(ALERT) Sen. Feingold speaks up for free speech; thank him [cr-95/10/2]


Sender: •••@••.••• (Shabbir J. Safdar, Voters Telecommunications Watch)


        Update: -Latest News:
                        Feingold releases letter to Committee members
                        identifying First Amendment issues with CDA

                -What You Can Do Now:
                        Send a letter to Feingold congratulating him
                        for speaking up for free speech.

                        Put your business or bulletin board on record
                        as supporting free speech and opposing censorship
                        for cyberspace!

                           Oct 1, 1995

                REDISTRIBUTE ONLY UNTIL November 25, 1995

      Distributed by the Voters Telecommunications Watch (•••@••.•••)

        The Latest News
        What You Can Do Now
        Letter from Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI) to Committee
        Chronology of the CDA
        For More Information
        List Of Participating Organizations


Many people who have been following the attempts to censor the Internet
may have seen the Senate floor debate.  If you did, you were treated to
the sight of Senators Leahy (D-VT) and Feingold (D-WI) passionately
attempting to explain to 84 members of the Senate exactly just what the
Internet was, and why passing laws against indecency are inappropriate
in this medium.

Both Senators spoke passionately, and for those that understand this
technology, something clicked.  The 16 members that voted against the
censorship legislation will be rewarded by reminders to their voters
about their rational, non-hysterical, positions on free speech at the
end of the year.

In the meantime, we believe that you should congratulate Senators
Feingold on his stand for free speech, and for sticking up for the
net.  Quite often Senator Leahy gets most of the credit for this
position.  Let's be honest, he deserves it because of his long standing
rational approach to our issues.  However it's a big tent, and free
speech can always use another defender. (Directions for contacting
Feingold's office below)

Last week Senator Feingold sent a letter to several committee members
outlining the First Amendment problems with the measures passed by the
Senate (the Communications Decency Act) and the House (the Manager's
Amendment) and asked that these be deleted.  A copy of that letter is
enclosed below, and we thank Senator Feingold's office for making
available an electronic copy (so we didn't have to type it in!).

Remember, send Senator Feingold a thank you.  He's earned it.

[What comes below is unchanged from the last alert]

The House and Senate have passed a total of four different pieces of
legislation aimed at dealing with children's access to information on
the Internet.

Each of the four was profiled in BillWatch #13 which you can retrieve
from URL:http://www.vtw.org/billwatch/issue.13.html.  Here are the four
pieces of legislation and a short summary of each of them.

HR1978: "Internet Freedom and Family Empowerment Act" (Cox/Wyden) This
bill takes the approach of encouraging industry to provide parents with
tools to restrict their childrens' access to the net.  It contains no
new criminal provisions.  This approach was affirmed by the House
421-4 on August 4, 1995.  (Yes, that's a landslide)

S314: "The Communications Decency Act" (Exon/Coats) This bill makes
many types of constitutionally-protected speech (including lewd,
lascivious, and indecent speech) criminal when used through a
telecommunications device.  This provision was affirmed by the Senate
84-16 on June 14, 1995.

House amendment to HR1555: "Child Protection, User Empowerment, and
Free Expression in Interactive Media Study Act" (Klink/Leahy) This bill
directs the Department of Justice to study and see if there are places
in current law where existing obscenity laws are unenforcible on computer
networks.  This approach was affirmed by a committee voice vote.

House amendment to HR1555: <unnamed>  This amendment was submitted at
the last minute through the Manager's Mark, a collection of several
amendments to HR1555 that were voted on as a block.  This amendment
takes constitutionally-protected speech and criminalizes it when it is
expressed online.  Most legislators had no idea that they voted on this
last amendment; the summary of the Manager's Mark did not mention
these new criminal provisions.  There was no applicable House vote on
*just this* provision.

The House-Senate conference committee now has the task of deciding
which of these are allowed into the final Telecommunications Deregulation
bill for the last floor vote.


1. Send Senator Feingold a letter telling him you appreciate him standing
   up for free speech in cyberspace.  Be polite and check your spelling.

   Most importantly, READ HIS LETTER FIRST before you send mail.  He
   took the time to write it, shouldn't you take the time to read it?

