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Religious Right Threatens to Shut Down Net: Call NOW
Here are the advocacy instructions for individuals opposed to the Federal
Online Indecency Legislation that we promised last week.
CAMPAIGN TO STOP THE EXON/COATS COMMUNICATIONS DECENCY ACT
(SEE THE LIST OF CAMPAIGN COALITION MEMBERS AT THE END)
Update: -Latest News:
The Christian Coalition is pushing Congress to censor
the net more heavily than even Sen. J.J. Exon ever imagined.
There is the very real possibility that they may succeed.
You should be very worried. We are.
-What You Can Do Now:
Follow the directions below and call House Speaker
Gingrich and Senate Leader Dole. Implore them
to allow parents to make choices for their children, instead
of government censors.
Volunteer to join the fight by helping organize in your
CAMPAIGN TO STOP THE UNCONSTITUTIONAL COMMUNICATIONS DECENCY ACT
Nov 2, 1995
PLEASE WIDELY REDISTRIBUTE THIS DOCUMENT WITH THIS BANNER INTACT
REDISTRIBUTE ONLY UNTIL December 1, 1995
REPRODUCE THIS ALERT ONLY IN RELEVANT FORUMS
The Latest News
What You Can Do Now
The letter from Ed Meese and the Christian Right
Chronology of the CDA
For More Information
List Of Participating Organizations
THE LATEST NEWS
Since the very first day that Senator J.J. Exon (D-NE) proposed censorship
legislation for the Internet, the Christian Right has pushed for the most
restrictive regulations they could think of.
The Religious Right (which does not necessarily speak for all religious
people concerned with this issue) recently tipped their hand in a letter
to Sen. Larry Pressler (R-SD) and Rep. Thomas Bliley (R-VA) requesting
a new and more restrictive net censorship proposal.
There are essentially three new dangerous elements of their campaign
to shut down cyberspace:
INTERNET PROVIDERS, ONLINE SERVICES, AND LIBRARIES CRIMINALLY LIABLE FOR
The Religious Right has proposed to hold anyone who provides access to the
Internet or other interactive media, including online services providers,
ISP's, BBS's, Libraries, and Schools, criminally liable for all speech
carried on the network.
In order to avoid liability under this provision, service providers would be
forced to monitor user's electronic communications to be assured that
no "indecent" material is transmitted across their networks.
This proposal is MORE RESTRICTIVE than the Exon Communications Decency Act,
or any other net censorship legislation currently in Congress.
In their letter to Congress, the Religious Right says:
[Providers] would simply be required to avoid KNOWING violations of
the law. [emphasis added]
However, the "knowing" standard is vague enough that the mere knowledge
that such material exists could be sufficient to trigger criminal liability.
A single complaint or even a news report could force a service provider to
take down a web page, remove posts to chat rooms or other discussion
forums, or shut down listservs in order to avoid going to jail and facing
A STANDARD FOR INDECENCY
The proposals pushed by the Christian Coalition relies on the
unconstitutional "indecency standard". Like the Exon Communications
Decency Act, the Christian Coalition seeks to regulate all indecent
Indecency is a broad category that includes everything from George Carlin's
"seven dirty words" to such classic novels and "The Catcher in the Rye" and
"Lady Chatterly's Lover".
The Supreme Court has ruled that restrictions on indecent speech are
Constitutional only if they rely on the "least restrictive means". Broad
indecency restrictions on interactive media do not satisfy the "least
restrictive means" test, because interactive media allows users and
parents tremendous control over the information they receive.
Any legislation which attempts to apply an indecency restriction to the
Internet is unconstitutional on its face.
The Christian Coalition's proposal that relies on an indecency
restriction contemplates dumbing down every conversation, web page,
newsgroup, and mailing list on the Internet to the level of what is
not offensive to children.
What kind of discussions between adults are possible in an arena
where everything has been reduced to the level of the Lion King?
UNPRECEDENTED CONTROL OVER ONLINE SPEECH FOR THE FCC
The Christian Coalition would give the FCC broad jurisdiction over
cyberspace. It would allow the FCC jurisdiction over your online
speech, and over the design Internet software, such as web browsers and
filtering programs that parents can use to control their children's
access to the Internet.
The Internet has developed from a government project to a market-driven
economic boom for thousands of businesses. Giving the FCC authority over
this medium would significantly hinder the growth of this new industry.
