in the United States was an 1897 statute of the State of Maine that prohibited the exhibition of prizefight films. Maine enacted the
statute to prevent the exhibition of the 1897 heavyweight championship between James J. Corbett and Robert Fitzsimmons. Some other states followed Maine.

In 1915, the US Supreme Court decided the case Mutual Film Corporation v. Industrial Commission of Ohio in which the court
determined that motion pictures were purely commerce and not an art, and thus not covered by the First Amendment. This decision was not overturned until the Supreme Court case, Joseph Burstyn, Inc. v. Wilson in 1952. Popularly referred to as the "Miracle Decision", the ruling
involved the short film "The Miracle", part of Roberto Rossellini's anthology film L'Amore (1948).

Between the Mutual Film and the Joseph Burstyn decisions local, state, and city censorship boards had the power to edit or ban films. City and state censorship ordinances are
nearly as old as the movies themselves, and such ordinances banning the public exhibition of "immoral" films proliferated.

Public outcry over perceived immorality in Hollywood and the movies, as well as the growing number of city and state censorship boards, led the movie
studios to fear that federal regulations were not far off; so they created, in 1922, the Motion Pictures Producers and Distributors Association (which became the Motion Picture Association of America in 1945), an industry trade and lobby organization. The association was headed
by Will H. Hays, a well-connected Republican lawyer who had previously been United States Postmaster General; and he derailed attempts to institute federal censorship over the movies.

In 1927 Hays compiled a list of subjects, culled from his experience with the various US
censorship boards, which he felt Hollywood studios would be wise to avoid. He called this list "the formula" but it was popularly known as the "don'ts and be carefuls" list. In 1930, Hays created the Studio Relations Committee (SRC) to implement his censorship code, but the SRC
lacked any real enforcement capability.

The advent of talking pictures in 1927 led to a perceived need for further enforcement. Martin Quigley, the publisher of a Chicago-based motion picture trade newspaper, began lobbying for a more extensive code that not only listed material
that was inappropriate for the movies, but also contained a moral system that the movies could help to promote—specifically, a system based on Catholic theology. He recruited Father Daniel Lord, a Jesuit priest and instructor at the Catholic St. Louis University, to write such a
code and on March 31, 1930 the board of directors of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors Association adopted it formally. This original version especially was once popularly known as the Hays Code, but it and its later revisions are now commonly called the
Production Code.

However, Depression economics and changing social mores resulted in the studios producing racier fare that the Code, lacking an aggressive enforcement body, was unable to redress.
This era is known as Pre-Code Hollywood.

An amendment to the Code, adopted on June 13, 1934, established the Production Code Administration (PCA), and required all films released on or after July 1, 1934 to obtain a certificate of approval before being
released. For more than thirty years following, virtually all motion pictures produced in the United States and released by major studios adhered to the code. The Production Code was not created or enforced by federal, state, or city government. In fact, the Hollywood studios
adopted the code in large part in the hopes of avoiding government censorship, preferring self-regulation to government regulation.

The enforcement of the Production Code led to the dissolution of many local censorship boards. Meanwhile, the US Customs Department prohibited the
importation of the Czech film Ecstasy (1933), starring an actress soon to be known as Hedy Lamarr, an action which was upheld on appeal.

In 1934, Joseph I. Breen (1888–1965) was appointed head of the new Production Code Administration (PCA). Under Breen's leadership of the PCA,
which lasted until his retirement in 1954, enforcement of the Production Code became rigid and notorious. Breen's power to change scripts and scenes angered many writers, directors, and Hollywood moguls. The PCA had two offices, one in Hollywood, and the other in New York City.
Films approved by the New York PCA office were issued certificate numbers that began with a zero.

The first major instance of censorship under the Production Code involved the 1934 film Tarzan and His Mate, in which brief nude scenes involving a body double for actress
Maureen O'Sullivan were edited out of the master negative of the film. Another famous case of enforcement involved the 1943 western The Outlaw, produced by Howard Hughes. The Outlaw was denied a certificate of approval and kept out of theaters for years because the film's
advertising focused particular attention on Jane Russell's breasts. Hughes eventually persuaded Breen that the breasts did not violate the code and the film could be shown.

