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Subject:Censorship and Technical Communicators From:John Gear <catalyst -at- PACIFIER -dot- COM> Date:Wed, 6 Dec 1995 21:45:00 PST
While I am loathe to post political content to this list I feel I must post
the message below because of the dire consequences of this measure for
technical communicators. If you are a U.S. citizen and a technical
communicator I advise you to contact the White House immediately and demand
a veto of the telecommunications "reform" act.
If you think "I document software, this has nothing to do with me, remember,
censorship *always* begins with the SOBs -- and then, once in place, grows
to encompass many others whose thoughts are not acceptable to the guardians
And always remember, Galileo was *not* punished for his work -- the church
leadership already accepted Copernican theory. . . Galileo was punished,
threatened with torture, and locked up for *publishing* his work where the
masses could get it.
My apologies to the many of you who are not in the U.S. for the waste of
>CDT Policy Post No. 32 -- Broad Net-Censorship Proposal Approved
>Date: Wed, 6 Dec 1995 13:51:25 -0500
>To: fight-censorship+ -at- andrew -dot- cmu -dot- edu
>From: editor -at- cdt -dot- org (editor -at- cdt -dot- org)
>CONTENTS: (1) House Conferees Approve Sweeping Net-Censorship Proposal
> * White Proposal Approved, Then Gutted by Religious Conservatives
> * 2 Liberal Democrats Abandon the First Amendment
> * Senate Passage Expected Without Substantial Amendment
> * Court Challenge Likely
> (2) How To Subscribe To The CDT Policy Post Distribution List
> (3) About CDT, Contacting Us
>This document may be re-distributed freely provided it remains in its
>entirety. Excerpts may be re-posted by permission (editor -at- cdt -dot- org)
>(1) HOUSE CONFEREES APPROVE SWEEPING NET-CENSORSHIP PROPOSAL
>By a razor thin margin, members of the House Conference Committee on
>Telecommunications Reform have approved a broad proposal to censor
>constitutionally protected speech on the Internet. The provisions adopted
>today would make the Internet and Interactive media the most heavily
>regulated medium in the United States, and severely threaten the future of
>free expression and democratic values in the information age.
>The proposal, if agreed to by the full conference committee, would impose
>$100,000 fines and prison terms for anyone who posts any "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, rap lyrics, in a public forum.
>CDT strongly opposes the legislation agreed to by the House conferees
>today. We believe this proposal threatens the very existence of the
>Internet as a means for free expression, education, and political
>discourse. The proposal is an unwarranted, unconstitutional intrusion by
>the Federal government into the private lives of all Americans.
>Indecent material is constitutionally protected speech which the Supreme
>Court has ruled can only be restrictive through the "least restrictive
>means". Material that has been considered "indecent" has included, among
>* The so-called "7 dirty words"
>* The Catcher In The Rye
>* Sex and AIDS Education literature
>* Photographic, sculpted, and painted images of nudes
>* Rap Lyrics
>Posting any of the above materials in a public forum would be illegal under
>the provision approved today. Although it is unrealistic to expect that
>Federal law enforcement has the resources to go after each and every
>violation, the threat of $100,000 fines and 2 year prison sentences will
>result in a severe chilling effect over all online communications.
>CDT will devote all our efforts in the coming weeks to ensure that the full
>conference committee does not endorse the approach approved today by the
>House. We are also committed to fighting this battle all the way to the
>Supreme Court, if necessary, to ensure that these provisions are
>The text of the proposal will be placed on CDT's net-censorship web page
>(URL below) as soon as it's available. CDT will also post a detailed
>analysis of the bill soon.
>WHITE PROPOSAL ADOPTED, THEN AMENDED TO INCLUDE INDECENCY STANDARD
>2 LIBERAL DEMOCRATS TIP THE SCALES IN FAVOR OF RELIGIOUS-RIGHT
>At today's meeting of the House and Senate Conference Committee members,
>Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL) offered his proposal to prohibit the transmission
>and display of indecent material online, and grant the FCC new authority to
>regulate the Internet. As expected, Rep. Rick White (R-WA) offered his
>alternative, based on the narrow and constitutional "harmful to minors"
>standard and provisions to encourage parental control, not government
>censorship. The House conferees then adjourned to a private room, away from
>the press and television cameras, to vote.
>The Conferees voted 20 - 13 to accept the White proposal. However, Rep.
>Goodlatte (R-VA) offered an amendment to substitute "indecency" for the
>"harmful to minors" standard in the White proposal. The Goodlatte amendment
>was approved on a vote of 17 - 16 and the "harmful to minors" standard was
>replaced by the blatantly unconstitutional "indecency standard".
>Representative White did NOT vote for the Goodlatte amendment.
>Amazingly, two traditionally liberal democrats, Reps. Pat Schroeder (D-CO)
>and John Conyers (D-MI) voted for the "indecency" standard! Had either of
>these members voted the other way, libraries, schools, and even parents who
>allow children to access the text of The Catcher In The Rye online would
>not now face $100,000 fines and prison sentences. Schroeder and Conyers
>should be ashamed of themselves for not standing up for freedom of speech
>and democratic values at such a critical moment, and for assisting the
>campaign of religious conservatives to impose their moral values on the
>Internet without regard for long-standing constitutional principals.
>Representative White should be commended for his efforts to craft a
>constitutional proposal which preserved freedom of speech and relied on
>user empowerment over government control of online content. He deserves
>great credit for his commitment to protecting the Internet and preserving
>freedom of speech, and his willingness to stand up to religious
>conservatives. Unfortunately, the critical element of his proposal which
>made it constitutional was removed over White's objections.
>The provision approved today by the committee is similar to the Exon/Coats
>CDA in that it relies on the "indecency" standard and contains defenses for
>online service providers. The Senate is likely to adopt the proposal with
>only minor changes. Senator Exon expressed optimism at today's conference
>committee meeting that the issue would be resolved soon, perhaps as early
>The Senate conferees are reviewing the language agreed to today by the
>House conferees. The House and Senate must each agree on the provisions
>before the final bill can be voted on. CDT will keep you informed of
>developments on this issue as they occur.