WHAT YOU CAN DO NOW
1. The proposals from the Religious Right will literally destroy online
speech as we know it. The odds of stopping this are not certain.
There is a very real chance that this legislation will pass, and
we will experience a period of uncertainty and chilling of speech
while an appropriate test case attempts to reach the Supreme Court
(should it even get there!)
The Religious Right has a strong grass-roots network. We need to
counter their energy and ensure cyberspace is not lost due to them.
IMMEDIATELY CALL House Speaker Gingrich (R-GA) and Senate Leader
Dole (R-KS) and urge them to oppose the Christian Coalition's
Name, Address, and Party Phone Fax
======================== ============== ==============
R GA Gingrich, Newt 1-202-225-4501 1-202-225-4656
R KS Dole, Robert 1-202-224-6521 1-202-224-8952
If you're at a loss for words, try one of the following:
Please oppose the recent proposal from the Religious Right to
censor the Internet. The only effective way to address children's
access to the Internet is through parental control tools outlined
by the Cox/White/Wyden approach.
As a religious person and a parent, I oppose the Religious Right's
attempts to censor the Internet. I am the best person to monitor
my child's access to the Internet using parental control tools
as outlined in the Cox/White/Wyden approach.
2. Join the online fight by becoming a volunteer for your district!
Check to see if you're legislator is in the list below. If they are
not, consult the free ZIPPER service that matches Zip Codes to
Congressional districts with about 85% accuracy at:
The conference committee legislators are:
House: Barr (R-GA), Barton (R-TX), Berman (R-CA), Bliley (R-VA),
Boucher (D-VA), Brown (D-OH), Bryant (D-TX), Buyer (R-IN),
Conyers (D-MI), Dingell (D-MI), Eshoo (D-CA), Fields (R-TX),
Flanagan (R-IL), Frisa (R-NY), Gallegly (R-CA), Goodlatte (R-VA),
Gordon (D-TN), Hastert (R-IL), Hoke (R-OH), Hyde (R-IL),
Jackson-Lee (D-TX), Klug (R-WI), Lincoln (D-AR), Markey (D-MA),
Moorhead (R-CA), Oxley (R-OH), Paxon (R-NY), Rush (D-IL),
Schaefer (R-CO), Schroeder (D-CO), Scott (D-VA), Stearns (R-FL),
Senate: Burns (R-MT), Exon (D-NE), Ford (D-KY), Gorton (R-WA),
Hollings (D-SC), Inouye (D-HI), Lott (R-MS), McCain (R-AZ),
Pressler (R-SD), Rockefeller (D-WV), Stevens (R-AK)
If your legislator is on the conference committee, you have a chance
to influence their vote on this issue with your power as a constituent.
Volunteer to help educate your legislator by sending mail to
[email protected] A coalition volunteer will be in touch with you.
You can starting working to help spread the word in your district by
sending this letter to five friends. Ask them to call Dole and Gingrich
3. The People for the American Way (PFAW) and the American Civil Liberties
Union are organizing a letter from ORGANIZATIONS to the Conference
Committee to oppose the censorship provisions.
If you are a representative of an organization that would like to
signon to this letter, you should contact [email protected] IMMEDIATELY.
4. We can't suggest relaxing at this point. The stakes are too high, and
the risk is too great. Everything now hangs in the balance.
THE LETTER FROM ED MEESE AND THE CHRISTIAN RIGHT
October 16, 1995
The Honorable Thomas J. Bliley, Jr. Chairman
Committee on Commerce
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
The Honorable Larry Pressler, Chairman
Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
Re: Computer Pornography Provisions in Telecommunications Bill
Dear Mr. Chairmen:
We are writing to urge the conference committee seeking to reconcile the
telecommunications bills passed by the House and Senate include in the
final bill the strongest possible criminal law provisions to address the
growing and immediate problem of computer pornography without any
exemptions, defenses, or political favors of any kind accorded to those
who knowingly participate in the distribution of obscenity to anyone or
indecency to children. While there is no perfect solution to the problem
of computer pornography, Congress could not hope to solve this problem by
holding liable only some who are responsible for the problem.
