EFFector Online Volume 08 No. 20

Dec 9, 1995
A Publication of the Electronic Frontier Foundation
ISSN 1062-9424

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EFF Alerts

In This Issue:

ALERT: Mon. - Internet Censorship Protest Rally in San Francisco

Spread the word!


Amendment I: "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble."

It's like illiterates telling you what to read. On December 6 members of the House Conference Committee on Telecommunications Reform approved a proposal to censor free speech in cyberspace. If the measures are adopted, the Net and online media will become the most heavily regulated media in the United States. They will not enjoy the First Amendment freedoms now afforded to print media. Instead, online publishers and users will be held to a vague and patently un-Constitutional "indecency" standard. "Violators" will be subject to fines of up to $100,000 and prison terms of up to five years.

In response, ALL members of the Bay Area media, online, Internet, new media, and telecommunications communities are invited to participate in a protest rally to express our outrage that the politicians in Congress (which is not even connected to the Internet!) are attempting to destroy our First Amendment rights in cyberspace, and directly attack our livelihoods.

Help stop the demagogs in Washington! There is nothing "decent" about denying free speech to us, our children, and our children's children. Preserve our Constitutional rights! Join us!

WHEN: Monday, December 11, 1995 12:00 - 1:00 PM (PST)

WHERE: South Park (between 2nd and 3rd, Bryant and Brannon) San Francisco.

SPEAKERS: To be announced [including John Gilmore, Jim Warren, Dave Winer, Mike Godwin, Howard Rheingold]

BRING: Attention-grabbing posters, signs, and banners that demonstrate your committment to free speech and expression, and your feelings about Congress.

FOR UPDATED INFORMATION: http://www.hotwired.com/staff/digaman

(Although this event is being organized in the offices of Wired magazine and HotWired, we are actively seeking participation and support from all members of the local community. Please forward this message to anyone you think should attend, and to all relevant news groups.)

CONTACT: Todd Lappin -- 415-222-6241 -- protest@wired.com

Return to the Table of Contents

ALERT Tue. - Global Internet Day of Protest Against Censorship Bills

EFF has joined forces with the ACLU, CDT, EPIC, VTW, and other free speech groups to organize a National Day of Protest on Tuesday, December 12, 1995, against Congressional attempts to censor the Internet.

We hope you will join us and hundreds of thousands of your fellow net.citizens in this effort.

Congress is expected to cast a final vote on this issue next week. The fate of the Internet as a viable medium for free expression, education, and commerce hangs in the balance.

Please take a moment to read the attached alert and get ready to flood Capitol Hill with phone calls, faxes, and email messages on Tuesday. Please also forward this alert to all of your wired friends.

Together we can make a difference. And we cannot afford to fail at this.


On Tuesday December 12, 1995, Join With Hundreds of Thousands Of Your Fellow Internet Users In




  • Internet Day of Protest: Tuesday December 12, 1995
  • What You Must Do On Tuesday December 12, 1995
  • List of Participating Organizations
  • Where Can I Learn More?

    Subject: Internet Day of Protest: Tuesday December 12, 1995

    Outrageous proposals to censor the Internet demand that the Internet Community take swift and immediate action. We must stand up and let Congress know that we will not tolerate their attempts to destroy this medium! Please join hundreds of thousands of your fellow citizens in a National Day of Protest on Tuesday December 12, 1995.

    As you know, on Wednesday December 6, 1995, the House Conference Committee on Telecommunications Reform voted to impose far reaching and unconstitutional "indecency" restrictions on the Internet and other interactive media, including large commercial online services (such as America Online, Compuserve, and Prodigy) and smaller Internet Service Providers such as Panix, the Well, Echo, and Mindvox.

    These restrictions threaten the very existence of the Internet and interactive media as a viable medium for free expression, education, commerce. If enacted, the Internet as we know it will never be the same.

    Libraries will not be able to put any books online that might offend a child somewhere. No "Catcher in the Rye" or "Ulysses" on the net. Internet Service Providers could face criminal penalties for allowing children to subscribe to their Internet Services, forcing many small companies to simply refuse to sell their services to anyone under 18. Worst of all, everything you say and publish on the net will have to be "dumbed down" to that which is acceptable to a child.

    As Internet users, we simply must not allow this assault against the Internet and our most basic freedoms to go unchallenged.

