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This chapter examines whether speech containing violent imagery that is made available to children can be subjected to government regulation that will survive constitutional scrutiny. The first section of this chapter reviews the general limits that the First Amendment places on the government’s power to regulate speech. The second section arguees that violent speech may not be regulated based on its content because “violence” is not one of the limited legal categories constituting “unprotected” speech, such as obscenity.

The third section examines the government’s burden to demonstrate that violent speech harms children before it can regulate such speech, and concludes that current social science evidence does not meet the required constitutional standard. The fourth section discusses the inherent difficulties in defining violent speech in a way that satisfies the First Amendment. Finally, in the fifth section, I argue that private efforts by parents and industry provide the best, and probably the only, constitutional response to the problem of media violence.

GW Paper Series

GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2012-114, GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 2012-114

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