The recent Justice Department prosecution project targeting those who
violated federal child pornography law using America On-Line is
instructive in this regard. More than ninety individuals were targeted for
prosecution although many others, perhaps as many as 3,000 according to
one press report, were originally targeted by the Department of Justice as
potential violators of child pornography laws. Apparently due to a
shortage of investigative and prosecutorial resources, the project was
limited. Since there are insufficient resources to investigate and
prosecute but a fraction of those that are trafficking in child
pornography by computer, then there will likely be even fewer resources
available to investigate and prosecute those involved in obscenity and
Thousands of individuals both in this country and abroad are regularly
placing obscenity and indecency on the Internet. It is not possible to
make anything more than a dent in the serious problem of computer
pornography if Congress is willing to hold liable only those who place
such material on the Internet while at the same time giving legal
exemptions or defenses to service or access providers who profit from and
are instrumental to the distribution of such material. The Justice
Department normally targest the major offenders of laws. In obscenity
cases prosecuted to date, it has targeted large companies which have been
responsible for the nationwide distribution of obscenity and who have made
large profits by violating federal laws. Prosecution of such companies has
made a substantial impact in curbing the distribution of obscenity, with
many such offenders going out of business altogether. So too will
prosecution of access providers which _knowingly_ traffic in obscenity
have a substantial impact, a far greater impact than just the prosecution
of a person who places one or a few prohibited images on the Internet.
Such a person could not traffic in pornography without the aid or
facilitation of the service or access providers. Indeed, if Congress
includes provisions protecting access or service providers in whatever
bill is finally passed, it is likely that most in this country who are
trafficking in indecency to children or obscenity would continue to do so
since the threat of prosecution would be minuscule, given the numbers of
those currently involved in this activity. It is also likely that those
outside our country who are engaged in these activities would continue to
do so since it would be nearly impossible to extradite them to the United
States for prosecution. Thus, unless all who knowingly participate in such
matters are subject to the law, the Internet will remain the same and
Congress will have failed in its responsibilities to the children and
families of America.
Federal law has traditionally assigned equal liability both for those who
commit a crime and those who aid and abet a crime. See Title 18 U.S.C.
Code Section 2: "(a) whoever [sic] commits an offense against the United
States or aids, abets, councils [sic], commands, induces, or procures its
commission, is punishable as a principle [sic]." Service or access
providers who knowingly participate in the distribution of indecency to
children or in obscenity to anyone are aiders and abettors in the
commission of those crimes and thus should have liability under any law
Congress passes. Current federal law on child pornography provides no no
exemption or defense for access providers. Thus, the child pornography law
provides a strong deterrent against trafficking in child pornography for
those who would otherwise knowingly participate in its distribution by
computer whether pedophile or access provider.
The changes in law which we support would not hold an access provider
criminally liable for all illegal pornography on the Internet which their
services may be used to obtain. Nor would it require that access providers
check all communications to ensure that no violations of the law are
occurring. They would simply be required to avoid knowing violations of
the law. This is an obligation imposed on all citizens. Technology exists
today for access providers, through a simple process, to target or flag
and remove files containing objectionable material.
We support the House-passed language insofar as it addresses obscenity by
amendment Title 18, Sections 1462, 1465, and 1467 of the United States
Code. The provision restricting transmission of indecency in the House-passed
bill, an amendment to Section 1465, is inadequate, and we urge that it be
Attached is the specific language we support which includes the House
passed language on obscenity and includes revisions on both the House
passed language on indecency, which would amend Title 18 and the
Senate-passed language on indecency, which would amend Title 47. The
combination of these provisions, we believe, would provide effective laws
to curb obscenity and indecency on the Internet by establishing that all
who knowingly participate in the distribution or facilitation of obscenity
to anyone or indecency to children would be subject to the law.
Thank you for your concern and attention to this matter.
Edwin Meese III
Donald E. Wildmon
American Family Association
Alan Sears, Former Executive Director
Atty General's Commission on Pornography
Concerned Women for America
Reverend Louis P. Sheldon
Traditional Values Coalition
American Center for Law and Justice
Free Congress Foundation
Morality in Media
National Family Legal Foundation
Morality in Media
Former United States Attorney, N.D., FL
Former Chairman, Atty General's Advisory Committee
Subcommittee on Child Exploitation and Obscenity
Section 1465 of Title 18, United States Code, is amended to punish
distribution by computer of indecent material to minors by adding at the
end the following:
Whoever knowingly communicates, transmits, or makes available for
communication or transmission, in or effecting interstate or foreign
commerce an indecent communication by computer to any person the
communicator or transmitter believes has not attained the age of 18 years
of age, knowing that such communication will be obtained by a person
believed to be under 18 years of age, shall be fined under this title or
imprisoned not more than five years, or both.