   Email or paper mail are recommended, since they will have the least
   impact on the staff.  Telephone calls are less desirable, but
   certainly appropriate if that is the only way that is convenient
   for you.

   The Senator can be reached at:

      P ST Name and Address           Phone           Fax
      = == ========================   ==============  ==============
      D WI Feingold, Russell          1-202-224-5323  na
            502 HSOB                    •••@••.•••
            Washington, D.C. 20510

[This is from the last alert.  We are still collecting signons to the
 letter though, and we don't have nearly enough Internet Service Providers.

2. It's crucial that we tell Congress how their decision in the conference
   committee will affect businesses and bulletin boards in cyberspace.
   We're coordinating a letter from Internet businesses and bulletin
   boards to explain to Congress just what these poorly-drafted regulations
   will mean to them.

   Read the electronic business and bulletin board letter below.  You
   can also find it at:

        Gopher:  gopher -p1/vtw/exon gopher.panix.com
        WWW URL: http://www.vtw.org/cdaletter/
        Email  : Send mail to •••@••.••• with "send cdaletter" in the
                 subject line.

3. If you work for a business that uses bulletin boards or public networks,
   convince the owners to sign onto the letter.  Companies that should sign
   this include Internet service providers, Web designers (big and small),
   Internet consultants and trainers, Internet restaurants and bars,
   software companies that develop Internet-related software, companies
   that advertise or publish through the Internet or bulletin boards, writers
   who publish through the Internet, and many others!

   If you belong to a bulletin board, ask the sysop if he or she will sign
   onto the letter.

4. Ask the BBS sysop or the business owner to mail in the following
   information to •••@••.•••:

        Business name
        Owner or officer name
        Email address
        Phone number
        Description of business and anything else relevant

   Here's an example:

   $ Mail •••@••.•••

   My business would like to signon to the business and bbs letter.
   We are:

        Ed's Xcellent Online Node (EXON)
        J.J. Exon, Owner
        2323 Decency Road, Nebraska 10000-0000
        (402) 555-1212

        Ed's Xcellent Online Node is based in Nebraska and provides Internet
        service to many thoughtful and free-speech loving Nebraskans.
        We provide Internet access to over 1,500 residents and 400
        businesses.  We employ 35 full time employees.

   Mail sent!

5. If you don't subscribe to a BBS or have an affiliation with a business
   that uses public networks, but belong to a professional organization
   or an advocacy group, consider sending Congress the ACLU letter included
   below with your local group's name on it.  Simply replace the material
   in parentheses with your own information.

6. Relax!  You just did a lot of good with only email as a tool.  Isn't
   that great?


[NOTE: This letter was sent to:

        Sen. Larry Pressler
        Sen. Fritz Hollings
        Rep. Thomas Bliley
        Rep. John Dingell
        House Committee on Commerce
        Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Technology

 All of these individuals have a hand in the shaping of the conference
 committee process that will define the outcome of the Telecommunications
 Deregulation bill, and therefore, the Internet censorship legislation.

 Each letter was identical, so we have only included one here.


Tuesday September 26, 1995

The Honorable Thomas Bliley
Chairman, Committee on Commerce
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Chairman Bliley,

Soon your Committee will begin Conference deliberations on H.R. 1555
and S.652, telecommunications reform legislation, with members of the
Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.  During those
deliberations, I urge you to strike the potentially unconstitutional
provisions regarding on-line indecency contained in both the Senate and
House versions of this legislation.

The Exon-Coats amendment, added to S. 652 on the Senate floor, included
provisions which I believe would violate the First Amendment rights of
Internet users and have a chilling effect on further economic and
technological development of this exciting new form of
telecommunications.  Specifically I have objected to the indecency
provisions of S. 652 for the following reasons:

1)  Indecent speech, unlike obscenity, is protected under the First
    Amendment to the U.S. Constitution;

2)  An outright ban on indecent speech on computer networks is not the
    "least restrictive means" of protecting children from exposure to
    such speech on the Internet. There are a number of existing tools
    available today to allow parents to protect their children from
    materials which they find inappropriate;

3)  A ban on indecent speech to minors on the Internet will unnecessarily
    require adults to self censor their communications on the Internet;

