ACLU Cyber-Liberties Update 10/25 [cr-95/10/27]


Sender: Ann Beeson <•••@••.•••>

October 25, 1995
A bi-weekly e-zine on cyber-liberties cases and controversies
at the state and federal level.

*  Universities Censor Student Internet Use

*  Conferees Named for Federal Online Indecency Legislation

*  Search for Plaintiffs Continues in Suit to Challenge Online
Indecency Legislation

*  Effect of Telco Bill on Universal Access

*  Conferences
STATE PAGE (Legislation/Agency/Court Cases/Issues)
*    Universities Censor Student Internet Use

In a knee-jerk reaction to the cyber-porn scare, many
universities around the country have begun to enact policies to
regulate student Internet use.  The ACLU believes that university
censorship of student Internet usage is inconsistent with the
principles of academic freedom.  In addition, state universities
are required as state institutions to uphold the free speech
guarantees of the First Amendment.  The Internet flourished for
years as primarily an academic -- and uncensored -- domain.
Colleges should not now cave in to the Luddites by enacting
restrictive computer usage policies.

Here are a few examples of university computer usage policies
that tread on cyber-liberties:

*  After a year-long battle that made national news, Carnegie
Mellon University is expected this November to approve a policy
to censor certain Usenet newsgroups on Andrew, their flagship
computing system.  Their decision to censor is based on fear that
the university could be held criminally liable under state
obscenity and harmful to minors laws for providing access to
newsgroups that "might be" obscene.  The administration refused
to accept the suggestion of both the CMU Faculty Senate and the
ACLU that the computer network be categorized as a library, which
would entitle the network to an exemption from the Pennsylvania
obscenity statute.

*  The University of Minnesota will not allow students to have
"offensive" content on their web sites, or even to create links
to "offensive" content elsewhere on the Internet.  They have also
adopted the double standard of commercial services like America
Online and Prodigy -- despite U of Minn's explicit content
control, student web pages must include a disclaimer that the
university takes "no responsibility" for anything on the pages.

*  At George Mason University, the "Responsible Use of Computing"
policy begins with the following statement:  "The following rules
are not complete; just because an action is not explicitly
proscribed does not necessarily mean that it is acceptable."
(One could hardly imagine a better example of ambiguity with the
potential to chill protected speech.)  The policy creates a
Security Review Panel that investigates reports of "offensive"
computer behavior.  As could be predicted, the backlog of cases
before this panel is already quite long.  (The head of the
Security Review Panel is none other than Dr. Peter Denning,
husband of Dr. Dorothy Denning, infamous proponent of the Clipper

On the bright side, students and faculty groups continue to hotly
oppose these policies when they arise, and have been instrumental
in shaping Internet usage policies to be less inhibitive of free
speech and privacy rights.  The following online resources will
be useful to students and faculty faced with a draconian Internet
usage policy:

*  Report on Computers at Harvard, by the Civil Liberties Union
of Harvard: _Very_ comprehensive and useful report on students'
computer usage rights on Harvard's network.  Included are five
general principles for computer use, an application of the
general principles to specific aspects of computer use, and a
discussion of areas where Harvard should take immediate action to
secure students' rights on the network.  Available at

*  Web Site on CMU Censorship Proposal:  Thorough history and
database of documents on Carnegie Mellon University's battle over
online censorship. Also includes information on CMU's Coalition
for Academic Freedom of Expression (CAFE).  See

*  ACLU letter and legal analysis to CMU:  send a message to
•••@••.••• with "Letter to CMU" in the subject line.

The ACLU will continue to monitor university polices that
restrict online free speech and privacy rights.  The ACLU urges
all students and faculty to actively work for university computer
usage policies that protect their rights.  To inform the ACLU of
a computer usage policy at your school that may violate
cyber-liberties, contact Ann Beeson, ACLU, •••@••.•••.
FEDERAL PAGE (Congress/Agency/Court Cases)
*    Conferees Named for Federal Online Indecency Legislation

Congress recently named the official conferees to the
telecommunications bill.  The Senate version of the telco bill (S
652) contains the Exon Amendment, approved 84-16 by the Senate on
6/14/95.  The House version of the telco bill (HR 1555) contains
the Cox/Wyden Amendment (the Internet Freedom and Family
Empowerment Act), approved 421-4 on 8/4/95.  The House version
also contains Exon-like amendments to the existing federal
obscenity statute, which came out of the House Judiciary
Committee and were adopted as last-minute additions through a
larger Manager's Amendment on 8/4/95.  The conference committee
is in charge of reconciling the differences between the House and
Senate versions of the telco bill, including the obviously
incompatible provisions regarding online content.