TITLE IV -- OBSCENE, HARASSING, AND WRONGFUL UTILIZATION OF
SEC. 401. SHORT TITLE
This title may be cited as the "Communications Decency Act of
Sec. 402. OBSCENE OR HARASSING USE OF TELECOMMUNICATIONS FACILITIES UNDER
THE COMMUNICATIONS ACT OF 1934
Section 223 (47 U.S.C. 223) is amended --
(1) by striking subsection (a) and inserting in lieu of [sic]:
``(1) in the District of Columbia or in interstate or foreign
``(A) by means of telecommunications device knowingly--
``(i) makes, creates, or solicits, and
``(ii) initiates the transmission of,
any comment, request, suggestion, proposal, image, or other
communication which is obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, or
indecent, with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass
``(B) makes a telephone call or utilizes a
telecommunications device, whether or not conversation or
communication ensues, without disclosing his identity and
with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass any person
at the called number or who receives the communication;
``(C) makes or causes the telephone of another repeatedly
or continuously to ring, with intent to harass any person at
the called number; or
``(D) makes repeated telephone calls or repeatedly
initiates communication with a telecommunications device,
during which conversation or communication ensues, solely to
harass any person at the called number or who receives the
``(2) knowingly permits any telecommunications facility
under his control to be used for any activity prohibited by
paragraph (1) with the intent that it be used for
shall be fined not more than $100,000 or imprisoned not more
than two years, or both.''; and
(2) by adding at the end the following new subsections:
``(1) knowingly within the United States or in foreign
communications with the United States by means of
telecommunications device makes or makes available any
indecent communication in any form including any comment,
request, suggestion, proposal, or image, to any person under
18 years of age regardless of whether the
maker of such communication placed the call or initiated the
``(2) knowingly permits any telecommunications facility
under such person's control to be used for an activity
prohibited by paragraph (1) with the intent that it be
used for such activity,
shall be fined not more than $100,000 or imprisoned not more
than two years or both.
``(e) Defenses to subsections (a) and (d), restrictions on
access, judicial remedies respecting restrictions for
persons providing information services and
access to information services--
"(1) It is a defense to prosecution that a person has complied
with regulations designed to restrict access to indecent
communications to those 18 years old or older as enacted by the
Federal Communications Commission which shall prepare final
regulations within 120 days of the passage of this bill. Until
such regulations become effective, it is a defense to
prosecution that the person has blocked or restricted access
to indecent communications to any person under 18 years
of age through the use of verified credit card, adult access
code, or adult personal identification number (PIN).
Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to treat
enhanced information services as common carriage."
"(2) No cause of action may be brought in any
court or any administrative agency against any person on account
of any activity which is not in violation of any law punishable
by criminal or civil penalty, which activity the person has taken in
good faith to implement a defense authorized under this section or
otherwise to restrict or prevent the transmission of, or access to,
a communication specified in this section.
(f) Nothing in this subsection shall preclude any State or
local government from enacting and enforcing laws and regulations
which do not result in the imposition of inconsistent obligations on
the provision of interstate services. Nothing in this subsection
shall preclude any State or local government from governing conduct
not covered by subsection (d)(2)."
(g) Nothing in subsection (a), (d), or (e) or in the
defenses to prosecution under (e) shall be construed
to affect or limit the application or enforcement of any other
(h) The use of the term 'telecommunications device' in this
section shall not impose new obligations on (one-way) broadcast
radio or (one-way) broadcast television operators licensed by the
Commission or (one-way) cable services registered with the
Federal Communications Commission and covered by obscenity and
indecency provisions elsewhere in this Act.
Sec. 403. OBSCENE PROGRAMMING ON CABLE TELEVISION.
Section 639 (47 U.S.C. 559) is amended by striking "10,000" and
Sec. 404. BROADCASTING OBSCENE LANGUAGE ON THE RADIO.
Section 1466 of Title 18, United States Code, is amended by
striking out "$10,000" and inserting "$100,000".
Sec. 405 SEPARABILITY
"(a) If any provision of this Title, including amendments to this
Title of [sic] the application thereof to any person or circumstance is
held invalid, the remainder of this Title and the application of such
provision to other persons or circumstances shall not be affected
CHRONOLOGY OF THE COMMUNICATIONS DECENCY ACT
Sep 26, '95 Sen. Russ Feingold urges committee members to drop
Managers Amendment and the CDA from the Telecommunications
Aug 4, '95 House passes HR1555 which goes into conference with S652.