4)  Since "indecency" will be defined by community standards, protected
    speech by adults will be diminished to what might be considered decent
    in the most conservative community in the United States and to what
    might be appropriate for very young children;

5)  The "on-line indecency" provisions will establish different standards
    for the same material that appears in print and on the computer screen.
    Works that are completely legal in the bookstore or on the library shelf
    would be criminal if transmitted over computer networks;

6)  The Supreme Court has ruled that the degree to which content can be
    regulated depends on the characteristics of the media.  The unique
    nature of interactive media must be considered when determining how
    best to protect children.  S. 652 ignores the degree to which users
    have control over the materials to which they are exposed as well as
    the decentralized nature of interactive technology which liken it more
    to print media than broadcast media.

Section 403 of H.R. 1555, known as the Hyde amendment, raises equally
serious concerns with respect to the First Amendment and appears
antithetical to other provisions contained in the House Bill.  The
prohibitions against on-line indecency contained in the Hyde language
will have a similar chilling effect on the on-line communications of
adults.  The Hyde amendment is also inconsistent with the more
market-oriented and less intrusive provisions of Sec. 104 of H.R. 1555,
the On-Line Family Empowerment Act introduced by Congressmen Cox and
Wyden, as adopted by the House.  Section 104 recognizes that First
Amendment protections must apply to on-line communications by
prohibiting FCC content regulation of the Internet.  The Cox/Wyden
provisions also promote the use of existing technology to empower
parents to protect their children from objectionable materials on the
Internet, and encourages on-line service providers to self-police
offensive communications over their private services.

In addition, the Hyde amendment is incompatible with Section 110 of
H.R. 1555, which demands a report by the Department of Justice (DOJ) on
existing criminal obscenity and child pornography statutes and their
applicability to cyber-crime.  Sec. 110 also requires an evaluation of
the technical means available to enable parents to exercise control
over the information that their children receive on the Internet.
Perhaps most significantly, Sec. 110 embraces the application of First
Amendment speech protections to interactive media.  H.R. 1555, while
embracing the principles of restraint with respect to new criminal
sanctions on protected speech and the promotion of a free-market
parental empowerment approach, simultaneously ignores both of those
axioms with the Hyde provision.  By imposing new criminal sanctions on
indecent speech and amending existing criminal statutes, the Hyde
amendment rushes to judgement before the DOJ study has even begun.

Recently, the Senate Judiciary Committee held the first-ever
Congressional hearing on the issue of cyberporn.  Based on the
testimony of the witnesses, which included parents as well as victims
of cyberporn, it became clear that the objectionable communications on
the Internet are already covered by existing criminal statutes.  The
concerns raised at the hearing centered upon trafficking of child
pornography, the proliferation of obscenity, and the solicitation and
victimization of minors via the Internet.  However, those offenses are
already violations of criminal law.  Indeed, recent press accounts
indicate that law enforcement officers are already aggressively
prosecuting on-line users for violations of criminal law relating to
obscenity and child pornography.

It is critical that we use law enforcement resources to prosecute
criminal activity conducted via the Internet and not be distracted by
the issue of indecency which has not been identified as a serious
concern by users or parents.  It was clear, during our recent Senate
Hearing, that the witnesses' concerns about the Internet did not relate
to indecent speech or the so-called "seven dirty words".  It is
incumbent upon Congress to wait for the results of the study required
by H.R. 1555 before embracing overly restrictive, potentially
unnecessary and possibly unconstitutional prohibitions on indecent
speech contained in both versions of telecommunications reform

I urge the Conference Committee to reject the Exon/Coats and Hyde
provisions during your deliberations and to maintain the Cox/Wyden
amendment adopted overwhelmingly by the House of Representatives.  If
the United States is to ever fully realize the benefits of interactive
telecommunications technology, we cannot allow the heavy hand of
Congress to unduly interfere with communications on this medium.

Thank you for your consideration of this very important matter.