Some films produced outside the mainstream studio system during this time did flout the conventions of
the code, such as Child Bride (1938), which featured a nude scene involving 12-year-old actress Shirley Mills. Even cartoon sex symbol Betty Boop had to change from being a flapper, and began to wear an old-fashioned housewife skirt.
In 1952, in the case of Joseph Burstyn, Inc. v. Wilson, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously overruled its 1915 decision and held that motion pictures were entitled to First Amendment protection, so that the New York State Board of Regents could not ban "The Miracle", a short film
that was one half of L'Amore (1948), an anthology film directed by Roberto Rossellini. Film distributor Joseph Burstyn released the film in the U.S. in 1950, and the case became known as the "Miracle Decision" due to its connection to Rossellini's film. That in turn reduced the
threat of government regulation that justified the Production Code, and the PCA's powers over the Hollywood industry were greatly reduced.

At the forefront of challenges to the code was director Otto Preminger, whose films violated the code repeatedly in the 1950s. His 1953 film
The Moon is Blue, about a young woman who tries to play two suitors off against each other by claiming that she plans to keep her virginity until marriage, was the first film to use the words "virgin", "seduce", and "mistress", and it was released without a certificate of
approval. He later made The Man with the Golden Arm (1955), which portrayed the prohibited subject of drug abuse, and Anatomy of a Murder (1959) which dealt with rape. Preminger's films were direct assaults on the authority of the Production Code and, since they were successful,
hastened its abandonment.

In 1954, Joseph Breen retired and Geoffrey Shurlock was appointed as his successor. Variety noted "a decided tendency towards a broader, more casual approach" in the enforcement of the code

Billy Wilder's Some Like It Hot (1959) and Alfred Hitchcock's
Psycho (1960) were also released without a certificate of approval due to their themes and became box office hits, and as a result further weakened the authority of the code.

President Barack Obama said on December 19, 2014 that Sony "made a mistake" in pulling its film
The Interview from distribution following a cyber-attack that American officials may have linked to North Korea. "We cannot have a society where some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States," Obama said. The film has since been released in
limited distribution at select theaters.

The Pawnbroker and the end of the CodeEdit

In the early 1960s, British films such as Victim (1961), A Taste of Honey (1961), and The Leather Boys (1963) offered a daring social commentary about gender roles and homophobia that violated
the Hollywood Production Code, yet the films were still released in America. The American gay rights, civil rights, and youth movements prompted a reevaluation of the depiction of themes of race, class, gender, and sexuality that had been restricted by the Code.
In 1964 The Pawnbroker, directed by Sidney Lumet and starring Rod Steiger, was initially rejected because of two scenes in which the actresses Linda Geiser and Thelma Oliver fully expose their breasts; and a sex scene between Oliver and Jaime Sánchez, which it described as
"unacceptably sex suggestive and lustful". Despite the rejection, the film's producers arranged for Allied Artists to release the film without the Production Code seal and the New York censors licensed The Pawnbroker without the cuts demanded by Code administrators.
The producers also appealed the rejection to the Motion Picture Association of America.

On a 6–3 vote, the MPAA granted the film an "exception" conditional on "reduction in the length of the scenes which the Production Code Administration found unapprovable". The exception to
the code was granted as a "special and unique case", and was described by The New York Times at the time as "an unprecedented move that will not, however, set a precedent." The requested reductions of nudity were minimal, and the outcome was viewed in the media as a victory for
the film's producers. The Pawnbroker was the first film featuring bare breasts to receive Production Code approval. In his 2008 study of films during that era, Pictures at a Revolution, author Mark Harris wrote that the MPAA's action was "the first of a series of injuries to the
Production Code that would prove fatal within three years".

When Jack Valenti became President of the MPAA in 1966, he was immediately faced with a problem regarding language in the film version of Edward Albee's play Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966). Valenti negotiated a
compromise: The word "screw" was removed, but other language, including the phrase "hump the hostess", remained. The film received Production Code approval despite having language that was clearly prohibited. The British-produced, but American-financed film Blowup (1966)
presented a different problem. After the film was denied Production Code approval, MGM released it anyway, the first instance of an MPAA member company distributing a film that didn't have an approval certificate. There was little the MPAA could do about it.
Enforcement had become impossible, and the Production Code was abandoned entirely.


