cr> Youth control, not youth protection


(Introduction from moderator: billions of cyberbits have been sent
concerning the CDA, but I think the point made by the following author
hasn't been seen often enough.--Andy)


 Syndicated column by Patricia Nell Warren    4/5/96


The Real Threat of the CDA

By Patricia Nell Warren

As the Communications Decency  lawsuit moves through hearings in
Philadelphia, the Justice Department and many in the media are missing the
real issue here.  Even President Clinton is missing  it -- as he revealed  in
his recent  letter to Senator Exon, in which he expressed public support of
CDA-type censorship.

The real issue is not "protecting kids from porn."  Parents and schools  can
already  "protect kids from porn"  if they use available softwear.  The real
issue  is whether or not young people under 18 will be allowed free speech on
the Net.  It is about whether minors will have access to all the positive,
lifesaving and vital information on the Internet that might be viewed as
"controversial" by some.

When even our Democratic President panders for right-wing votes by supporting
CDA censorship, the youth of America have some scary sledding ahead.

So far, the media and the DOJ  have  ignored several  affadavits filed by
concerned young people.  These kids  say they have a problem  with the
government's plan to censor the Internet.    They  see clearly that the real
issue is not "protecting kids from porn."    Kit O'Connell, 17, a co-creator
of "furryMUCKS," tells how a censorship panic  locked him out of the very
online community  that he helped create.    Rheana Parrenas, 16, Christine
Soto, 18,  and Hunter Allen, 17,  tell how they will be denied free
expression, as well as info  on AIDS, safer sex, suicide prevention, prison
life, youth activism  -- all vital  to straight and gay youth alike.

Though we adult plaintiffs  have done lots  of interviews, the four young
have been  ignored.   They were neither deposed by the DOJ, or called as
witnesses in the hearings.   They're "just kids," right?

I agree with the kids.  The real purpose of the CDA is not to keep
out of Bianca's Smut Shack.   It is to inject direct government scrutiny and
law  enforcement into the nation's school districts, now  going
online.   It is to keep  minors from using school computers to go out
of their communities, even out of their countries, to access online
archives, etc. where they might perchance find  books, song lyrics, reference
works, that local censors manage to remove from local school and
shelves.    It is about destroying the anonymity that young people have
needed in their hungry search  for real-life  information.   News-watchers
follow  the school-district uproars about sex ed, gay clubs and other issues,
will shortly see the growing district uproars over Internet use.

As more school papers and college radio stations fall under  heavy
censorship, as parents with narrow views demand to control  school
policy,  the young people themselves are stepped over.   Nobody asks what
they   think, or how they feel, about this  burden that is being laid on
them.  "We know what's best for you, dears."

Yet if the CDA is found constitutional, minors  will face  the same heavy
penalties as adults  for  violations of the Act.  Two years in federal prison
and a $250,000 fine  for a 17-year-old boy  who hacks into the Playboy
site?  For a girl who uses a  school computer to download a gif on safer
condom use?

Gee, isn't this a bit excessive?  Dan White  did only five years for
murdering two human beings, one  the mayor of San Francisco.   How much
stiffer will penalties get, in this growing fanaticism  to "control kids" and

"get tough on crime"?

I have not forgotten being a kid  in the 1950s, reading my way through books
forbidden by my local high school and the Catholic Church.    Hard-core
pornography was around, but I wasn't interested in it.  Like most kids of my
time,  I WAS  interested in books that were controversial, boldly
The very existence of  the Index of Forbidden Books, and threats of hellfire
for reading it,  caused this Montana teenager to lose all
respect for the censors.   I didn't have to be old enough to vote, to see
that censorship is not about protection of youth -- it is about control of
 If the CDA had been around in those days, I might have gone to jail for
handing a copy of <The Letters of Abelard & Heloise>  to a dormitory friend!
Abelard got in trouble with the church, not only because he was a priest
love letters to a nun, but because he had controversial views.  Until 1930
the U.S. government outlawed all imports of <The Letters> in book form.

Today, CDA enforcement will probably not dent the hard-core porno
business, which always thrives  in times of repression.  But the CDA will
definitely dent the student's freedom to learn.  It will  limit  the
access to the equivalent of Abelard's Letters  -- to the questioning,
stuff that is the very life of a dynamic culture.   It will definitely dent
minor student's right to speak out on sensitive issues.

Most dangerous of all, enforcement of the CDA will cause the smart kids to
lose respect for the government.  And they will lose respect  for all adults
support this kind of punitive and suffocating law.

Patricia Nell Warren wrote "The Front Runner," "Harlan's Race" and other
bestselling novels about gay life. She lives in Los Angeles, where she serves
on the Gay & Lesbian Education Commission of the Los Angeles Unified
School District.   Her publisher is Wildcat Press.  Visit her Web page at

Copyright (c) 1996 by Patricia Nell Warren.   May be cross-posted without
prior permission on the Internet. All rights reserved.   For reprinting by
print media, contact Wildcat Press at or call 213/936-3666
 for permission.

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