Aug 4, '95 House votes to attach Managers Amendment (which contains
new criminal penalties for speech online) to
Telecommunications Reform bill (HR1555).
Aug 4, '95 House votes 421-4 to attach HR1978 to Telecommunications
Reform bill (HR1555).
Jun 30, '95 Cox and Wyden introduce the "Internet Freedom and Family
Empowerment Act" (HR 1978) as an alternative to the CDA.
Jun 21, '95 Several prominent House members publicly announce their
opposition to the CDA, including Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-GA),
Rep. Chris Cox (R-CA), and Rep. Ron Wyden (D-OR).
Jun 14, '95 The Senate passes the CDA as attached to the Telecomm
reform bill (S 652) by a vote of 84-16. The Leahy bill
(S 714) is not passed.
May 24, '95 The House Telecomm Reform bill (HR 1555) leaves committee
in the House with the Leahy alternative attached to it,
thanks to Rep. Ron Klink of (D-PA). The Communications
Decency Act is not attached to it.
Apr 7, '95 Sen. Leahy (D-VT) introduces S.714, an alternative to
the Exon/Gorton bill, which commissions the Dept. of
Justice to study the problem to see if additional legislation
(such as the CDA) is necessary.
Mar 23, '95 S314 amended and attached to the telecommunications reform
bill by Sen. Gorton (R-WA). Language provides some provider
protection, but continues to infringe upon email privacy
and free speech.
Feb 21, '95 HR1004 referred to the House Commerce and Judiciary
Feb 21, '95 HR1004 introduced by Rep. Johnson (D-SD)
Feb 1, '95 S314 referred to the Senate Commerce committee
Feb 1, '95 S314 introduced by Sen. Exon (D-NE) and Gorton (R-WA).
FOR MORE INFORMATION
[email protected] (put "send alert" in the subject line for the latest
alert, or "send cdafaq" for the CDA FAQ)
[email protected] (General CDA information)
[email protected] (Current status of the CDA)
LIST OF PARTICIPATING ORGANIZATIONS
In order to use the net more effectively, several organizations have
joined forces on a single Congressional net campaign to stop the
Communications Decency Act.
American Civil Liberties Union * American Communication Association *
American Council for the Arts * Arts & Technology Society * Association
of Alternative Newsweeklies * biancaTroll productions * Boston
Coalition for Freedom of Expression * Californians Against Censorship
Together * Center For Democracy And Technology * Centre for Democratic
Communications * Center for Public Representation * Citizen's Voice -
New Zealand * Cloud 9 Internet *Computer Communicators Association *
Computel Network Services * Computer Professionals for Social
Responsibility * Cross Connection * Cyber-Rights Campaign * CyberQueer
Lounge * Dutch Digital Citizens' Movement * ECHO Communications Group,
Inc. * Electronic Frontier Canada * Electronic Frontier Foundation *
Electronic Frontier Foundation - Austin * Electronic Frontiers
Australia * Electronic Frontiers Houston * Electronic Frontiers New
Hampshire * Electronic Privacy Information Center * Feminists For Free
Expression * First Amendment Teach-In * Florida Coalition Against
Censorship * FranceCom, Inc. Web Advertising Services * Friendly
Anti-Censorship Taskforce for Students * Hands Off! The Net * Inland
Book Company * Inner Circle Technologies, Inc. * Inst. for Global
Communications * Internet On-Ramp, Inc. * Internet Users Consortium *
Joint Artists' and Music Promotions Political Action Committee * The
Libertarian Party * Marijuana Policy Project * Metropolitan Data
Networks Ltd. * MindVox * MN Grassroots Party * National Bicycle
Greenway * National Campaign for Freedom of Expression * National
Coalition Against Censorship * National Gay and Lesbian Task Force *
National Public Telecomputing Network * National Writers Union * Oregon
Coast RISC * Panix Public Access Internet * People for the American Way
* Republican Liberty Caucus * Rock Out Censorship * Society for
Electronic Access * The Thing International BBS Network * The WELL *
Voters Telecommunications Watch
(Note: All 'Electronic Frontier' organizations are independent entities,
not EFF chapters or divisions.)