    On Tuesday December 12, the organizations below are urging you to join us in a NATIONAL DAY OF PROTEST. The goal is to flood key members of the House and Senate with phone calls, faxes and email with the message that the Internet community WILL NOT TOLERATE Congressional attempts to destroy the Internet, limit our freedoms and trample on our rights.

    Below are the phone, fax, and email address of several key members of Congress on this issue and instructions on what you can do to join the National Day of Protest to save the Net.

    Subject: Internet Day of Protest: Tuesday December 12, 1995

    1. Throughout the day Tuesday December 12, please contact as many members of Congress on the list below as you can. If you are only able to make one call, contact House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Finally, if the Senator or Representative from your state is on the list below, be sure to contact him or her also.

    2. Urge each Member of Congress to "stop the madness". Tell them that they are about to pass legislation that will destroy the Internet as an educational and commercial medium. If you are at a loss for words, try the following sample communique:

    Sample phone call:

    Both the House and Senate bills designed to protect children from objectionable material on the Internet will actually destroy the Internet as an medium for education, commerce, and political discourse. There are other, less restrictive ways to address this issue.

    I urge you to oppose both measures being proposed in the conference committee. This is an important election issue to me.

    Sample letter (fax or email):

    The Senate conferees are considering ways to protect children from inappropriate material on the Internet. A vote for either the House or Senate proposals will result in the destruction of the Internet as a viable medium for free expression, education, commerce. Libraries will not be able to put their entire book collections online. Everyday people like me will risk massive fines and prison sentences for public discussions someone s somewhere might consider "indecent".

    There are other, less restrictive ways to protect children from objectionable material online. This is an important election issue to me.

    3. If you're in San Francisco, or near enough to get there, go to the Rally Against Censorship from Ground Zero of the Digital Revolution:

    WHEN: Monday, December 11, 1995 12:00 - 1:00 PM
    WHERE: South Park (between 2nd and 3rd, Bryant and Brannon) San Francisco.
    SPEAKERS:To be announced
    BRING: Attention-grabbing posters, signs, and banners that demonstrate your committment to free speech and expression, and your feelings about Congress.

    FOR UPDATED INFORMATION (including rain info): http://www.hotwired.com/staff/digaman/ THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT

    4. Mail a note to protest@vtw.org to let us know you did your part. Although you will not receive a reply due to the number of anticipated responses, we'll be counting up the number of people that participated in the day of protest.

    P ST Name and Address Phone Fax = == ======================== ============== ============== R AK Stevens, Ted 1-202-224-3004 1-202-224-1044 R AZ McCain, John 1-202-224-2235 1-602-952-8702 senator_mccain@mccain.senate.gov D HI Inouye, Daniel K. 1-202-224-3934 1-202-224-6747 R KS Dole, Robert 1-202-224-6521 1-202-228-1245 D KY Ford, Wendell H. 1-202-224-4343 1-202-224-0046 wendell_ford@ford.senate.gov R MS Lott, Trent 1-202-224-6253 1-202-224-2262 R MT Burns, Conrad R. 1-202-224-2644 1-202-224-8594 conrad_burns@burns.senate.gov D NE Exon, J. J. 1-202-224-4224 1-202-224-5213 D SC Hollings, Ernest F. 1-202-224-6121 1-202-224-4293 senator@hollings.senate.gov R SD Pressler, Larry 1-202-224-5842 1-202-224-1259 larry_pressler@pressler.senate.gov R WA Gorton, Slade 1-202-224-3441 1-202-224-9393 senator_gorton@gorton.senate.gov D WV Rockefeller, John D. 1-202-224-6472 n.a. senator@rockefeller.senate.gov Dist ST Name, Address, and Party Phone Fax ==== == ======================== ============== ============== 6 GA Gingrich, Newt (R) 1-202-225-4501 1-202-225-4656 2428 RHOB georgia6@hr.house.gov 14 MI Conyers Jr., John (D) 1-202-225-5126 1-202-225-0072 2426 RHOB jconyers@hr.house.gov 1 CO Schroeder, Patricia (D) 1-202-225-4431 1-202-225-5842 2307 RHOB 18 TX Jackson-Lee, Sheila (D) 1-202-225-3816 1-202-225-3317 1520 LHOB 6 TN Gordon, Bart (D) 1-202-225-4231 1-202-225-6887 2201 RHOB

    4. Forward this alert to all of your wired friends.

    Subject: Where Can I Learn More?

