Fun_People Archive
22 Apr
Washington state may be in big trouble...

Date: Sat, 22 Apr 95 12:11:48 PDT
From: Peter Langston <psl>
To: Fun_People
Subject: Washington state may be in big trouble...

[The state of Washington has led the country with forward-looking programs such
as the Washington Basic Health Plan, but the recent political atavism has not
only threatened Washington's advances, but made short-sighted legislation like
the following possible.  Let's hope Washington's governor has the guts to veto
it - you may be able to help ... -psl]

Forwarded-by: (Douglas Hall)
From: Gordon Cook <>
Subject: Legislation Awaiting Signature of Governor Would Effectively Bar all
	Residents of Washington State from Internet Access - Action Call

On April 14 the Washington State Legislature passed Senate Bill 5466  "An
act relating to the well-being of children."  This bill is similar to the
Exon legislation that would restrict minors' access to pornography.  On-line
services were exempted from the bill in a Senate passed amendment on March
11.  However, when the House passed the bill on the 14th of April, it
**removed the exemption** for online services.  The bill will go into effect
immediately upon the signature of the governor.  The result will be that
every delivery or display of a picture or **text** viewed as obscene by
community standards will subject the sysop to a $5000 fine or year in jail.
Furthermore every day that the offending material is available on a BBS or
Internet-connected-system counts as a separate offense!  Since the sysop is
liable for the infraction and not the person doing the uploading of
material, all that is necessary for someone who doesn't like a service to
put that service out of business is to upload an offending file, wait a
couple of weeks, have an accomplice "find" the file, and turn it, and the
hapless sysop, into the authorities.  Senate staff whom we interviewed
verified that this was indeed a possible out come.

The only defense that an owner of a BBS or ISP can take is to verify that
all users are at least 18 years of age.  Such verification must include
making a record of a drivers license or some other document as proof of age.
Each provider, as a result, is forced to take privacy intrusive information
from his clients.  Service providers have told us that since there is no
way that they can comply,  those running public service BBS's will be forced
to shut down rather than bear the added cost of verification of the age of
every user.  In the mean time commercial systems will become available only
to those 18 and older.  Of course this will effectively deprive Washington
K-12 schools of access to the network.  We are told that the "educrats" in
the state school bureaucracy would like nothing better than to offer
censored Internet access.  This however would not really solve the liability
problem because, aside from being undesirable in the first place, the
censorship could leak and, with the schools allowing under 18 year old
users, they would be wide open to the penalties of the statutes.

On April 20, in a telephone conversation, Martin Munguia Governor Mark
Lowry's Assistant Communications Director said he expected the bill to be
on the Governor's desk awaiting signature before the end of the weekend.
He made it clear that the Governor dislikes the bill.  However it was
equally clear from conversations with him and others that the Governor who
is facing accusations of sexual harassment is under great pressure to sign
it.  He added however that he was confident that the Governor would take no
action until well into the 20 day period after which the bill would become
law without his signature.  Far more significantly he told us that he wasn't
sure that the Office of the Governor adequately understood the implications
for the state of Washington and the children of Washington if such a bill
became law.

The implication was clear that if enough concerned citizens explained to
the Governor the harm that would be done by his signing the law, he might
use his veto power and put the legislature in a position where an overide
would place squarely on its shoulders the responsibility for denying use of
the Internet to the school children of the state.  While the Governor is
not himself on line Martin Munguia is.  His Internet address is:

The governor's phone number is 360 753-6780 and the fax number is 360

Also Jeff Michka informs us that he and other members of the on-line
community in Washington state are mounting a campaign to urge Governor Lowry
to veto ESSB5466.  "It would be best if conference committee restored the
struck amendments, but it seems unlikely in the eleventh hour.  The Governor
should excercise his leadership in recognition of how this bill will impact
economic development, educational opportunities, as well as the free flow
of information so vital to develop these services," Michka said

This is a condensation of a 13.5 kilobyte draft article sent to our
electronic subscribers earlier today.  The article in final form will appear
as part of the May Issue of the COOK Report along with an interview with
Commercial Internet Association Bob Collet on the future of the CIX.

[=] © 1995 Peter Langston []