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ASSAULTS ON FREE SPEECH HEADED FOR THE FLOOR


  NET CENSORSHIP BILL PASSES COMMITTEE
      NEXT STOP: FULL HOUSE
        MANDATORY FILTERING ALSO ON AGENDA

          Please distribute this alert until October 9, 1998

_____________________________________________________________________________
Table of Contents
(1) A Word of Thanks for Your Continued Involvement
(2) An Update on the Child Online Protection Act (HR 3783)
(3) Major Features of the Child Online Protection Act and Resources
(4) Mandatory Filtering Legislation Also a Threat
(5) ACT NOW
(6) About the Center for Democracy and Technology
____________________________________________________________________________
(1) A WORD OF THANKS FOR YOUR CONTINUED INVOLVEMENT

Many of receiving this were members of the Citizens Internet Empowerment
Coalition (CIEC), you played an integral part last year in overturning the
Communications Decency Act -- Congress' first attempt to stifle free speech
online.

We thought Congress would leave the Net alone, but now there is a new crisis
requiring your involvement. Earlier this week, we called upon you to once
again join the ranks of First Amendment advocates.

We would like to thank members of this community for responding with
urgency and concern about "CDA-II" and "library-filtering" bills, the current
threat to free speech  online. Your continued participation in the fight
against Internet censorship can make a difference.
________________________________________________________________________________
(2) AN UPDATE ON THE CHILD ONLINE PROTECTION ACT

Despite our efforts, the House Commerce Committee passed the Child Online
Protection Act (HR 3783) on September 24.  Like the Communications Decency
Act, which was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court last year,
the HR 3783, sponsored by Rep. Michael Oxley (R-OH), threatens to chill free
speech on the Internet.  Passage out of the Committee means that the bill
could
soon go to the House floor -- possibly early next week.

A similar bill has already passed in the Senate ("CDA II" was amended to the
Commerce Justice State Appropriations bill by Senator Coats).  It is quite
possible that Senator Coats will attempt to attach CDA II to other bills on
the Senate floor over the next week.  A censorship bill could very likely
become law this year.  However, the fight is far from over -- please stay
tuned.
________________________________________________________________________________
(3) MAJOR FEATURES OF THE CHILD ONLINE PROTECTION ACT (HR 3783)

* CRIMINAL AND CIVIL PENALTIES
The bill makes it a crime for anyone, by means of the World Wide Web, to
make any communication for commercial purposes that is "harmful to minors,"
unless the speaker has restricted access by minors by requiring a credit
card number or other age verification procedure.

Age verification systems, while they will not do anything to affect the
large-scale pornographers, will impose a burden on many small providers of
controversial content, driving some of them offline.

Content that is "harmful to minors" is NOT obscene.  It is constitutionally
protected for adults.  The problem with CDA II, like CDA I, is that it
limits the information available to adults online to that which is suitable
for children.

Applying a "harmful to minors" standard to the Internet sweeps in a wide
range of material, from the Starr report to mainstream literature sold by
online bookstores, to R-rated movies and shows available over the Net.

*  NEW PRIVACY INTRUSIONS
The bill requires adults to surrender their privacy rights in order to
exercise their First Amendment rights. By forcing Web sites to verify the
age of visitors, the bill will result in the accumulation of information
about who is visiting what sites.

For further information regarding this important piece of legislation,
consult the following links:

- Text of the Committee Amendment adopted 9/24/98:
http://www.cdt.org/legislation/speech/oxley.html

- Constitutional analysis of HR 3783:
http://www.cdt.org/speech/constitutional.html

- Summary of CDT Executive Director Jerry Berman's Testimony before the
House Subcommittee on Telecommunications (9/11/98):
http://www.cdt.org/speech/testimony/jbermantestsum.html

________________________________________________________________________
(4) MANDATORY FILTERING LEGISLATION ALSO A THREAT

During the last hectic weeks of this Congressional session, we also
expect Senator McCain (R-AZ) and Representative Oxley (R-OH) to attach
"mandatory library and school filtering" bills to legislation on the
floor  in the House and Senate.  The bills condition federal e-rate
funding for schools and libraries on the use of filtering technology.

