Censorship issues [cr-95/11/07]


Sender: •••@••.••• (Shabbir J. Safdar, VTW)
Subject: (UPDATE) More you can do to stop the Religious Right from shutting down
the net!


        Short Update: Calls are coming in, but not enough!

        What You Can Do Now: Call Congress, directions below!

        SYSOPS AND ISPS: Please place a short version of this alert
        in your welcome message! (directions below)

        WEBMASTERS: Please place a link to this alert in your page!
        (directions below)

                           Nov 8, 1995

                REDISTRIBUTE ONLY UNTIL December 1, 1995

        The Latest News
        What You Can Do Now


The Religious Right is attempting to push legislation the Telecommunications
Deregulation Conference Committee that would shut down most forms of
speech online.

Their proposal would:

-Make internet providers, online services, and libraries criminally liable
 for expression online.
-Create a standard for criminalizing "indecency" online, dumbing down
 every Web page, newsgroups, discussion forum, and chat system.
-Give the FCC jurisdiction over speech in cyberspace and software that
 might be used to filter children's access to the net.

For a full analysis of the Religious Right's proposal, and a copy of their
proposed legislation and their letter to the Conference Committee, see
the alert at URL:http://www.vtw.org/.

Earlier this week the coalition started a phone campaign to let Dole and
Gingrich know how important this is to us.  Calls have been coming in
strong, but not enough have come in to sway their opinion.

Please call now.


1. If you run any sort of system that allows a welcome message for all
   users, please add the following:

       The Religious Right is attempting to shutdown the net by passing
       legislation that would make services like this one liable
       for what you say and read on the Internet.  Please call Congress
       now; for more info URL:http://www.vtw.org/ or send mail to
       •••@••.••• with "send alert" in the subject line. (11/8/95)

   If you have a Web page that gets a lot of traffic, please add the
   following link:

        <a href="http://www.vtw.org/">
        Stop the Religious Right from shutting down online free
        speech! (11/8/95)</a>

2. 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
   proposal. (fax numbers have been corrected)

   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   1-202-228-1245

   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.

3. 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.

4. The People for the American Way (PFAW) and the American Civil Liberties
   Union (ACLU) 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.

5. 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.

        End Alert


Sender: •••@••.•••
Subject: Human Rights Watch letter to Conference Committee

      Hi--I wanted to pass along the letter Human Rights Watch sent last
      week to the telecom bill conference committee chairs about the
      international implications of internet censorship.

      Karen Sorensen
      Human Rights Watch
      485 Fifth Avenue
      New York, NY 10017-6104
      TEL: 212/972-8400, ext. 233
      FAX: 212/972-0905
      E-mail: •••@••.•••

November 2 , 1995

The Honorable Thomas J. Bliley
Committee on Commerce
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC  20515

Dear Representative Bliley:

     The Free Expression Project of Human Rights Watch is writing to
express our strong opposition to the Communications Decency Act (CDA)
and other efforts to censor online communications. This misguided and
ineffective attempt to protect minors from "indecent" expression
on-line would in fact criminalize expression that is protected by both
the Constitution and international law.
     Many organizations dedicated to promoting free speech and civil
liberties in the U.S. have addressed themselves to the CDA's
constitutionality.  We will instead focus on the international
implications of the CDA. Even at this early stage in its development,
the value of the Internet has been proved many times. Democracy
movements from within authoritarian regimes have been able to form and
communicate online with their exiled members. Individuals in war zones
without any other means to communicate have been able to tell their
stories around the world. Citizens have organized on line to send help
to victims of disasters. If fully developed, the Global Information
Infrastructure (GII) will allow people all over the world to
communicate information and ideas instantaneously. Citizens will be
given greater opportunity to organize, debate, and share information,
which will contribute to the spread of democratic values.
     The Free Expression Project has actively campaigned for free
expression in cyberspace. Our letter to Vice President Gore in
anticipation of the G-7 Ministerial Conference on the Information
Society in February 1995, which is enclosed, sets forth several
guidelines to ensure that the GII respects international free
expression principles. As the birthplace of the Internet and other
innovations in telecommunications, the United States is in a unique
position to shape the GII.
     As Vice President Gore said in his keynote address to the G-7
Conference, "[Global communication] is about protecting and enlarging
freedom of expression for all our citizens and giving individual
citizens the power to create the information they need and want from
the abundant flow of data they encounter moment to moment."
     At the Conference, the G-7 member states agreed that "promoting
diversity of  content" would be one of the eight core principles for
building the GII.  Clearly, such a goal can be achieved only by
allowing free expression for people all over the world, whether or not
we agree with their views.
     The CDA's censorship provisions are in direct conflict with the
vision of an unrestricted GII. Rather, they ally the U.S. with
authoritarian governments, such as China, Singapore, and Indonesia,
that are seeking ways to control their citizens' use of electronic
media. Because cyberspace knows no geographic borders, the CDA and
similar censorship measures in other countries will chill speech not
only in these countries, but around the world. However
unintentionally, U.S. efforts to censor cyberspace will lend support
to repressive governments' attempts to censor expression, whether in
print, broadcast or electronic media.
       In addition, as part of  a human rights organization, the Free
Expression Project fears that the CDA's intent to censor "indecent"
communication would impede human rights work.  As the Internet
develops, human rights groups are increasingly sharing information
on-line and publishing reports electronically. Testimony by victims of
rape and similar human rights abuses contained in such communications
could fall within the definition of "indecent" and therefore be
subject to censorship.
     Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and
Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
(ICCPR) guarantee the right to seek, receive, and impart information
and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, through any media.
The provisions of the Communications Decency Act violate these
international standards of free speech. The CDA's provision
criminalizing the transmission of "indecent" material violates the
spirit of Article 19 by trying to force one country's standards for
content on a global communication system. Just as most Americans would
not support the imposition of foreign content standards on our own
on-line communication, we should oppose any attempt to dictate
American standards to our neighbors. Similarly, the CDA also
criminalizes the transmission of  material having the intent to
"annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass." The attempt to define such
standards in an international context would prove impossible.
Political speeches, for example, may often be annoying, but according
to Article 19, they should not be banned.
      The CDA not only violates domestic and international law, it is
simply unworkable. According to the CDA, the U.S. could presumably
seek the arrest of online pornographers in Europe, for example, whose
material is available on the Internet in the U.S. In practice, of
course, such an idea is absurd. Most Internet experts agree that it is
impossible to control the flow of information over the Internet at the
present time, when the majority of the material is produced in our own
country. As the GII becomes truly global and the amount of information
multiplies, legislative attempts to control the flow become even more
     Fortunately, as a means to control minors' access to "indecent"
expression, the CDA is also unnecessary. Technology already exists
that allows parents, teachers, and other online users to block
offending material from online view. Software can screen for sexually
explicit material and prohibit access to specific electronic sites. In
addition, commercial online service providers are offering a variety
of online networks including networks that are child-safe. On June 28,
the Information Technology Association of America, an association of
more than 6,000 software, service, hardware and telecommunications
companies, announced the formation of a task force to consider various
options of self-regulation, including technological solutions, ratings
systems, and a code of standards.
     Free expression on the GII represents the great American
principles of free speech and tolerance for diversity. The U.S. must
not retreat from that stance by enacting censorship legislation that
would severely inhibit global communication.  We urge you to oppose
the Communications Decency Act and any other legislative proposals to
censor online communications.


                                             Gara LaMarche
                                             Free Expression Project

Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch is a nongovernmental organization established in
1978 to monitor and promote the observance of internationally
recognized human rights in Africa, the Americas, Asia, the Middle East
and among the signatories of the Helsinki accords.  It is supported by
      contributions from private individuals and foundations  worldwide.


Sender: Gary Weston <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Re: System administrators to be help responsible for content  

Why would anyone conceivably expect the Clinton administration to be 
supportive of 1st Amendment rights, and the freedom of expression on the 

They might make nice populist noises at times, but when it comes to basic 
liberties, particularly if those liberties could interfere with the 
rights of multinational corporations to dominate our government, they 
will come down on the side of the corporations every time.

I have seen a lot of people touting the internet as the forum which would 
guarantee everyone a voice and would ultimately lead to a freer society 
in which more people could raise their voices and influence government.  
Forget it.

The proposals in question are simply the first to be used to restrict 
sharply the popular use of the internet for social or political 
purposes.  These proposals will ultimately force most providers to 
carefully limit the use of their facilities to those of a super shopping 
channel.  Where did anyone ever get the idea that such a powerful medium 
as the internet would be left to the people?

 Posted by Andrew Oram  - •••@••.••• - Moderator: CYBER-RIGHTS (CPSR)
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