While more details are offered in the list below, the following
facts should be highlighted:

_Notable Conferees_
-Senator Exon:  sponsored the Exon Amendment and launched the
cyber-porn scare.
-Senator Gorton: original co-sponsor of the CDA.
-Representative Hyde: sponsored the inclusion of indecency
amendments to the federal obscenity laws in the House telco bill.
-Representatives White, Markey, Goodlatte, Fields, and Barr:
spoke in favor of Cox/Wyden amendment on the House floor during
the telco debate.

_Some Absent Conferees_
-Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
-Senator Leahy: sponsored the study alternative to the CDA in the
Senate (Senator Leahy is a member of the Senate Judiciary
-Representatives Cox & Wyden: sponsored the Cox/Wyden "Internet
Freedom and Family Empowerment Act."
-Senators who voted against the CDA.

_Other Notable Facts_
-All the Senate conferees voted for the CDA.
-All the House conferees voted for the Cox/Wyden amendment.
-All the House conferees also voted for the Exon-like indecency
amendments to federal obscenity laws.  However, they may not have
been aware of this vote because it was not a separate vote but
rather a vote to approve the Manager's amendment, which contained
many provisions unrelated to the censorship legislation.
-Given the conferees named, it is highly likely that the House
leadership, including House Speaker Newt Gingrich, will play a
substantial role in the conference process.


Conferees from the House were assigned to particular titles of
the telco bill; Senate conferees have jurisdiction over all
titles.  The list that follows indicates the titles over which
each conferee has jurisdiction, and the conferee's relevant
committee status, party, and area of constituency.

*Title I: Development of Competitive Telecommunications Markets
(contains the Cox/Wyden amendment)
Title II: Cable Communications Competitiveness
Title III: Broadcast Communications Competitiveness
*Title IV: Effect on Other Laws
(contains the Exon Amendment and the Exon-like indecency
amendments to the federal obscenity statute)
Title V: Definitions
Title VI: Small Business Complaint Procedure

Representatives from the House:

Jurisdiction over Titles I and IV (these conferees may
participate in discussions to reconcile the conflicting online
content provisions in the Cox/Wyden Amendment, the Exon
Amendment, and the Exon-like indecency amendments to the federal
obscenity statute):

Representatives from the House Commerce Committee, in order of


Bliley, Thomas J. (Richmond, Virginia) all titles
Fields, Jack (Houston, Texas) all titles
Oxley, Michael G. (northwest Ohio) all titles
White, Rick (northwest Washington) all titles
Barton, Joseph (Fort Worth, Texas) I, II, IV, V
Hastert, J. Dennis (northeast Illinois) I, II, IV, V
Klug, Scott (Madison, Wisconsin) I, III, IV, V, VI


Dingell, John D. (southeast Michigan) all titles
Markey, Edward J. (northeast Massachusetts) all titles
Boucher, Rick (southwest Virginia) all titles
Eshoo, Anna G. (San Francisco Bay Area, California) all titles
Rush, Bobby L. (Chicago, Illinois) all titles

Representatives from the House Judiciary Committee, in order of


Hyde, Henry J. (Chicago, Illinois) all titles
Moorhead, Carlos J. (Los Angeles area, California) all titles
Goodlatte, Robert W. (Western Virginia) all titles
Buyer, Steve (northwest Indiana) all titles
Flanagan, Michael P. (Chicago, Illinois) all titles


Conyers, John (Detroit, Michigan) all titles
Schroeder, Patricia (Denver, Colorado) all titles
Bryant, John (Dallas, Texas) all titles

Title I only (these conferees may participate in discussions to
revise the Cox/Wyden Amendment, but may not participate in
discussions to reconcile the conflicting online content
provisions in the Cox/Wyden Amendment, the Exon Amendment, and
the Exon-like indecency amendments to the federal obscenity

Representatives from the House Commerce Committee, in order of


Paxon, Bill (western New York) I, III
Frisa, Dan (New York, New York) I, II
Stearns, Cliff (northeast Florida) I, III


Brown, Sherrod (northeast Ohio) I
Gordon, Bart (central Tennessee) I
Lincoln, Blanche Lambert (northeast Arkansas) I