    At this moment, there are several organizations with WWW sites that now have, or will have, information about the net censorship legislation and the National Day Of Protest:

    American Civil Liberties Union (ftp://ftp.aclu.org/aclu/)
    Center for Democracy and Technology (http://www.cdt.org/)
    Electronic Frontier Foundation (http://www.eff.org/)
    Electronic Privacy Information Center (http://www.epic.org/)
    Wired Magazine (http://www.hotwired.com/special/indecent/)
    Voters Telecommunications Watch (http://www.vtw.org/)

    Subject: List of Participating Organisations

    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 * Dorsai Embassy * 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.)

    [Intro text adapted from CDT & VTW copies of the alert.]

    Return to the Table of Contents

    Subject: Update on Internet Censorship Bills

    The US House of Representatives members of the join conference committee working on the telecom bill passed, Dec. 5, a gutted version of the White amendment, that would criminalize "indecent" material online. The fight now moves to the Senate side of that committee, which is dominated by sponsors of unconstitutional censorship legislation. Needless to say, they are not expected to uphold the First Amendement.

    The larger Congress, however, may be another story. As public rallies and online protests gear up, civil liberties organizations including EFF are urging YOU to call your Senators and Representatives, as well as Dole and Gingrich as Congressional leaders, to express your opinions on this vital issue.

    According to an e-press release from American Reporter, this online-only daily newspaper "threatened on Thursday to deliberately defy the language of [the] U.S. House cyberporn proposal if it becomes law, calling the measure a clear violation of the First Amendment." Other individuals and organizations - including a judge - have similarly promised civil disobedience, with people almost literally lining up to challenge the bill in court should it pass. ACLU, EFF, and the National Writers Union, among others, have indicated interest in mounting legal challenges to any such censorship law.

    The Boston Globe reports that at least one legislator, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) is skeptical about the proposed new law. "Markey said there's a good chance Congress won't finish work on the overall telecommunications bill this year. Even if the bill is completed, a constitional challenge to the law is very likely. Besides, the law won't stop people outside the United States from posting pornography on the Internet." (from "Markey Says Parents Key to Cyberporn Fight", Hiawatha Bray, Boston Globe, Dec. 9).

    Elizabeth Corcoran & Mike Mills report in the Washington Post that Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-GA) intends to "narrow the scope" of the legislation, working with Rep. Rick White (R-WA), who's own proposal was gutted in the conference committee. The Post suggests that they will try to push the legislation back towards a "harmful to minors" (obscenity) standard, rather than the vague indecency standard expected to be reported out of the conf. committee early next week. Gingrich's plan would essentially force to be subject to at least some of the same tests as obscenity - material with cultural, literary or scientific value would be exempted.

    The next (and possibly last, for this issue) meeting of the conferees on the telecom bill has been set for 2pm EST, Tue., Dec. 12. The telecom bill conference report (that is, the final version of the bill) is sheduled for a vote the week of Dec. 11.

    Return to the Table of Contents

    Subject: 'Let Freedom Ring' - EFF Op-Ed on Internet Censorship

    [This is the longer original version of an opinion-editorial piece published Dec. 9, in the New York Times.]

    Let Freedom Ring

    Freedom of speech on the Internet, the worldwide network of computers, is under attack from a variety of sources, both public and private. Three preliminary decisions handed down over the past couple of weeks against the Church of Scientology and its related Religious Technology Center and Bridge Publications, Inc., offer a glimpse into how complicated these issues can become online.

    The first decision, filed just before Thanksgiving by Judge Ronald Whyte of the northern California federal district court, probably had the most far-reaching implications for the future of electronic communications. Judge Whyte held that Internet service providers, those important gateways to the information superhighway, cannot be held liable for copyright infringement when they have no knowledge of the content of their users' messages. "Where a BBS operator cannot reasonably verify a claim of infringement, either because of a possible fair use defense, the lack of copyrighted notices on the copies, or the copyright holder's failure to provide the necessary documentation to show that there is a likely infringement, the operator's lack of knowledge will be found reasonable and there will be no liability for contributory infringement for allowing the continued distribution of the works on its system."

