Telecom law - repeal proposal (fwd)

Jacinta Miller (jascraig@GEKO.NET.AU)
Wed, 14 Feb 1996 10:45:53 +1100

Please excuse me as this is a completely off topic post, but it is
important enough that it should be looked at. I urge all of you
to encourage Leahy in his action.

Jacinta Miller

>---------- Forwarded message ----------
>Date: Tue, 13 Feb 1996 09:55:45 -0500
>From: Heidi Howard <heidi@NYTIMES.COM>
>Subject: Telecom law - repeal proposal
>This is today's segment on the Communications Decency Law, forwarded from
>Wired magazine.
>I've sent the senator a message of supppourt - his email address is
>included below if you want to do the same.
>>Subject: UPDATE: Leahy Proposes Repeal of Communications Decency Act
>>Senator Patrick Leahy has introduced legislation designed to repeal
>>the Internet "indecency" provisions of the telecommunications reform
>>bill President Clinton signed into law last Thursday.
>>The text of Leahy's proposal, as well as his (very articulate) floor
>>statement, follows below. Both are worth reading.
>>Leahy was one of only five Senators to vote against the telco bill on
>>February 1, 1996. He is also one of the few legislators on Capitol
>>Hill who truly understands what the Net is all about.
>>If you'd like to send the Senator a message of support, his e-mail
>>address is:
>>--Todd Lappin-->
>>Section Editor
>>WIRED Magazine
>> S 1567 IS
>> 104th CONGRESS
>> 2d Session
>> To amend the Communications Act of 1934 to repeal the
>> amendments relating to obscene and harassing use of
>> telecommunications facilities made by the Communications
>> Decency Act of 1995.
>> February 9 (legislative day, FEBRUARY 7), 1996
>> Mr. LEAHY (for himself and Mr. FEINGOLD) introduced the
>> following
>> bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee
>> on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
>> To amend the Communications Act of 1934 to repeal the
>> amendments relating to obscene and harassing use of
>> telecommunications facilities made by the Communications
>> Decency Act of 1995.
>> [Italic->] Be it enacted by the Senate and House of
>> Representatives of the United States of America in Congress
>> assembled, [<-Italic]
>> Effective on the day after the date of the enactment of
>> the
>> Communications Decency Act of 1995, the amendments made to
>> section 223 of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C.
>> 223) by section 502 of the Communications Decency Act of
>> 1995 are repealed and the provisions of such section 223 as
>> in effect on the day before such date shall have force and
>> effect.
>> [end bill text]
>> Floor Statement On Repealing The Communications Decency Act
>> February 9, 1996
>> _________________________________________________________________
>> Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, last week, the Congress passed
>> telecommunications legislation. The President signed it into law
>> this week. For a number of reasons, and I stated them in the
>> Chamber at the time, I voted against the legislation. There were a
>> number of things in that legislation I liked and I am glad to see
>> them in law. There were, however, some parts I did not like, one of
>> them especially. Today I am introducing a bill to repeal parts of
>> the new law, parts I feel would have far-reaching implications and
>> would impose far-reaching new Federal crimes on Americans for
>> exercising their free speech rights on-line and on the Internet.
>> The parts of the telecommunications bill called the "Communications
>> Decency Act" are fatally flawed and unconstitutional. Indeed, such
>> serious questions about the constitutionality of this legislation
>> have been raised that a new section was added to speed up judicial
>> review to see if the legislation would pass constitutional muster.
>> The legislation is not going to pass that test.
>> The first amendment to our Constitution expressly states that
>> "Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech." The
>> new law flouts that prohibition for the sake of political
>> posturing. We should not wait to let the courts fix this mistake.
>> Even on an expedited basis, the judicial review of the new law
>> would take months and possibly years of litigation. During those
>> years of litigation unsuspecting Americans who are using the
>> Internet in unprecedented numbers and more every day, are going to
>> risk criminal liability every time they go on-line.
>> Let us be emphatically clear that the people at risk of committing
>> a felony under this new law are not child pornographers, purveyors
>> of obscene materials or child sex molesters. These people can
>> already be prosecuted and should be prosecuted under longstanding
>> Federal criminal laws that prevent the distribution over computer
>> networks of obscene and other pornographic materials harmful to
>> minors, under 18 U.S.C. sections 1465, 2252 and 2423(a); that
>> prohibit the illegal solicitation of a minor by way of a computer
>> network, under 18 U.S.C. section 2252; and that bar the illegal