Representatives from the House Judiciary Committee, in order of


Gallegly, Elton (southern California) I
Barr, Bob (western Georgia) I
Hoke, Martin R. (northeast Ohio) I


Berman, Howard L. (Los Angeles area, California) I
Scott, Robert C. (Richmond, Virginia) I
Lee, Sheila Jackson (Houston, Texas) I

Conferees from the Senate Commerce Committee, in order of rank
(the Senate conferees have jurisdiction over all titles):


Pressler, Larry (South Dakota)
Stevens, Ted (Alaska)
McCain, John (Arizona)
Burns, Conrad (Montana)
Gorton, Slade (Washington)
Lott, Trent (Mississippi)


Hollings, Ernest F. (South Carolina)
Inouye, Daniel K. (Hawaii)
Ford, Wendell H. (Kentucky)
Exon, James J. (Nebraska)
Rockefeller, John D. (West Virginia)

For a copy of the online indecency amendments, send a message to
•••@••.••• with "Online Indecency Amendments" in the
subject line of the message.

For more information on the legislation and what you can do to
fight it, see:
*  Search for Plaintiffs Continues in Suit to Challenge Online
Indecency Legislation

As noted above, the online community should continue to urge the
conference committee to remove the censorship provisions from the
telco bill.  At the same time, a coalition has formed to organize
litigation to challenge these provisions if they are signed into

The first step is the selection of plaintiffs.  We need
plaintiffs who use online networks to discuss or distribute works
or art, literary classics, sex education, gay and lesbian
literature, human rights  reporting, abortion information, rape
counseling, controversial political speech, or any other material
that could be deemed "indecent" and therefore illegal under the
proposed law.

We received a tremendous response to our first call for
plaintiffs, in the last issue of the ACLU Cyber-Liberties Update.
Thanks to all the organizations who contacted us.  We urge other
groups to join the battle to save free speech in cyberspace.

Please contact Ann Beeson at the ACLU if your organization is
interested in being a plaintiff in this ground-breaking
litigation that will define First Amendment rights in cyberspace.
212-944-9800 x788, •••@••.•••.
*  Effect of Telco Bill on Universal Access

In addition to the online censorship provisions in the telco bill, the
ACLU is seriously concerned about the effect of other provisions in
the bill on universal access.

For more information about the effect of the telco bill on universal
access and other public interest matters, see the Ad Hoc Site Against
the Telecommunications Bill, co-sponsored by Center for Media
Education, Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility, Consumer
Federation of America, Electronic Privacy Information Center, Media
Access Project, People for the American Way, and Taxpayer Assets
Project, at
Oct 26, 5 pm: "Law in Cyberspace: Free Expression and
Intellectual Property on the Internet," Georgetown University Law
Center, 600 New Jersey NW, Gewirz Conference Room, Gewirz Hall.
Co-sponsored by ACLU-GULC and Student Intellectual Property Law
Association.  Panelists include David Post (GULC Law professor
and author of column on cyberspace law in American Lawyer); John
Podesta (GULC professor and former senior policy advisor to
President Clinton on govt information policy); and David Johnson
(co-founder of the Cyberspace Law Institute, President of Lexis
Counsel Connect).

Nov 3, 8 pm:  John Perry Barlow on "Creating Cyberculture," Kane
Hall - University of Washington, $12 ($10 students).  The lecture
is part of a series, co-sponsored by the ACLU of Washington, that
explores the impact and implications of the technology revolution
on art and culture.  Other cosponsors include 911 Media Arts
Center, the University of Washington's New Media Lab, and the
University of Washington Technical Communications Department.

Nov 16, 5 pm: Nadine Strossen (National President, ACLU) speaks
on "Defending Pornography: A Feminist Perspective on New
Technologies and Old-Fashioned Sex," GULC, 600 New Jersey NW,
12th Floor Ballroom, Gewirz Hall.  Co-sponsored by ACLU-GULC and
the Student Bar Association Speakers Fund.
Stay tuned for news on the ACLU's world wide web site, under
construction at  In the meantime, you can
retrieve ACLU documents via gopher at gopher://
(forgive the less-than-updated state of our gopher -- we've
devoted all our resources to WWW construction!).  If you're on
America Online, check out the live chats, auditorium events,
*very* active message boards, and complete news on civil
liberties, at keyword ACLU.
ACLU Cyber-Liberties Update
Editor: Ann Beeson (•••@••.•••)
American Civil Liberties Union National Office
132 West 43rd Street
New York, New York 10036

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