    This is important, because system providers are similar to the telephone company when it comes to electronic communications-- they provide the conduit. If they can be held liable for the content of messages, they are more likely to monitor those messages and censor any that contain anything that might get them in trouble. Just as we don't want Ma Bell censoring our voice communications, we should be very troubled by any copyright law interpretation that would assign liability to those who provide Internet service.

    The second and third decisions were filed last week by Judge Leonie M. Brinkema of the federal district court for northern Virginia. In those cases, Judge Brinkema admonished the Church of Scientology for using lawsuits to silence its online critics. In dismissing the Washington Post and two of its reporters from the suit and holding the Church of Scientology responsible for the Post's attorneys' fees, Judge Brinkema found, "Although the RTC brought the complaint under traditional secular concepts of copyright and trade secret law, it has become clear that a much broader motivation prevailed--the stifling of criticism and dissent of the religious practices of Scientology and the destruction of its opponents." The judge called this motivation "reprehensible."

    While the results of these preliminary decisions are encouraging, they are but small battles in a war that is being waged not only in our courtrooms but in Congress and state legislatures, as well. And the war is hardly over. From the unconstitutional "online decency" legislation included in the telecommunications reform bill to the FBI's digital telephony wiretapping law, censoring the Internet seems to be the battle cry of the uninformed.

    But there are serious ramifications to barreling ahead without fully considering the First Amendment--ramifications that will be with us for a long time to come. As we chip away at our own free speech rights, we diminish ourselves. The most frightening aspect is that these decisions regarding provider liability and protection of the free speech rights of those who dare to disagree are being made before most of us realize that these precedents are being codified into law.

    These early battles are important, and the online world breathed a collective sigh of relief over Judge Whyte's and Judge Brinkema's decisions. But there are more battles to be fought before we know that the First Amendment will make the transition to online communications.

    Shari Steele,
    Staff Counsel

    The Electronic Frontier Foundation
    1550 Bryant St., Suite 725
    San Francisco CA 94103 USA
    +1 415 436 9333 (voice)
    +1 415 436 9993 (fax)
    Internet: ask@eff.org

    For the text of these court decisions and other related documents, see the relevant section of the Internet World Wide Web site of the Electronic Frontier Foundation at:

  • http://www.eff.org/pub/Censorship/Scientology_cases/ The Electronic Frontier Foundation is a nonprofit public-interest civil liberties organization devoted to protecting privacy and free speech, and promoting responsibility, online.

    [The text of the rather different version that was published offline is available at: http://www.eff.org/pub/Alerts/ssteele_eff_nyt_120995_cos.article on our WWW site.]

    Return to the Table of Contents

    Subject: Upcoming Events

    This schedule lists events that are directly EFF-related. A much more detailed calendar of events likely to be of interest to our members and supporters is maintained at:

  • ftp://ftp.eff.org/pub/EFF/calendar.eff
  • gopher://gopher.eff.org/1/EFF, calendar.eff
  • http://www.eff.org/pub/EFF/calendar.eff

    Jan. 17 - 18 Innovation Now; Oregon Convention Center, Portland Oregon.
    Sponsored by American Electronics Association's Oregon Council, et al. Speakers include EFF chair of the board Esther Dyson.

    URL: http://www.innovationnow.org/

    Return to the Table of Contents

    Subject: Quote of the Day

    "It is not the function of our Government to keep the citizen from falling into error; it is the function of the citizen to keep the Government from falling into error."
    - Robert H. Jackson (1892-1954), U.S. Judge

    Find yourself wondering if your privacy and freedom of speech are safe when bills to censor the Internet are swimming about in a sea of of surveillance legislation and anti-terrorism hysteria? Worried that in the rush to make us secure from ourselves that our government representatives may deprive us of our essential civil liberties? Concerned that legislative efforts nominally to "protect children" will actually censor all communications down to only content suitable for the playground? Alarmed by commercial and religious organizations abusing intellectual property law to stifle satire, dissent and criticism?

    Join EFF!

    Even if you don't live in the U.S., the anti-Internet hysteria will soon be visiting a legislative body near you. If it hasn't already.

    Return to the Table of Contents

    Subject: What YOU Can Do

  • The Communications Decency Act & Other Censorship Legislation

    The Communications Decency Act and similar legislation pose serious threats to freedom of expression online, and to the livelihoods of system operators. The legislation also undermines several crucial privacy protections.

