The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), based in Washington, D.C., advocates for First Amendment and privacy rights, particularly in new kinds of media. In this photo, Chris Jay Hoofnagle, director of the West Coast office of EPIC, is seen at his office in San Francisco in 2005. (AP Photo/John M. Harris, used with permission from the Associated Press)
The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), based in Washington, D.C., advocates for freedom of speech and privacy rights, particularly in new kinds of media. Formed in 1994, the group’s lodestar First Amendment issues are free speech on the Internet, the protection of anonymous speech on the Internet, privacy, the chilling of speech caused by mass government surveillance, and open government.
EPIC successfully challenged congressional online speech restrictions
EPIC was one of the many civil liberties groups that challenged the constitutionality of the Internet indecency provisions of the Communications Decency Act that the Supreme Court struck down on First Amendment grounds in Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union (1997).
EPIC also successfully challenged the second major attempt made by Congress to restrict harmful speech on the Internet: the Child Online Protection Act of 1998. Additionally, EPIC joined the American Library Association in challenging the Internet filtering law — the Children’s Internet Protection Act of 2000 — which the Supreme Court ruled constitutional in United States v. American Library Association (2003).
EPIC filed briefs in First Amendment Supreme Court cases
The group also filed amicus briefs before the Supreme Court in First Amendment cases, including Watchtower Bible and Tract Society v. Village of Stratton (2002), which affirmed the rights of Jehovah’s Witnesses to make door-to-door solicitations without a permit.
EPIC continutes to be active in First Amendment litigation. The group filed amicus briefs in the copyright case Golan v. Holder (2011), the commercial speech decision Sorrell v. IMS Health (2011), the political speech case Doe v. Reed (2011), and the social media ban on sex offenders case of Packingham v. North Carolina (2017).
EPIC also continues its strong advocacy on behalf of open government. The civil liberties group seeks to uncover public documents related to mass government surveillance and other government policies or programs that impact privacy rights.
David L. Hudson, Jr. is a law professor at Belmont who publishes widely on First Amendment topics. He is the author of a 12-lecture audio course on the First Amendment entitled Freedom of Speech: Understanding the First Amendment (Now You Know Media, 2018). He also is the author of many First Amendment books, including The First Amendment: Freedom of Speech (Thomson Reuters, 2012) and Freedom of Speech: Documents Decoded (ABC-CLIO, 2017). This article was originally published in 2009.Send Feedback on this article