CR Library Update (1/24/96)


Henry Huang

The following file has been added to the Cyber-Rights Library:


A nice article on CompuServe's newsgroup removal and other recent
events has been filed as:


Here's a (heavily edited) excerpt:



Mercury News Staff Writer

WHEN Compuserve Inc. agreed recently to block more than 200 Internet
newsgroups that violated German obscenity laws, First Amendment
stalwarts in the United States cringed in fear and seethed with anger.

Civil libertarian groups, such as the American Civil Liberties Union and
the Electronic Frontier Foundation, say it is time for a sweeping
landmark court case that clarifies the gray legal issues of cyberspace.
Without it, expect a more intrusive government and an increasingly
chaotic Internet atmosphere.

But there is a problem: First Amendment analysts say major on-line
players are unwilling to take on the federal government -- either
generally or in court. Experts say they fear unfavorable legal
precedents in an industry that is still in its relative infancy. Too,
on-line providers may not want the publicity as Congress and others
debate what is considered acceptable content in cyberspace.


When Netcom released its latest NetCruiser software that allows
computers to view the World Wide Web and 14,000 Internet discussion
groups, the software offered listings of every type of newsgroup except
the 4,000 newsgroups that contained the ''alt'' prefix. While some
sexually explicit newsgroups on the Internet begin with ''alt,'' many
others do also such as

Curt Kundred, a Netcom spokesman says the ''alt'' groups were omitted
for the purpose of saving disk space. He said the company had no motives
to block Internet content.

Netcom subscribers can still access the ''alt'' newsgroups. But Netcom's
actions have been perceived by a substantial part of the on-line
community as anti-free speech, a potentially deadly rap in the court of
public opinion.


Looming is the specter of the telecommunications bill, currently stalled
in Congress that includes the strictest anti-pornography provisions the
Internet community has faced during its young existence.

But while the federal government has been attacked, many analysts blame
the Big Three -- Compuserve, America Online and Prodigy -- for the easy
passage of the Exon provisions. Some policy groups say the major on-line
services didn't put up a strong enough fight against the Exon forces,
while others point to a compromise between the major on-line services
and the government. The compromise, although not yet approved by
Congress, says access providers will not be held liable for any sexual
material transmitted over their networks.



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