GOP Internet Posse
Date: Thu, 22 Jun 95 00:58:48 PDT
From: Peter Langston <psl>
Subject: GOP Internet Posse
[This gets curiouser and curiouser... -psl]
From: "Brock N. Meeks" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
CyberWire Dispatch // Copyright (c) 1995 //
Jacking in from the "Damn the Torpedoes" Port:
Washington, DC -- A posse of top House Republicans are riding into
Cyberspace wearing White Hats and riding a horse called the First
Rep. Chris Cox (R-Calif.), chairman of the Republican Policy Committee, is
readying a bill that would prohibit the government from placing any
regulations on content in Cyberspace. According to a draft of the bill
obtained by Dispatch, even the guerilla war on the First Amendment now being
waged in Statehouses throughout the nation would be thwarted. Cox's bill,
which he plans to co-sponsor with Rep. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) would preempt
state laws that now restrict content.
Meanwhile, Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich has gone into full-scale
"Marshall Dillon" mode, assailing attempts by the Senate to curb pornography
on the Internet by means of the Exon/Coats amendment, which passed as part
of the Senate's telecommunications reform package. Gingrich, speaking
Tuesday night (July 20) on his weekly "Progress Report" cable program, said
the Exon/Coats amendment was "very badly thought-out."
Civil libertarian groups have already blasted the Exon/Coats amendment,
calling it unconstitutional along several points. The Electronic Frontier
Foundation and the Center for Democracy and Technology have issued detailed
section summaries of the bill. Both rip into the amendment along legal
lines, carving out its huge constitutional flaws with the force of a chain
Gringrich, not short on candor himself, minced no words denouncing the the
Exon/Coats provision, calling it "a violation of free speech." He said the
move by Exon would have "no real impact" and was merely a political ploy,
which would give all 84 Senators that supported the amendment "a good press
release back home."
Rep. Cox said government should "stay out" of trying to regulate the
electronic arena. Instead, he favors industry solutions and guidelines.
He said the Exon/Coats amendment, combined with the recent court case that
hammered Prodigy in a libel case, sends the message that online services
shouldn't even try to deal with objectionable material. "What service is
going to want to risk trying to police [content] on their system?" Cox
said, "if all they get in return is a lawsuit?"
Cox is even opposed to the government mandating some kind of blocking or
filtering technology. He wants a hands-off approach for fear that
government intrusion would only "act as a drag on progress."
Gingrich accused the Senate of punting on a "serious issue which is how do
you maintain right of free speech for adults while also protecting children
in a medium which is available to both." His comments are ironic: During
the Senate debate on the telecom reform bill, Sen. James Exon (D-Neb.) said
that a proposed substitute amendment to his bill, offered by Sen. Patrick
Leahy (D-Vt.), was "nothing more than a punt." Leahy's amendment would have
called on the Justice Department to first study the problem of objectionable
material on the Internet before rushing in with any legislation.
The House is due to began debate on its own version of telecommunications
reform within the next few weeks. The House bill has a version of the Leahy
amendment already in place. There is currently no one offering an
Exon/Coats clone amendment. But someone is almost certain to bring it up,
House congressional staffers say.
What happens if the Cox-Gingrich posse runs into the Exon/Coats crowd?
"As Chairman of the Republication Policy Committee, I would vigorously
fight that," Cox said, setting the stage for the Cyberspace equivalent
of the shoot-out at the OK Corral.
© 1995 Peter Langston