Judiciary Committee Reviews Predatory Marketing Law Following Constitutional Challenge

Affiliate: ACLU of Maine
October 15, 2009 12:00 am

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The Maine Civil Liberties Union testified today in front of the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee regarding a new Maine law with potentially disastrous consequences for the free flow of information and the First Amendment rights of Mainers. The law, which was intended only to protect children from predatory marketing by pharmaceutical companies goes far further, implicating not only free speech, but also privacy rights and Commerce Clause restrictions on state regulations.

“This law violates the rights of Maine youth to seek and access information about a wide range of topics,” said Alysia Melnick, Public Policy Counsel for the MCLU, “as well as the rights of Universities, suicide prevention hotlines, healthcare providers, and others to reach this youth audience.”

The law has been enjoined by the Federal Court, which expressed serious doubt regarding its constitutionality. For now, this prevents Maine’s Attorney General, Janet Mills from enforcing it. However, were it to be enforced, the law could mean the end of Facebook and other social networking sites in Maine, and would severely restrict teenagers’ access to information about colleges, political campaigns, and even their own health and development.

“All Internet users, both adults and minors, have a clear First Amendment right to speak and receive information online,” said John Morris, General Counsel of the Center for Democracy & Technology. “If allowed to stand, the Maine law would violate those rights, and would ultimately be held to be unconstitutional.”

The Judiciary Committee has developed a website where they have posted the law, all public comments for today’s hearing, and the legal documents related to the federal court case. The Judiciary Committee has been asked to explore the law, and make recommendations about whether to repeal this law and go back to the drawing board, or on how to make the law comport with existing federal and state laws, and the Constitution.

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