Re: cr> re: the Wiesenthal statement


Craig A. Johnson

Date: Fri, 12 Jan 1996
Sender: Craig A. Johnson <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Re: Hate and the Net (fwd)  [was: IP:  Stokey Il yet again]

A point of clarification.

Joel Rosenberg wrote:

> At  Craig A. Johnson wrote:
> >Jewish Group Seeks Internet Restraints
> ~--<snip of quoted material>--~


I did not express any view, editorially or otherwise on this excerpt 
from Peter Lewis' article in the New York Times.

But, having said that, I agree with Joel that "ISPs have the right to 
discriminate..."  Nevertheless, this discrimination is properly 
labeled censorship.  Censorship does not only apply when the 
government invokes it; the point of Lewis' article is that censorship 
is a rapidly growing phenomenon in the private sector.

> The term censor, it seems to me, isn't appropriate.  ISPs, like
> anybody else, do have the right to discriminate, except against
> protected classes. Nazis and Klanners aren't protected classes.  If
> ISPs discriminated against the hate groups to the extent that
> getting net access became either impossible or nearly so, that would
> be censorship; if it merely becomes a bit more difficult for the
> hate groups to gain access, it isn't.
> The end result, at most, would be that hate groups would have to go
> to some additional trouble in order to have net access.  That's
> hardly censorship, and wouldn't exactly be the end of the world as
> we know it.

Joel's distinction regarding hate groups' Net access notwithstanding,
censorship exists when an official of a company or government
examines and screens material for the purpose of suppressing parts
deemed objectionable on moral, political, military, or other grounds.

It is important in these times not to assume that only what the 
government does should be considered censorship, as more and more 
private service providers get into the act of censoring objectionable 
material.  Compuserve, in the German case, invoked censorship merely 
because of an implicit threat of prosecution.

Rabbi Cooper certainly has a right to urge ISPs to censor.  He does
so by stating they have "a First Amendment right and a moral
obligation."  Perhaps, but as abhorrent as the messages of these
hate groups are, I tend to come down on the side of the ACLU on
these questions:  The only solution to hate speech is more speech.


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Craig A. Johnson
Telecommunications/Information Policy Specialist
Transnational Data Reporting Service, Inc.