Russell D. Feingold
United States Senator

cc:  Members, Committee on Commerce


Sep 26, '95     Sen. Russ Feingold urges committee members to drop
                Managers Amendment and the CDA from the Telecommunications
                Deregulation bill
Aug  4, '95     House passes HR1555 which goes into conference with S652.
Aug  4, '95     House votes to attach Managers Amendment (which contains
                new criminal penalties for speech online) to
                Telecommunications Reform bill (HR1555).
Aug  4, '95     House votes 421-4 to attach HR1978 to Telecommunications
                Reform bill (HR1555).
Jun 30, '95     Cox and Wyden introduce the "Internet Freedom and Family
                Empowerment Act" (HR 1978) as an alternative to the CDA.
Jun 21, '95     Several prominent House members publicly announce their
                opposition to the CDA, including Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-GA),
                Rep. Chris Cox (R-CA), and Rep. Ron Wyden (D-OR).
Jun 14, '95     The Senate passes the CDA as attached to the Telecomm
                reform bill (S 652) by a vote of 84-16.  The Leahy bill
                (S 714) is not passed.
May 24, '95     The House Telecomm Reform bill (HR 1555) leaves committee
                in the House with the Leahy alternative attached to it,
                thanks to Rep. Ron Klink of (D-PA).  The Communications
                Decency Act is not attached to it.
Apr  7, '95     Sen. Leahy (D-VT) introduces S.714, an alternative to
                the Exon/Gorton bill, which commissions the Dept. of
                Justice to study the problem to see if additional legislation
                (such as the CDA) is necessary.
Mar 23, '95     S314 amended and attached to the telecommunications reform
                bill by Sen. Gorton (R-WA).  Language provides some provider
                protection, but continues to infringe upon email privacy
                and free speech.
Feb 21, '95     HR1004 referred to the House Commerce and Judiciary committees
Feb 21, '95     HR1004 introduced by Rep. Johnson (D-SD)
Feb  1, '95     S314 referred to the Senate Commerce committee
Feb  1, '95     S314 introduced by Sen. Exon (D-NE) and Gorton (R-WA).


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In order to use the net more effectively, several organizations have
joined forces on a single Congressional net campaign to stop the
Communications Decency Act.

American Communication Association * American Council for the Arts *
Arts & Technology Society * Association of Alternative Newsweeklies *
biancaTroll productions * Boston Coalition for Freedom of Expression *
Californians Against Censorship Together * Center For Democracy And
Technology * Centre for Democratic Communications * Center for Public
Representation * Citizen's Voice - New Zealand * Cloud 9 Internet
*Computer Communicators Association * Computel Network Services *
Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility * Cross Connection *
Cyber-Rights Campaign * CyberQueer Lounge * Dutch Digital Citizens'
Movement * ECHO Communications Group, Inc. * Electronic Frontier Canada
* Electronic Frontier Foundation * Electronic Frontier Foundation -
Austin * Electronic Frontiers Australia * Electronic Frontiers Houston
* Electronic Frontiers New Hampshire * Electronic Privacy Information
Center * Feminists For Free Expression * First Amendment Teach-In *
Florida Coalition Against Censorship * FranceCom, Inc. Web Advertising
Services * Friendly Anti-Censorship Taskforce for Students * Hands
Off!  The Net * Human Rights Watch * Inland Book Company * Inner Circle
Technologies, Inc. * Inst. for Global Communications * Internet
On-Ramp, Inc. * Internet Users Consortium * Joint Artists' and Music
Promotions Political Action Committee * The Libertarian Party *
Marijuana Policy Project * Metropolitan Data Networks Ltd. * MindVox *
MN Grassroots Party * National Bicycle Greenway * National Campaign for
Freedom of Expression * National Coalition Against Censorship *
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force * National Public Telecomputing
Network * National Writers Union * Oregon Coast RISC * Panix Public
Access Internet * People for the American Way * Republican Liberty
Caucus * Rock Out Censorship * Society for Electronic Access * The
Thing International BBS Network * The WELL * Voters Telecommunications

(Note: All 'Electronic Frontier' organizations are independent entities,
 not EFF chapters or divisions.)

        End Alert

 Posted by --  Andrew Oram  --  •••@••.••• --  Cambridge, Mass., USA
                 Moderator:  CYBER-RIGHTS (CPSR)

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