(ALERT) Religious Right threatens to shutdown net; call now [cr-95/11/06]


Sender: "Shabbir J. Safdar" <•••@••.•••>


        Update: -Latest News:
                 The Christian Coalition is pushing Congress to censor
                 the net more heavily than even Sen. J.J. Exon ever imagined.
                 There is the very real possibility that they may succeed.

                 You should be very worried.  We are.

                -What You Can Do Now:
                 Follow the directions below and call House Speaker
                 Gingrich and Senate Leader Dole.  Implore them not
                 to allow parents to make choices for their children,
                 instead of government censors.

                 Volunteer to join the fight by helping organize in your
                 home town.

                           Nov 2, 1995

                REDISTRIBUTE ONLY UNTIL December 1, 1995

        The Latest News
        What You Can Do Now
        The letter from Ed Meese and the Christian Right
        Chronology of the CDA
        For More Information
        List Of Participating Organizations


Since the very first day that Senator J.J. Exon (D-NE) proposed censorship
legislation for the Internet, the Christian Right has pushed for the most
restrictive regulations they could think of.

The Religious Right (which does not necessarily speak for all religious
people concerned with this issue) recently tipped their hand in a letter
to Sen. Larry Pressler (R-SD) and Rep. Thomas Bliley (R-VA) requesting
a new and more restrictive net censorship proposal.

There are essentially three new dangerous elements of their campaign
to shut down cyberspace:

The Religious Right has proposed to hold anyone who provides access to the
Internet or other interactive media, including online services providers,
ISP's, BBS's, Libraries, and Schools, criminally liable for all speech
carried on the network.

In order to avoid liability under this provision, service providers would be
forced to monitor user's electronic communications to be assured that
no "indecent" material is transmitted across their networks.

This proposal is MORE RESTRICTIVE than the Exon Communications Decency Act,
or any other net censorship legislation currently in Congress.

In their letter to Congress, the Religious Right says:

        [Providers] would simply be required to avoid KNOWING violations of
        the law. [emphasis added]

However, the "knowing" standard is vague enough that the mere knowledge
that such material exists could be sufficient to trigger criminal liability.
A single complaint or even a news report could force a service provider to
take down a web page, remove posts to chat rooms or other discussion
forums, or shut down listservs in order to avoid going to jail and facing
huge fines.

The proposals pushed by the Christian Coalition relies on the
unconstitutional "indecency standard".  Like the Exon Communications
Decency Act, the Christian Coalition seeks to regulate all indecent
speech online.

Indecency is a broad category that includes everything from George Carlin's
"seven dirty words" to such classic novels and "The Catcher in the Rye" and
"Lady Chatterly's Lover".

The Supreme Court has ruled that restrictions on indecent speech are
Constitutional only if they rely on the "least restrictive means".  Broad
indecency restrictions on interactive media do not satisfy the "least
restrictive means" test, because interactive media allows users and
parents tremendous control over the information they receive.

Any legislation which attempts to apply an indecency restriction to the
Internet is unconstitutional on its face.

The Christian Coalition's proposal that relies on an indecency
restriction contemplates dumbing down every conversation, web page,
newsgroup, and mailing list on the Internet to the level of what is
not offensive to children.

What kind of discussions between adults are possible in an arena
where everything has been reduced to the level of the Lion King?

The Christian Coalition would give the FCC broad jurisdiction over
cyberspace.  It would allow the FCC jurisdiction over your online
speech, and over the design Internet software, such as web browsers and
filtering programs that parents can use to control their children's
access to the Internet.

The Internet has developed from a government project to a market-driven
economic boom for thousands of businesses.  Giving the FCC authority over
this medium would significantly hinder the growth of this new industry.


1. The proposals from the Religious Right will literally destroy online
   speech as we know it.  The odds of stopping this are not certain.

   There is a very real chance that this legislation will pass, and
   we will experience a period of uncertainty and chilling of speech
   while an appropriate test case attempts to reach the Supreme Court
   (should it even get there!)

   The Religious Right has a strong grass-roots network.  We need to
   counter their energy and ensure cyberspace is not lost due to them.

   IMMEDIATELY CALL House Speaker Gingrich (R-GA) and Senate Leader
   Dole (R-KS) and urge them to oppose the Christian Coalition's

   Name, Address, and Party     Phone            Fax
   ========================     ==============   ==============
   R GA Gingrich, Newt          1-202-225-4501   1-202-225-4656
   R KS Dole, Robert            1-202-224-6521   1-202-224-8952

   If you're at a loss for words, try one of the following:

        Please oppose the recent proposal from the Religious Right to
        censor the Internet.  The only effective way to address children's
        access to the Internet is through parental control tools outlined
        by the Cox/White/Wyden approach.
        As a religious person and a parent, I oppose the Religious Right's
        attempts to censor the Internet.  I am the best person to monitor
        my child's access to the Internet using parental control tools
        as outlined in the Cox/White/Wyden approach.

