Date: 23 Mar 1995 14:55:22 -0500 Message-ID: <>

March 23, 1995 A Cyber Liberties Alert from the ACLU Senate Committee Backs Cyber Censorship, and Imposes Criminal Penalties WHAT JUST HAPPENED The Senate Commerce Committee adopted late this morning a modified version of the Exon bill, the so-called "Communications Decency Act" (originally introduced as Senate Bill 314). Senator Slade Gorton (R-WA), who had cosponsored S. 314 with Senator James Exon (D-NE), proposed the amendment in Exon's absence. It was adopted on voice vote as an amendment to the Telecommunications Competition and Deregulation Act of 1995. The amendment would subject on-line users to scrutiny and criminal penalties if their messages were deemed to be indecent, lewd, lascivious or filthy -- all communications that are protected by the Free Speech Guarantees of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Although protecting children from pornography is its most often cited rationale, this is really a "bait and switch" with your rights at stake. Note that the amendment in fact goes way beyond child pornorgaphy. It's like the opponents of TV violence who first said children should be protected and then made "Murder She Wrote" with Angela Landsbury their number one target. Or like the censors who banned "Huckleberry Finn," "Where's Waldo?" and even Webster's Dictionary (it has "bad" words in it, after all). The Exon/Gorton Amendment would invite active interference in the basic speech of everyone using any telecommunication device -- simply because some government bureaucrat somewhere thought the speech was indecent or lascivious. All senators on the committee had been informed that the Exon/Gorton amendment would violate the Constitution, assault the liberties of net users, stifle development of new technologies (many of which offer greater choice and control by all users -- including parents), and spawn expensive litigation -- while not succeeding at reducing access by children to pornography. A coalition of civil liberties organizations -- including the ACLU -- and numerous commercial companies warned against adopting the Exon/Gorton amendment, which originally would also have made all online service providers (in fact, anyone transmitting an offensive message) criminally liable. Some commercial companies offered Exon and Gorton language exempting themselves from liability while still letting their subscribers be prosecuted. Today Senator Gorton said that the amendment had been modified to exempt those merely "transmitting" the message. The amendment would, however, still cover anyone who originates a message deemed indecent, lascivious etc. WHAT YOU CAN DO 1. Contact the senators from your state, and all senators on the Commerce Commitee expressing your disappointment with this morning's action. Thank Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Larry Pressler (R-SD) for not including the Exon/Gorton amendment in his proposed bill, and urge him to support action on the Senate floor to remove the anti-cyber amendment. 2. Contact your online service providers and ask them what they have been doing about this Exon/Gorton assault on your liberties. Some providers are still standing up for your rights; others may not have.Urge them, not to support any legislation that protects them, but violates your free speech rights. Urge them to oppose the modified Exon/Gorton amendment. 3. Contact all the other senators and urge them to support deletion of the Exon/Gorton amendment when the bill comes to the Senate floor. 4. Stay tuned for further information and action items for both House and Senate. The American Civil Liberties Union is a nationwide, nonpartisan organization of over 275,000 members. Now in its 75th year, the ACLU is devoted exclusively to protecting the civil liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, whereever these liberties are at risk--in a bookstore, in school, on the street, in cyberspace, wherever. The ACLU does this through legislative action, public education and litigation. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Send your letter by e-mail, fax, or snail mail to: Senator Larry Pressler, S.D. Chairman, Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation SR-254 Russell Senate Office Building Washington, DC 20510-6125 (202) 224-5842 (phone) (202) 224-1259 (fax of Commerce Committee) e-mail: To maximize the impact of your letter, you should also write to the members of the Senate Commerce Committee and to your own Senators. Majority Members of the Senate Commerce Committee ------------------------------------------------- Senator Bob Packwood, Ore. SR-259 Russell Senate Office Building Washington, DC 20510-3702 (202) 224-5244 (phone) (202) 228-3576 (fax) Senator Ted Stevens, Alaska SH-522 Hart Senate Office Building Washington, DC 20510-0201 (202) 224-3004 (phone) (202) 224-1044 (fax) Senator John McCain, Ariz. SR-111 Russell Senate Office Building Washington, DC 20510-0303 (202) 224-2235 (phone) (202) 228-2862 (fax) Senator Conrad Burns, Mont. SD-183 Dirksen Senate Office Building Washington, DC 20510-2603 (202) 224-2644 (phone) (202) 224-8594 (fax) Senator Slade Gorton, Wash. SH-730 Hart Senate Office Building Washington, DC 20510-4701 (202) 224-3441 (phone) (202) 224-9393 (fax) e-mail: Senator Trent Lott, Miss. SR-487 Russell Senate Office Building Washington, DC 20510-2403 (202) 224-6253 (phone) (202) 224-2262 (fax) Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Tex. SH-703 Hart Senate Office Building Washington, DC 20510-4303 (202) 224-5922 (phone) (202) 224-0776 (fax) e-mail: Senator Olympia J. Snowe, Maine SR-174 Russell Senate Office Building Washington, DC 20510-1903 (202) 224-5344 (phone) (202) 224-6853 (fax) Senator John Ashcroft, Mo. SH-705 Hart Senate Office Building Washington, DC 20510-2504 (202) 224-6154 (phone) (202) 224-7615 Minority Members of the Senate Commerce Committee ------------------------------------------------- Senator Ernest F. Hollings, S.C. SR-125 Russell Senate Office Building Washington, DC 20510-4002 (202) 224-6121 (phone) (202) 224-4293 (fax) Senator Daniel K. Inouye, Hawaii SH-772 Hart Senate Office Building Washington, DC 20510-1102 (202) 224-3934 (phone) (202) 224-6747 (fax) Senator Wendell H. Ford, Ky. SR-173A Russell Senate Office Building Washington, DC 20510-1701 (202) 224-4343 (phone) (202) 224-0046 (fax) e-mail: Senator J. James Exon, Neb. SH-528 Hart Senate Office Building Washington, DC 20510-2702 (202) 224-4224 (phone) (202) 224-5213 (fax) Senator John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV, W. Va. SH-109 Hart Senate Office Building Washington, DC 20510-4802 (202) 224-6472 (phone) (202) 224-1689 (fax) Senator John F. Kerry, Mass. SR-421 Russell Senate Office Building Washington, DC 20510-2102 (202) 224-2742 (phone) (202) 224-8525 (fax) Senator John B. Breaux, La SH-516 Hart Senate Office Building Washington, DC 20510-1803 (202) 224-4623 (phone) (202) 224-2435 (fax) Senator Richard H. Bryan, Nev. SR-364 Russell Senate Office Building Washington, DC 20510-2804 (202) 224-6244 (phone) (202) 224-1867 (fax) Senator Byron L. Dorgan, N.D. SH-713 Hart Senate Office Building Washington, DC 20510-3405 (202) 224-2551 (phone) (202) 224-1193 (fax) You can also write or fax your own Senator at: The Honorable ______________________ U.S. Senate Washington, D.C. 20510 Senate directories including fax numbers may be found at: gopher:// gopher:// Additional information about the ACLU's position on this issue and others affecting civil liberties online and elsewhere may be found at: gopher:\\ OR request our FAQ at -- ACLU Free Reading Room | American Civil Liberties Union gopher:// | 132 W. 43rd Street, NY, NY 10036| "Eternal vigilance is the | price of liberty" ================= end of repost ================== -- Carl Kadie -- I do not represent EFF or my employer; this is just me. =Email:, = =URL: , =