Private Internet connections in the United States are not overtly subject to censorship imposed by the government, but there is evidence of search related restrictions being imposed
through certain predominant search engines, along other intentionally narrowed parameters related to censorship as "blocked access" that seems to indicate intentional governmental restrictions where search providers seem complicit with "open internet searches."
However, private businesses, schools, libraries, and government offices may use filtering software at their discretion, and in such cases courts have ruled the use of such software does not violate the First Amendment.

US v. ALA (2003) 539 U.S. 194 is limited to its facts.
It only holds that libraries may filter internet content. That does not include private businesses, such as internet platforms Facebook, Google, YouTube, Wikipedia, etc. Indeed, the law is to the contrary; such private businesses may not lawfully censor, filter, "throttle" or
block content, merely because it does not meet a private business's arbitrary "community standards". Doing so violates the First Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment, and such conduct is unlawful. See: Marsh v. Alabama (1946) 326 U.S. 501

Banning books is a part of American history. The first book censorship took place in the 1620s.


U.S. courts have ruled that the First Amendment protects "indecent" pornography from regulation, but not "obscene" pornography. People convicted of
distributing obscene pornography face long prison terms and asset forfeiture. However, in State v. Henry (1987), the Oregon Supreme Court ruled that obscenity was an unconstitutional restriction of free speech under the free speech provision of the Oregon Constitution and
abolished the offense of obscenity in that state, although it remains an offense on the federal level.

In 1996, the Congress passed the Communications Decency Act, with the aim of restricting Internet pornography. However, court rulings later struck down many provisions of
the law.

In 1994 Mike Diana became the first American artist to receive a conviction for obscenity for drawing cartoons that were judged legally obscene.

Child pornography is illegal in the United States. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that it is not protected by the
First Amendment, and even if not obscene, it is not considered protected speech, according to New York v. Ferber. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_York_v._Ferber


National Security

Information leaks

Since Wikileaks' inception, the topic of censorship has been widely discussed.
Being a "non-profit media organization" that strives to create more transparency in the government, WikiLeaks releases sensitive files and information to the public.  http://Amazon.com  removed WikiLeaks from its servers on 1 December 2010 at 19:30 GMT. U.S. Senator Joe
Lieberman, among the members of the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee who had questioned Amazon in private communication on the company's hosting of WikiLeaks and the illegally obtained documents, commended Amazon for the action; WikiLeaks, however,
responded by stating on its official Twitter page that "WikiLeaks servers at Amazon ousted. Free speech the land of the free—fine our $ are now spent to employ people in Europe", and later that "If Amazon is so uncomfortable with the first amendment, they should get out of the
business of selling books".

Official efforts by the U.S. government to limit access to, a conversation about, and the general spread of the cables leaked by WikiLeaks were revealed by leading media organizations. A 4 December 2010 article by MSNBC, reported that the Obama
administration has warned federal government employees and students in educational institutions studying towards careers in public service that they must refrain from downloading or linking to any WikiLeaks documents. However, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley denied
ordering students, stating, "We do not control private networks. We have issued no authoritative instructions to people who are not employees of the Department of State." He said the warning was from an "overzealous employee." According to a 3 December 2010 article in The
Guardian, access to WikiLeaks has been blocked for federal workers. The U.S. Library of Congress, the U.S. Commerce Department and other government agencies have confirmed that the ban is already in place. Some Department of Homeland Security staff say the ban is hampering their
work: "More damage will be done by keeping the federal workforce largely in the dark about what other interested parties worldwide are going to be reading and analyzing." One official says that the ban apparently covers personal computers as well.

A spokesman for Columbia
University confirmed on 4 December that its Office of Career Services sent an e-mail warning students at Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs to refrain from accessing WikiLeaks cables and discussing this subject on the grounds that "discourse about the documents
would call into question your ability to deal with confidential information". However, this was quickly retracted on the following day. SIPA Dean John Henry Coatsworth wrote that "Freedom of information and expression is a core value of our institution, ... thus, SIPA's position
is that students have a right to discuss and debate any information in the public arena that they deem relevant to their studies or to their roles as global citizens, and to do so without fear of adverse consequences."

