Policy Post 2.5 – CDA Passes, Clinton Expected to Sign,


Craig A. Johnson

There are a few hooks to this story not mentioned in the release 
below.  Stand by for a posting later today on how the bill voted on 
yesterday would prohibit cross-border discussions of abortion.



Date:          Thu, 1 Feb 1996 20:14:49 -0500
From:          •••@••.••• (CDT Editor)
Subject:       Policy Post 2.5 - CDA Passes, Clinton Expected to Sign, CDT Plans
Court Challenge

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  ____/____/__/ The Center for Democracy and Technology  /____/    
  Volume 2, Number 5
     A briefing on public policy issues affecting civil liberties
 CDT POLICY POST Volume 2, Number 5                        February 1,

 CONTENTS: (1) Congress Passes Online Indecency Bill, Clinton Expected
 to Sign,
               CDT Plans Court Challenge
           (2) Subscription Information
           (3) About CDT, contacting us

This document may be redistributed freely provided it remains in its
       ** Excerpts may be re-posted by permission (•••@••.•••) **
------ (1) Congress Passes Online Indecency Bill, Clinton Expected to
    CDT Plans Court Challenge

By overwhelming margins in both the House and Senate, Congress today
(2/1) approved legislation to dramatically restrict the First
Amendment rights of Internet users.  With this act of Congress, the
very same materials which are legally available today in book stores
and libraries would be illegal if posted on World Wide Web sites or
usenet newsgroups. If signed by President Clinton as expected, this
bill will transform the Internet overnight from the freest
communications medium to the most heavily regulated medium in the
United States.

CDT believes this legislation is unconstitutional. We are committed to
challenging it in the courts at the earliest possible opportunity.

Despite the sustained effort over the past 12 months by Senators Leahy
(D-VT), Feingold (D-WI), and Representatives Chris Cox (R-CA), Rick
White (R-WA), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) to defeat the bill, the House
passed the measure on a vote of 414 - 16, while the Senate concurred a
few hours later on a vote of 91 - 5. Ironically, the vote comes
exactly one year to the day that Senator Exon (D-NE) originally
introduced the proposal (2/1/95).


The Communications Decency Act, enacted as part of a massive
telecommunications reform legislation, will impose $250,000 fines and
prison terms for anyone who posts "indecent" material, including the
"7 dirty words", the text of classic works of fiction such as The
Catcher In The Rye or Ulysses, artwork containing images of nudes, or
rap lyrics, in a public forum.

CDT strongly opposes this legislation. We believe the bill threatens
the very existence of the Internet as a means for free expression,
education, and political discourse. The bill is an unwarranted,
unconstitutional intrusion by the Federal government into the private
lives of all Americans.

Although the free speech rights of Internet users and the free flow of
information online received a major setback today, the battle is far
from over.  President Clinton is expected to sign the legislation in
the coming days.  Several civil liberties and public interest advocacy
groups, including CDT, People for the American Way, EFF, and the ACLU
are already preparing to challenge these new restrictions in court. 
Other affected entities, including commercial content providers,
Internet Service Providers, and the commercial online services
industries, are also expected to mount court challenges to this
legislation.  CDT is confident that the courts will find the
Communications Decency Act unconstitutional and reject it outright.


Although the CDA passed by Congress today represents a significant
threat to the viability of the Internet and the free speech rights of
individual users, the efforts of the Internet.community to mobilize
against the bill kept it from being a lot worse.

The Christian Coalition, with the support of House Judiciary Committee
Chairman Henry Hyde (R-IL), fought hard to hold online service
providers criminally liable for materials generated by their
subscribers. Fortunately, these efforts were not successful. Holding
providers liable would have forced them to pre-screen all material on
their networks, or, worse yet, shut down entire parts of their
services for fear of massive fines and prison sentences. The Christian
Coalition was also unsuccessful in their efforts to remove provisions
encouraging the development and deployment of parental control

Due to the efforts of the 115,000 Internet users who signed the
petition against the CDA, the more than 20,000 users who in one day
flooded Congress with phone calls, faxes, and email messages, and
those who throughout 1995 regularly called their Congresspeople to
express concerns about the various proposals, the Internet community
showed itself to be a true political force with real influence over
the legislative process.  Although we did not accomplish all of our
most important objectives, we have become a powerful force.  This is
not the last time Congress will consider issues vital to the interests
of Internet users across the United States. We must never loose sight
of the fact that, despite the apparent defeat today, there is still a
tremendous amount of work to be done.


Although a majority of Congress today demonstrated a complete lack of
understanding of the Internet and the implications of the
Communications Decency Act, several members deserve credit for
standing up for freedom of speech and the free flow of information

During the course of the debate over the last year on the CDA,
Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Russ Feingold (D-WI), along with
Representatives Chris Cox (R-CA), Rick White (R-WA), Michael Oxley
(R-OH), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Ed Markey (D-MA), showed courage and
conviction by working to support enlightened alternatives to
government content restrictions.  These members have shown themselves
to be friends of the Internet, and we look forward to working with
them on other issues which lie ahead.


The legislation approved today was not changed from a previous version
released December 21, 1995 (See CDT Policy Post No. 33).  Briefly, the
proposal contains several troubling elements.  Among other things, the

* Relies on the vague and blatantly unconstitutional "indecency"
  standard (Sec 502 (a) - (c))

* Prohibits sending "indecent" material directly to a minor or making
  indecent material available for display in a manner available to a
  minor (including World Wide Web pages, ftp sites, or usenet
  newsgroups) (Sec 502 (d)).

* No longer contains the provision of the Cox/Wyden/White bill
  prohibiting the FCC from imposing content or other regulations on
  the Internet or other interactive media.

* Would allow states to impose additional restrictions on
  activities such as free-nets, BBS's, and non-profit content
  providers (Sec 502 (h)).

* Creates a new crime for the solicitation of minors using a computer,
  the US mail, or any other means of interstate or foreign commerce
  (Sec 508).

The full text of the bill, along with other relevant background
information (including final vote tallies when available) can be found
at CDT's Internet Censorship Issues Web Page

As CDT prepares to fight this issue in court, we will continue to
update you on our progress as information becomes available.

For More Information Contact:

Jerry Berman, Executive Director <•••@••.•••>
Daniel Weitzner, Deputy Director <•••@••.•••>



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End Policy Post 2.5                                        2/1/96


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