EFF Draft Statement on White and Hyde Proposals [cr-951207]


Richard Moore

Date: Tue, 5 Dec 1995
>From: Mike Godwin <•••@••.•••>
To: Multiple recipients of list <•••@••.•••>
Subject: EFF Draft Statement on White and Hyde Proposals
X-To: •••@••.•••, •••@••.•••, •••@••.•••,


EFF Statement on White and Hyde Proposals
Regarding Content Control on the Net


The Electronic Frontier Foundation maintains its longstanding position
that no new legislation is required to regulate content in cyberspace, and
that the existing federal and state framework provides an adequate legal
basis for the prosecution both of illegal material and of any
victimization of children.

Given the Telecom Bill conference committee's insistence that it must pass
new content legislation affecting the Net, however, EFF applauds the
approach of Rep. Rick White of Washington. Rep. White, who clearly
possesses substantial familiarity with Net communications and legal
issues, is attempting to steer the Telecom Bill toward legislation that
remains within the bounds of well-understood Constitutional principles,
that provides adequate protections for providers and users from the
"chilling effect" of overreaching federal statutes and overbroad risk of
legal liability, and that empowers parents and other users to make their
own content choices in online environments.

EFF does not endorse all provisions of the White proposal. We do, however,
endorse the following principles, which Rep. White has attempted to
incorporate in his proposal:

1) No crimes based on the vague and undefined notion of online

2) Minimal amendments to the federal criminal code (Title 18).

3) Encouragement of open-ended filtering/labelling systems that empower
parents and other users to make their own choices about net content.

4) Refusal to impose strict legal liability on providers, system
operators, and others, given that such liability would chill the existence
and growth of free online forums.

5) Extension of the same protections to commercial and educational forums.

6) Setting the criminal-intent element of any criminal-law provisions so
that users and providers cannot accidentally become criminally liable.

EFF notes that the alternative to the White proposal -- a proposal offered
by Rep. Hyde -- is so deeply repugnant both to parental autonomy and to
the First Amendment's protections for freedom of speech as to constitute a
direct authoritarian assault on the fabric of the Net. The conference
committee is being fiercely lobbied by religious extremists who falsely
represent themselves as speaking for all who care about families,
children, and morality -- these extremists will stop at nothing to enact
legislation that is aimed not at the protection of children, but at the
silencing of everybody whose values do not echo their own.

EFF strongly urges the conferees not to take this nation and this new
medium down the path of unthinking, fearful censorship. We ask that the
conferees instead refuse to assume that the only way to protect our
children and ourselves is to turn our backs on the First Amendment.
Americans are a smarter people than that, and we expect our
representatives not to fall for this false choice.  The true choice is
between those who would cut the Constitution to fit their own moral
fashions and those who believe that our citizens can, at the same time, be
trusted both with freedom of speech and with the primary authority to make
choices for their children.

For further information, contact:

Mike Godwin
Staff Counsel
Electronic Frontier Foundation


 Posted by      Richard K. Moore <•••@••.•••>
                Wexford, Ireland (USA citizen)
                Editor: The Cyberjournal (@CPSR.ORG)

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