Three major problems caused by this mandatory filtering language:

1. Usurping local communities' ability to set standards that reflect
their values.
The bills will replace the existing diversity of local community norms
with a narrower set of views offered by companies that provide off the
shelf filtering and blocking tools. In order to maintain funding
libraries and schools may find themselves out of step with their
communities' values. This in turn may subject them to litigation. The
prospect of schools and libraries being forced by budgetary constraints
to choose between forgoing funding or delegating their traditional power
to unchecked private entities raises troubling First Amendment issues.

Restricting speech.
Several studies of commercial available filters reveal that some block
access to a wide range of information, such as religious Web sites
including Quaker and Methodist churches, policy websites such as the
American Family Association, Web sites focusing on women's health, and
many others. If libraries and schools are faced with a limited set of
commercially available filtering options, this approach may force them
to censor more than they would choose, certainly more than is
considered "harmful to minors" in various localities, greatly reducing
the information available to library patrons and students. In libraries
with only one terminal the requirement to install and activate filtering
software will require adults and older minors to affirmatively request
access to constitutionally protected information.

Unnecessary, Ineffective and Costly.
Libraries and schools are actively pursuing solutions that are responsive
and appropriate to their specific missions, goals, and constituencies.
Under this bill thoughtful local decision-making would be replaced by a
one-size-fits-all technology mandated by the federal government.
Purchasing, installing, and maintaining this software is an expensive
proposition at a time when most schools and libraries are struggling to
connect to the Internet. Requiring school and library employees to stand
over children to "unblock" appropriate sites would place a substantial
burden on personnel as well, adding to school and library human resource
expenses. Yet the federal government threatens to add these expensive
unfunded mandates to already-struggling schools and libraries.
________________________________________________________________________
(5) ACT NOW

Find your members of Congress:
House -
http://clerkweb.house.gov/mbrcmtee/members/teledir/members/CDFrame.htm
Senate-
http://clerkweb.house.gov/mbrcmtee/members/teledir/members/SenFrame.htm

Call your members of Congress and urge them to oppose:
1) The Coats bill
2) The Oxley bill
3) All efforts to stifle free expression on the Internet and any effort
to require libraries and schools to filter Internet access and stifle
free speech

Call:
Speaker of the House Rep. Newt Gingrich (R - GA) (202) 225-4501
House Majority Leader Rep. Dick Armey (R - TX) (202) 225-7772
House Minority Leader Rep. Dick Gephardt (D - MO) (202) 225-2671
Senate Majority Leader Sen. Lott (R - MS) (202) 224-6253
Senate Minority Leader Sen. Daschle SD (202) 224-2321
House Majority Whip Rep. Tom Delay (R - TX) (202) 225-5951
House Minority Whip Rep. David Bonior (D - MI) (202) 225-2106
_______________________________________________________________________
(6) ABOUT THE CENTER FOR DEMOCRACY AND TECHNOLOGY/CONTACTING US

The Center for Democracy and Technology is a non-profit public
interest organization based in Washington, DC. The Center's mission is
to develop and advocate public policies that advance democratic values
and constitutional civil liberties in new computer and communications
technologies.

Contacting us:

General information:  info@cdt.org
World Wide Web:     
http://www.cdt.org/


Snail Mail:  The Center for Democracy and Technology
            1634 Eye Street NW * Suite 1100 * Washington, DC 20006
            (v) +1.202.637.9800 * (f) +1.202.637.0968

------------------------------------
Aleksandr Gembinski
Webmaster
Center for Democracy and Technology
1634 Eye Street NW, Suite 1100
Washington, DC 20006
202 637 9800
fax 202 637 0968
alek@cdt.org
http://www.cdt.org

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