The New York Times reported on 14 December 2010 that the
U.S. Air Force bars its personnel from access to news sites (such as those of The New York Times and The Guardian, Le Monde, El País, and Der Spiegel) that publish leaked cables.

On 18 December, the Bank of America stopped handling payments for WikiLeaks. Bank of America is also
blocking access to WikiLeaks from its internal network preventing employees from accessing WikiLeaks.

The Monterey Herald reported on June 27, 2013, that the United States Army bars its personnel from access to parts of the website of The Guardian after their revelations of
whistleblower Edward Snowden's information about global surveillance. The entire Guardian website is blocked for personnel stationed throughout Afghanistan, the Middle East, and South Asia.


The export of cryptography software is regulated as a munition under the
International Traffic in Arms Regulations, although in recent years the regulations have relaxed, due in part to industry lobbying.

In 1995, Daniel J. Bernstein challenged the regulations (see Bernstein v. United States) on First Amendment grounds. The Ninth Circuit Court of
Appeals ruled that software source code was speech protected by the First Amendment and that the government's regulations preventing its publication were unconstitutional. However, some regulations remain.

War on Terrorism

The NSA electronic surveillance program and DARPA's
Total Information Awareness were two examples of post–September 11 government monitoring programs. Though intended to target terrorist behavior, critics worried fears about government monitoring might lead people to self-censorship.

A controversy also erupted concerning National
Security Letters, issued by the federal government and not subject to prior judicial review. These letters demanded information the government asserted was relevant to a terrorism investigation, but also contained a gag order preventing recipients from revealing the existence of
the letter. Critics contend this prevents public oversight of government investigations, and allows unreasonable search and seizure to go unchecked. The American Civil Liberties Union complained that Section 505 of the USA PATRIOT Act  https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/USA_PATRIOT_Act removed the need for
the government to connect recipients to a terrorism investigation, widening the possibility for abuse. On November 7, 2005 the American Civil Liberty Union reported:

... According to the Washington Post, universities and casinos have received these letters and been forced to
comply with the demands to turn over private student and customer information. Anyone who receives an NSL is gagged - forever - from telling anyone that the FBI demanded records, even if their identity has already been made public. In New York and Connecticut, the ACLU has
challenged the NSL provision that was dramatically expanded by Section 505 of the Patriot Act. The legislation amended the existing NSL power by permitting the FBI to demand records of people who are not connected to terrorism and who are not suspected of any wrongdoing. ...
On February 17, 2006 former U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld stated, that:

in this war, some of the most critical battles may not be fought in the mountains of Afghanistan or the streets of Iraq, but in the newsrooms in places like New York and London and Cairo and
elsewhere. ... While the enemy is increasingly skillful at manipulating the media and using the tools of communications to their advantage, it should be noted that we have an advantage as well, and that is, quite simply, that the truth is on our side, and ultimately, in my view,
truth wins out. I believe with every bone in my body that free people, exposed to sufficient information, will, over time, find their way to right decisions.

The Protect America Act of 2007 was also controversial for its lack of judicial review.
The war on terrorism also affects
US policy towards journalists in other states. In 2011, US president Barack Obama asked Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh to stop the release of journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye, who reported US involvement in the bombings.


On March 15, 1950, Scientific American
published an article by Hans Bethe about thermonuclear fusion, but the United States Atomic Energy Commission successfully ordered printed copies of the magazine destroyed, and a redacted version was published. The censorship was not disputed by Bethe.
Under the Invention Secrecy Act of 1951 https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invention_Secrecy_Act and the Atomic Energy Act of 1954,
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atomic_Energy_Act_of_1954 patents may be withheld and kept secret on grounds of national security.

In 1979, the magazine The Progressive was sued by the U.S. government
(United States v. The Progressive https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_v._The_Progressive) and temporarily blocked from publishing an article that purported to reveal the "secret" of the hydrogen bomb. The article was eventually published after Fusion magazine, published by the Fusion Energy Foundation,
published similar information and the government dropped the charges.

In 1997, Congress voted unanimously to add an amendment to a Department of Defense spending bill (known as the Feinstien amendment) forbidding the distribution of instructions that teach "the making or use of
an explosive, a destructive device, or a weapon of mass destruction" if those instructions are intended to assist in the actual building and use of such a device.


