cr> FYI – some OpEd pieces


Richard Moore

These authors would probably welcome feedback from our list members,
including ideas for additional publication venues.


Date: Wed, 14 Feb 1996
Sender: •••@••.••• (Chris Thorman)
Subject: Suggested modification in your approach

An open letter to Bob Anderson / Oklahomans for Children And Families (OCAF)

Dear Mr. Anderson and members of OCAF,

Last week your group announced its "campaign to eliminate
pornography from the Internet.  OCAF has identified the local
Internet Service Provider (ISP) as the party primarily responsible for
the distribution of the majority of illegal pornography on
the Internet.

"According to Bruce Taylor, Chief Legal Counsel for the
National Law Center for Children and Families, criminal
liability is clearly appropriate for this intentional
conduct in distributing illegal obscenity and child
pornography, just as for any other wholesale or retail
merchant of illegal pornography."

I hope that your group can achieve its goal of fighting child pornography
while reconsidering its approach in light the damaging implications that
approach will have on the future of the Internet and its ability to provide
valuable information of all kinds to everyone.

It has been known for years that the US Mail system can be used to
distribute pornography -- and worse, even truly dangerous things like
bombs.  Did we respond by shutting down the mail system?  Of course not:
that would be cutting off our nose to spite our face.

But your group hopes to shut down the Internet because you don't like what
some people use it for.  This idea is just as silly as shutting down the US
Postal service because the Unabomber sent a package bomb by US Mail.  Or
perhaps a more telling comparison would be prosecuting the letter carrier
for murder because, after all, he delivered a lethal bomb to the poor

A similar analogy could be made with the telephone system: You might use it
to organize a church group meeting.  Someone else might use it for phone
sex.  Just because you don't like the phone sex users doesn't mean you
should eliminate the system for all of the other users.  The idea wouldn't
even occur to you, because, of course, you understand and are comfortable
with telephone technology; you use and need it for your everyday life.

Your group must be fairly ignorant about internet technology to think that
attacking access providers is a reasonable solution to the problem of porn
on the Internet.  ISPs are merely a common carrier -- like the phone system
or the US Mail, they take information that people ask for and move it to a
computer where they ask for it to be placed.  They are not equivalent to
broadcasters who must select and approve material to be broadcast over a
limited, publicly-owned medium.  ISPs have NO IDEA what the information
they convey is about -- nor should they.  It must be possible for people to
communicate privately over the internet just as it must be by phone and by
US mail.

However, your group's goal is clear: by attacking ISPs you intend to
cripple the Internet iself, a prospect as damaging as shutting down the
Postal Service or the national telephone network would be.

Your group's understandable worries about child pornography and reasonable
fear that children will be exposed to inappropriate material on the
Internet has combined with reactionary political attitudes and a basic
misunderstanding (perhaps mistrust?) of technology to create the erroneous
conclusion that it is the medium itself that must be attacked.

Perhaps your group's energies could be better directed toward developing
and promoting mechanisms to allow people desiring censorship to censor
themselves, while allowing those not desiring censorship to share
information in any way they see fit.

Self-censorship is the natural solution to avoiding material you don't want
to consume.  There is an ever-expanding array of software tools and options
for individuals and parents who wish to self-censor (or "filter")
inappropriate information.

Maybe your group could dedicate itself to creating a family-oriented
"sub-net" within the internet, where all material can be editorially
pre-approved for consumption by anyone of any age -- those who sign up to
participate would agree not to link to sites outside the approved system.

You could lobby developers of browser software to create versions of their
browsers that would respect this "closed" net-within-a-net by disallowing
links outside of the approved network.  This is just one idea that comes to
mind.  There are many clever people working on this problem.  They need the
support of groups like yours.  By focusing your energy in the wrong place,
you are only increasing the difficulty of the work of the people who are
really trying to solve the problem.

Please redirect your group's focus to a *constructive* approach to solving
these problems, and abandon the litigious, contentious, unconsititutional,
and, ultimately, damaging approach you have currently advocated.


Chris Thorman

Date:          Fri, 16 Feb 1996
From:          Karen Coyle <•••@••.•••>
To:            "Multiple recipients of list •••@••.•••"
Subject:       Piece for KQED - first draft

OK, I've bit the bullet. Here's a first draft for a KQED
perspective on the telecomm bill. Respond today so I can send
it off to the producer to find out if he's interested. He will
also make edits, so we don't have to have it "perfect" before I
approach him.

On Feb ? the Telecommunications Act of 1996 was signed into law
by President Clinton. The bill is considered controversial
because it contains specific limitations on indecent speech.
Lawsuits have been filed by the ACLU and the American Library
Association challenging this portion of the bill on First
Amendment grounds.

But this bill does much more than deny free speech. Heavily
lobbied by the communications industry, it opens the gates for
virtually unrestricted marketing of online services and content
by the communications and entertainment industries. And it
contains only a tiny nod to the issue of public interest.

Communications isn't just another product. It's the means by
which we create our culture and express ourselves individually.
It's the mechanism for democracy, and the stuff that holds our
communities together.

The bill does have provisions for universal service,
essentially stating the urban and rural areas should be offered
comparable service at comparable rates. It requires discounted
rates for schools and libraries, though these discounts can be
deducted by the communications company from their universal
service requirement, thus pitting schools and libraries against
other, equally worthy users. It has no mention of the many
non-profit organizations and public services that are so vital
to the well-being of our communities. And there is as yet no
plan, much less funding, to furnish our schools and libraries
with up-to-date equipment and train the educators and
librarians whose role it will be to teach the rest of us how to
benefit from the Information Infrastructure.

We, the public, get no say on what this future communications
infrastructure will be. It is clear that universal access as
defined in this bill places us entirely in the role of
consumers, much as we are in relation to television today. Yet
this technology has much greater possibilities: over computer
networks every person in this country could be a provider of
content; every one of us could participate fully in our
culture, our community and the political life of this country.
The communications system that arises out of the new digital
technology could be a truly two-way dialogue. But not through a
bill written to benefit the communications industry.


 Posted by Richard K. Moore  -  •••@••.•••  -  Wexford, Ireland
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