This article contains material that is potentially criminal in nature.
Date: Thu, 23 Mar 95 19:01:55 PST
From: Peter Langston <psl>
Subject: This article contains material that is potentially criminal in nature.
Forwarded-by: bostic@CS.Berkeley.EDU (Keith Bostic)
Forwarded-by: Jim Thompson <jim@Tadpole.COM>
From: "Brock N. Meeks" <email@example.com>
Subject: CWD--Exon Bill Passes As Amendment
CyberWire Dispatch // Copyright (c) 1995 //
Warning: This article contains material that is potentially criminal in
nature and could be considered "indecent" under certain provisions of the
proposed Senate Telecommunications reform bill. You have been warned.
Jacking in from the "You Can't Fool All the People All The Time" Port:
Washington -- The brain-dead, ill-named Communications Decency Act (S.314)
was, as expected, folded into the Senate's telecommunications reform
package today, which was approved on a 17-2 vote by the Commerce Committee.
This bill, sponsored by Senator James Exon (D-Neb.), who is punching out of
the Senate after his term ends this year, would essentially make criminals
of anyone sending messages ambiguously defined as "indecent" across the
The bill makes no distinction between consensual or nonconsensual: If
you're given to sending the occasional lusty message to that someone
special, under this bill, you're fucked. In fact, under the language of
the bill, that last sentence could land me a cozy jail cell and tap my
checkbook for a cool $100,000 in fines.
The bill has whipped up a firestorm of controversy, resulting in what
amounts to a virtual uprising among Internet users. The day before the
Senate committee vote, an Internet driven petition that garnered more than
100,000 "signatures" was presented to Commerce Committee Chairman Larry
Pressler (R-S.D.). The petition apparently fell on deaf ears.
The bill, added as an amendment to the Telecommunications Competition
and Deregulation Act of 1995 was passed on a voice vote; there were no
The bill's co-sponsor, Sen. Slade Gorton (R-Wash.), gave lip service to the
concerns raised by civil liberties groups, saying that because our "kids
have access to all this junk" on the Internet, the amendment was needed.
Gorton said Exon had sufficiently addressed the "outcries" of the Internet
community by changing language in the bill that would have held Internet
service providers, commercial information systems such as America Online,
CompuServe and Prodigy and telecommunications carriers libel by the mere
fact that they were party to the "indecent speech" because it was swept
through their electronic veins.
Apparently, only the individual sending the message is now held criminally
responsible. Well, fuck that. (Damn, that's two counts of indecency...
quick, delete this from your system or you, too, may be held accountable...)
Just how much Exon has changed the bill isn't known; his staff didn't
circulate the amendment's new language. Regardless, the bill is bad blood.
"We absolutely still oppose this bill," said Jerry Berman, ex-EFF director
who's now heading his own policy group, the Center for Democracy and
Technology. Even if the bill has been "narrowed" to sting only
individuals, "it's still unconstitutional," Berman said.
Berman's group has floated a proposal that relies on technological
advancements that would enable parents to keep their innocents from being
virtually violated by the Internet's sometimes rough and tumble language.
The bill is flawed from the outset. While a 12-year-old can sneak a peek
at Playboy at this local 7-11 or drool while reading the graphic
descriptions of blow jobs in a Daniel Steele novel at Crown Books, the same
type of material will land you in jail under this bill.
And now, instead of being able fight the bill as a stand alone item, it's
now wrapped into the broader telcommunications reform package, a piece of
legislation that everyone in the industry with a heart beat has a hard on
for. To defeat this beast now will require procedural surgery when the
reform bill hits the Senate floor for debate.
The moronic stance of this bill can be illustrated by taking a short stroll
to men's restroom, the one just down the hall from where this august body
of lawmakers was holding forth on how to shape the future of
telecommunications. Once inside the men's room, a left turn into any of
the several stalls reveals entire walls of graffiti that looked like they
were plucked from Alt.Sex.Suck-My-Dick.
Here you'll find phone numbers with invitations to get personal with
someone's "Big 10 inch." There are anatomically correct -- if slightly
exaggerated -- sketches of homoerotic acts. And in another stall, someone
has even clipped what appears to be photos from a sexually explicit gay
men's magazines and pasted them to the walls and toilet paper dispensers.
Exiting the restroom, a youngster, no more than 10, visiting his "lawmakers
in action" pushed passed me to the stalls, a pained, urgent look on his
Leaving the restroom I turned to check for a warning sign, something,
anything that would have warned my urgent young stranger about the
experience he was about to partake of in the pursuit of a moment of
freedom. There was no warning. No sign. I made a note and dropped it off
at Exon's office. I was going to Email him, but he doesn't have it.. and
I doubt he'd accept it from an "indecent message trafficker" such as myself
© 1995 Peter Langston