Triple Barreled Challenge to Censors [cr-951210]


Richard Moore

>From: "Craig A. Johnson" <•••@••.•••>
Date:          Sat, 9 Dec 1995
Subject:       Triple Barreled Challenge to Censors
CC: •••@••.•••, •••@••.•••, •••@••.•••,

SUBJECT: Triple-Barreled Challenge To Online Censors (long)

     BY: Felix Kramer

(please redistribute freely)

Onliners pose triple-barreled challenge to proposed muzzle bill
Urge Congressional reversal, Presidential veto and Internet mutiny

LOS ANGELES, Calif., December 8 -- The editor of the nation's first
all-digital daily newspaper threatened on Thursday to deliberately
defy the language of a U.S. House cyberporn proposal if it becomes
law, calling the measure a clear violation of the First Amendment.

And the president of the company which links that digital daily to the
Internet said the measure, if enacted by Congress and signed by
President Clinton, would threaten the future of the Internet as the
emerging global information marketplace.

"The survival of free speech on the Internet is more important than
even the survival of this newspaper, and we will risk its very
existence to fight for a principle in which we fully believe," said
Joe Shea, Editor-in-Chief of The American Reporter, a 10-month-old
daily which is published only on the Internet and its World Wide Web.

The paper will publish an "indecent" article to be written by Texas
criminal court judge Stephen Russell in order to violate the proposed
law, and then go into court to defend its right to do so under the
First Amendment, Shea said.

Newshare Corp., which has hosted The American Reporter at its web site
since shortly after the daily's inception on April 10, said as the
cyberpaper's common carrier, it would not block Shea's efforts but
would not endorse them either.

"We are akin to the voice carriers," said Bill Densmore, president of
Newshare, the Internet's first news brokerage. "If we can be held
liable for the publication of protected speech, then how long will it
be before AT&T, Sprint and MCI are paying fines for what people say on
the phone?"

Both Shea and Densmore urged a reversal vote in the joint House-Senate
conference or during expected subsequent votes in the House and
Senate. Densmore and Shea said they would communicate their position
to the Majority and Minority Leaders of both houses.

Failing that, Densmore and Shea urged the president to veto the entire
telecommunications bill.

"The effects of this bill would be sufficiently destructive to merit
sending lawmakers back until they come up with a solution that doesn't
kill the Internet for publishers by making it the most heavily
regulated medium in the United States," Shea and Densmore said in a
joint statement. "The best Internet censor is a loving and attentive

In the event the bill is enacted, the American Reporter's Joe Shea
pledged, "I will post material that courts have considered "indecent."
Last summer, at the time of the passage of the Exon Amendment in the
Senate Joe Shea promised to challenge the law if enacted, and received
considerable support.

Since that time, Judge Stephen Russell of Texas agreed to write the
"indecent" article Shea had vowed to publish if the bill becomes law,
and Randall Boe, an attorney with the large Washington, D.C. law firm
Arent Fox, Kintner, Plotkin & Kahn, a distinguished First Amendment
proponent that litigated the "Seven Dirty Words" case, agreed to
represent The American Reporter in an action that would be pursued all
the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, if necessary, to overturn it. Now,
Shea has dusted off the plan to attack the current proposed wording of
the law. For Shea's editorial on the subject, see

To enable a joint initial challenge to the law, Shea has already
contacted other editors and publishers, and he volunteered the
American Reporter's Web site as a place to announce links to other
sites that publicly repost his or similar material. (This site is
hosted by Newshare, which, said Densmore, "will act as The American
Reporter's First Amendment printing press.") In doing so under the new
law, the publishers could be subject to $100,000 fines and two-year
prison sentences.

Newshare published in June a policy on parental control over online
materials (found at <> in
which it declared that publishers should ask users whether they wish
objectionable material blocked, and content providers the should
decide what to flag as offensive .

"A publisher who fails to label such material should be punished by
the public through the marketplace, not by Big Brother in Washington,"
said Densmore. "The Internet is not a form of broadcasting, where the
government may justify censorship, as it does on the airwaves, in the
name of protecting the public. Congress' deliberations reflect a
fundamental misunderstanding of the future of the Internet as a source
of personalized information and commerce."

In condemning the House Conference Committee's narrow vote to censor
constitutionally protected speech online, Densmore and Shea noted the
last-minute substitution of the vague and overly broad "indecency"
criterion supported by the Christian Coalition instead of the original
"harmful to minors" standard contained in the previous proposal.

Densmore's letter to Rep. Rick White on the impact of the law on
publishing businesses online can be found at

Williamstown, Massachusetts-based Newshare Corporation, Internet's
first news brokerage, enables the by-subscription and charge-per-page
delivery (via billable hypertext links) of news and time-sensitive
information by publishers, broadcasters and entrepreneurs to users of
the World Wide Web. In the coming months, Newshare will release the
Clickshare(sm) System that tracks movements and settles charges for
digital transactions -- down to as little as 10 cents per query -- as
users jump among multiple unrelated Web sites. For more, go to
<> or <>.

Los Angeles, California-based The American Reporter is a five-day-per
week electronic "newshare" owned by the writers whose work it
features. It was founded to give journalists around the world an
opportunity to have a financial stake in their own work. Each story
carried by The American Reporter earns equity for the correspondent in
future profits from advertising and subscriptions, and revenue when
their stories sell to other newspapers. For more go to

The text you are reading will soon be available at

For the latest on the bill, send email to <•••@••.•••> or go to
one of these web sites: <> Center for
Democracy and Technology (public interest group) <>
Voters Telecommunications Watch (public interest group)
<> Alliance for Competitive Telecommunications
(regional phone companies' update page)

Joe Shea, The American Reporter, <•••@••.•••>
Felix Kramer, Newshare Corp., •••@••.•••, 212/866-4864
Bill Densmore, Newshare Corp., •••@••.•••, 413/458-8001

--  --  --  --  --  --  --  --  --  --  --  --  --  --  --
Felix Kramer/Kramer Communications       •••@••.•••
web: (now with 1,000 bookmarks)
  Online promotion & marketing / web-site development
--  --  --  --  --  --  --  --  --  --  --  --  --  --  --


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

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