In 1987, an article appeared in The Scientist which alleged that the U.S. government improperly
suppressed two science magazines put out by the Fusion Energy Foundation. The article quotes scientists Winston Bostick, who said that "the Department of Justice wants to crush the magazines before they publish information which could send quite a few officials of the department
to jail," and former Department of Energy official Stephen Dean, who said that the government's actions were "a gross abuse of the legal system—a violation of due process."

Under Florida Governor Rick Scott, the usage of the term 'climate change' was limited.
Ban on material support for foreign boycotts

A law passed by the U.S. Congress in 1977 penalizes all U.S. persons, defined to include individuals and companies located in the United States and their foreign affiliates, from supporting the boycott of Israel and provides penalties
for those who willingly comply with the boycott. The B.I.S. website states:

Conduct that may be penalized under the TRA and/or prohibited under the EAR includes:

•Agreements to refuse or actual refusal to do business with or in Israel or with blacklisted companies.
•Agreements to discriminate or actual discrimination against other persons based on race, religion, sex, national origin or nationality.

•Agreements to furnish or actual furnishing of information about business relationships with or in Israel or with blacklisted companies.
•Agreements to furnish or actual furnishing of information about the race, religion, sex, or national origin of another person.

Implementing letters of credit containing prohibited boycott terms or conditions.
The TRA does not "prohibit" conduct, but denies tax benefits
("penalizes") for certain types of boycott-related agreements.

On this basis, some American businesses have been punished for answering their customers' question about origin of their products.
Some pro-Israeli activists have construed the law as forbidding speech and expression
that supports any boycott of Israel (as opposed to actions taken to comply with the requests of foreign entities to boycott Israel) whether foreign in origin or domestic, and asked the US Anti-Boycott Office to prosecute divestment campaigners against Israel.
However, the law only forbids material participation in or material support of a boycott originated by a foreign nation or organization, not with a domestic boycott campaign, nor can the law be construed as forbidding speech that politically or morally (as opposed to materially)
supports any boycott, whether foreign, or domestic. The law only prevents US organizations from being used by alien entities as agents of their foreign policy, when that foreign policy includes the pursuit of boycotting arrangements; it does not prevent US organizations or
individuals from choosing how to spend or invest their money based on business or ethical considerations; it only forbids doing so as the result of a foreign entity's request. Material attempts to suppress speech through induction of state action under false pretenses, such as by
claiming a domestic boycott campaign is foreign in origin may be unlawful, and may constitute conspiracy against civil rights, a federal crime, punishable by fine and imprisonment. (Such speech is considered to be core political speech under the US Constitution, and any state
actions interfering with core political speech are subject to the strictest Constitutional scrutiny.)


In 1969 Nicholas Johnson, United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) commissioner, put forward in an article in TV Guide entitled The Silent Screen that
"Censorship is a serious problem" in the United States, and that he agreed with the statements by various network officials that television was subject to it, but disputed "just who is doing most of the censoring". He stated that most television censorship is corporate
censorship, not government censorship.

Croteau and Hoynes discuss corporate censorship in the news publishing business, observing that it can occur as self-censorship. They note that it is "virtually impossible to document", because it is covert. Jonathan Alter states that
"In a tight job market, the tendency is to avoid getting yourself or your boss in trouble. So an adjective gets dropped, a story skipped, a punch pulled ... It's like that Sherlock Holmes story—the dog that didn't bark. Those clues are hard to find." The head of the Media Access
Project notes that such self-censorship is not misreporting or false reporting, but simply not reporting at all. The self-censorship is not the product of "dramatic conspiracies", according to Croteau and Hoynes, but simply the interaction of many small daily decisions.
Journalists want to keep their jobs. Editors support the interests of the company. These many small actions and inactions accumulate to produce (in their words) "homogenized, corporate-friendly media". Croteau and Hoynes report that such corporate censorship in journalism is
commonplace, reporting the results of studies revealing that more than 40% of journalists and news executives stating that they had deliberately engaged in such censorship by avoiding newsworthy stories or softening the tones of stories.
Nichols and McChesney opine that "the maniacal media baron as portrayed in James Bond films or profiles of Rupert Murdoch is far less a danger than the cautious and compromised editor who seeks to 'balance' a responsibility to readers or viewers with a duty to serve his boss and
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