2. Join the online fight by becoming a volunteer for your district!

   Check to see if you're legislator is in the list below.  If they are
   not, consult the free ZIPPER service that matches Zip Codes to
   Congressional districts with about 85% accuracy at:


   The conference committee legislators are:
   House: Barr (R-GA), Barton (R-TX), Berman (R-CA), Bliley (R-VA),
        Boucher (D-VA), Brown (D-OH), Bryant (D-TX), Buyer (R-IN),
        Conyers (D-MI), Dingell (D-MI), Eshoo (D-CA), Fields (R-TX),
        Flanagan (R-IL), Frisa (R-NY), Gallegly (R-CA), Goodlatte (R-VA),
        Gordon (D-TN), Hastert (R-IL), Hoke (R-OH), Hyde (R-IL),
        Jackson-Lee (D-TX), Klug (R-WI), Lincoln (D-AR), Markey (D-MA),
        Moorhead (R-CA), Oxley (R-OH), Paxon (R-NY), Rush (D-IL),
        Schaefer (R-CO), Schroeder (D-CO), Scott (D-VA), Stearns (R-FL),
        White (R-WA)
   Senate: Burns (R-MT), Exon (D-NE), Ford (D-KY), Gorton (R-WA),
        Hollings (D-SC), Inouye (D-HI), Lott (R-MS), McCain (R-AZ),
        Pressler (R-SD), Rockefeller (D-WV), Stevens (R-AK)

   If your legislator is on the conference committee, you have a chance
   to influence their vote on this issue with your power as a constituent.
   Volunteer to help educate your legislator by sending mail to
   •••@••.•••.  A coalition volunteer will be in touch with you.

   You can starting working to help spread the word in your district by
   sending this letter to five friends.  Ask them to call Dole and Gingrich
   as well.

3. The People for the American Way (PFAW) and the American Civil Liberties
   Union are organizing a letter from ORGANIZATIONS to the Conference
   Committee to oppose the censorship provisions.

   If you are a representative of an organization that would like to
   signon to this letter, you should contact •••@••.••• IMMEDIATELY.

4. We can't suggest relaxing at this point.  The stakes are too high, and
   the risk is too great.  Everything now hangs in the balance.


October 16, 1995

The Honorable Thomas J. Bliley, Jr.  Chairman
Committee on Commerce
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Larry Pressler, Chairman
Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Re: Computer Pornography Provisions in Telecommunications Bill

Dear Mr. Chairmen:

We are writing to urge the conference committee seeking to reconcile the
telecommunications bills passed by the House and Senate include in the
final bill the strongest possible criminal law provisions to address the
growing and immediate problem of computer pornography without any
exemptions, defenses, or political favors of any kind accorded to those
who knowingly participate in the distribution of obscenity to anyone or
indecency to children. While there is no perfect solution to the problem
of computer pornography, Congress could not hope to solve this problem by
holding liable only some who are responsible for the problem.

The recent Justice Department prosecution project targeting those who
violated federal child pornography law using America On-Line is
instructive in this regard. More than ninety individuals were targeted for
prosecution although many others, perhaps as many as 3,000 according to
one press report, were originally targeted by the Department of Justice as
potential violators of child pornography laws. Apparently due to a
shortage of investigative and prosecutorial resources, the project was
limited. Since there are insufficient resources to investigate and
prosecute but a fraction of those that are trafficking in child
pornography by computer, then there will likely be even fewer resources
available to investigate and prosecute those involved in obscenity and

Thousands of individuals both in this country and abroad are regularly
placing obscenity and indecency on the Internet. It is not possible to
make anything more than a dent in the serious problem of computer
pornography if Congress is willing to hold liable only those who place
such material on the Internet while at the same time giving legal
exemptions or defenses to service or access providers who profit from and
are instrumental to the distribution of such material. The Justice
Department normally targest the major offenders of laws. In obscenity
cases prosecuted to date, it has targeted large companies which have been
responsible for the nationwide distribution of obscenity and who have made
large profits by violating federal laws. Prosecution of such companies has
made a substantial impact in curbing the distribution of obscenity, with
many such offenders going out of business altogether. So too will
prosecution of access providers which _knowingly_ traffic in obscenity
have a substantial impact, a far greater impact than just the prosecution
of a person who places one or a few prohibited images on the Internet.
Such a person could not traffic in pornography without the aid or
facilitation of the service or access providers. Indeed, if Congress
includes provisions protecting access or service providers in whatever
bill is finally passed, it is likely that most in this country who are
trafficking in indecency to children or obscenity would continue to do so
since the threat of prosecution would be minuscule, given the numbers of
those currently involved in this activity. It is also likely that those
outside our country who are engaged in these activities would continue to
do so since it would be nearly impossible to extradite them to the United
States for prosecution. Thus, unless all who knowingly participate in such
matters are subject to the law, the Internet will remain the same and
Congress will have failed in its responsibilities to the children and
families of America.

Federal law has traditionally assigned equal liability both for those who
commit a crime and those who aid and abet a crime. See Title 18 U.S.C.
Code Section 2: "(a) whoever [sic] commits an offense against the United
States or aids, abets, councils [sic], commands, induces, or procures its
commission, is punishable as a principle [sic]." Service or access
providers who knowingly participate in the distribution of indecency to
children or in obscenity to anyone are aiders and abettors in the
commission of those crimes and thus should have liability under any law
Congress passes. Current federal law on child pornography provides no no
exemption or defense for access providers. Thus, the child pornography law
provides a strong deterrent against trafficking in child pornography for
those who would otherwise knowingly participate in its distribution by
computer whether pedophile or access provider.

The changes in law which we support would not hold an access provider
criminally liable for all illegal pornography on the Internet which their
services may be used to obtain. Nor would it require that access providers
check all communications to ensure that no violations of the law are
occurring. They would simply be required to avoid knowing violations of
the law. This is an obligation imposed on all citizens. Technology exists