    Business/industry persons concerned should alert their corporate govt. affairs office and/or legal counsel. Everyone should write to their own Representatives and Senators, and especially the conference committee members, asking them to oppose Internet censorship legislation, and write to the conference committee members to support the reasonable approaches of Leahy, Klink, Cox and Wyden, and to oppose the unconstitutional proposals of Exon, Gorton and others. Urge them to ensure that system operators and others are not held liable for crimes they did not commit, that the FCC is barred from regulating the Internet, and that if your Congressperson is hell-bent on passing some restriction, any restriction, on the Net, that he or she vote to pass only a "harmful to minors" or "obscenity" statute that is clear and constitutional, and condemn any unconstitutional national "indecency" standard.

    You may also wish to tell such legislators that if they vote for any Internet censorship leglslation, you'll vote against them in the next election. See the first three articles in this newsletter for more detailed info.

    For more information on what you can do to help stop this and other dangerous legislation, see:

  • ftp://ftp.eff.org/pub/Alerts/
  • gopher://gopher.eff.org/1/Alerts
  • http://www.eff.org/pub/Alerts/

    If you do not have full internet access, send your request for information to ask@eff.org.

  • Digital Telephony/Comms. Assistance to Law Enforcement Act

    The FBI is now seeking both funding for the DT/CALEA wiretapping provisions, and preparing to require that staggering numbers of citizens be simultaneously wiretappable.

    To oppose the funding, write to your own Senators and Representatives urging them to vote against any appropriations for wiretapping. To oppose the FBI's wiretapping capacity demands, see the FBI Federal Register notice at the end of the second article in this newsletter, which contains instructions on how to submit formal comments on the ludicrous and dangerous proposal.

  • Anti-Terrorism Bills

    Numerous bills threatening your privacy and free speech have been introduced this year. None of them are close to passage at this very moment, but this status may change. Urge your Congresspersons to oppose these unconstitutional and Big-Brotherish bills.

  • The Anti-Electronic Racketeering Act

    This bill is unlikely to pass in any form, being very poorly drafted, and without much support. However, the CDA is just as bad and passed with flying colors [the jolly roger?] in the Senate. It's better to be safe than sorry. If you have a few moments to spare, writing to, faxing, or calling your Congresspersons to urge opposition to this bill is a good idea. If you only have time to do limited activism, please concentrate on the Internet censorship legislation instead. That legislation is far more imminent that the AERA.

  • Medical Privacy legislation

    Several bills relating to medical privacy issues are floating in Congress right now. Urge your legislators to support only proposals that truly enhance the medical privacy of citizens.

    More information on this legislation will be available at http://www.eff.org/pub/Privacy/Medical/ soon. Bug mech@eff.org to make it appear there faster. :)

  • Find Out Who Your Congresspersons Are

    Writing letters to, faxing, and phoning your representatives in Congress is one very important strategy of activism, and an essential way of making sure YOUR voice is heard on vital issues.

    EFF has lists of the Senate and House with contact information, as well as lists of Congressional committees. (A House list is included in this issue of EFFector). These lists are available at:

  • ftp://ftp.eff.org/pub/Activism/Congress_cmtes/
  • gopher://gopher.eff.org/1/EFF/Issues/Activism/Congress_cmtes
  • http://www.eff.org/pub/Activism/Congress_cmtes/

    The full Senate and House lists are senate.list and hr.list, respectively.

    Those not in the U.S. should seek out similar information about their own legislative bodies. EFF will be happy to archive any such information provided.

    If you are having difficulty determining who your Representatives are, try contacting your local League of Women Voters, who maintain a great deal of legislative information, or consult the free ZIPPER service that matches Zip Codes to Congressional districts with about 85% accuracy at:

  • http://www.stardot.com/~lukeseem/zip.html

  • Join EFF!

    You know privacy, freedom of speech and ability to make your voice heard in government are important. You have probably participated in our online campaigns and forums. Have you become a member of EFF yet? The best way to protect your online rights is to be fully informed and to make your opinions heard. EFF members are informed and are making a difference. Join EFF today!

    For EFF membership info, send queries to membership@eff.org, or send any message to info@eff.org for basic EFF info, and a membership form.

    Return to the Table of Contents


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