>> luring of a minor into sexual activity through computer
>> conversations, under 18 U.S.C. section 2423(b). In fact, just last
>> year, we passed unanimously a new law that sharply increases
>> penalties for people who commit these crimes. In fact, just last
>> year, we passed unanimously a new law that sharply increases
>> penalties for these people.
>> There is absolutely no disagreement in the Senate, no disagreement
>> certainly among the 100 Senators about wanting to protect children
>> from harm. All 100 Senators, no matter where they are from, would
>> agree that obscenity and child pornography should be kept out of
>> the hands of children.
>> All Senators agree that we should punish those who sexually exploit
>> children or abuse children. I am a former prosecutor. I have
>> prosecuted people for abusing children. This is something where
>> there are no political or ideological differences among us.
>> I believe there was a terribly misguided effort to protect children
>> from what some prosecutors somewhere in this country might consider
>> offensive or indecent online material, and in doing that, the
>> Communications Decency Act tramples on the free speech rights of
>> all Americans who want to enjoy this medium.
>> This legislation sweeps more broadly than just stopping obscenity
>> from being sent to children. It will impose felony penalties for
>> using indecent four-letter words, or discussing material deemed to
>> be indecent, on electronic bulletin boards or Internet chat areas
>> and news groups accessible to children.
>> Let me give a couple of examples: You send E-mail back and forth,
>> and you want to annoy somebody whom you talked with many times
>> before -- it may be your best buddy -- and you use a four-letter
>> word. Well, you could be prosecuted for that, although you could
>> pick up the phone, say the same thing to him, and you commit no
>> crime; or send a letter and say the same word and commit no crime;
>> or talk to him walking down the street and commit no crime.
>> To avoid liability under this legislation, users of e-mail will
>> have to ban curse words and other expressions that might be
>> characterized as indecent from their online vocabulary.
>> The new law will punish with 2-year jail terms someone using one of
>> the "seven dirty words" in a message to a minor or for sharing with
>> a minor material containing indecent passages. In some areas of the
>> country, a copy of Seventeen Magazine would be considered indecent,
>> even though kids buy it. The magazine is among the 10 most
>> frequently challenged school library materials in the country.
>> Somebody sends an excerpt from it, and bang, they could be
>> prosecuted.
>> The new law will make it a crime "to display in a manner available
>> to" a child any message or material "that, in context, depicts or
>> describes, in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary
>> community standards, sexual or excretory activities or organs..."
>> That covers any of the over 13,000 Usenet discussion groups, as
>> well as electronic bulletin boards, online service provider chat
>> rooms, and Web sites, that are all accessible to children.
>> This "display" prohibition, according to the drafters, "applies to
>> content providers who post indecent material for online display
>> without taking precautions that shield that material from minors."
>> What precautions will Internet users have to take to avoid criminal
>> liability? These users, after all, are the ones who provide the
>> "content" read in news groups and on electronic bulletin boards.
>> The legislation gives the FCC authority to describe the precautions
>> that can be taken to avoid criminal liability. All Internet users
>> will have to wait and look to the FCC for what they must do to
>> protect themselves from criminal liability.
>> Internet users will have to limit all language used and topics
>> discussed in online discussions accessible to minors to that
>> appropriate for kindergartners, just in case a child clicks onto
>> the discussion. No literary quotes from racy parts of Catcher in
>> the Rye or Ulysses will be allowed. Certainly, online discussions
>> of safe sex practices, or birth control methods, and of AIDS
>> prevention methods will be suspect. Any user who crosses the vague
>> and undefined line of "indecency" will be subject to two years in
>> jail and fines.
>> This worries me considerably. I will give you an idea of what
>> happens. People look at this, and because it is so vague and so
>> broad and so sweeping, attempts to protect one's self from breaking
>> the law become even broader and even more sweeping.
>> A few weeks ago, America Online took the online profile of a
>> Vermonter off the service. Why? Because the Vermonter used what AOL
>> deemed a vulgar, forbidden word. The word -- and I do not want to
>> shock my colleagues -- but the word was "breast." And the reason
>> this Vermonter was using the word "breast"? She was a survivor of
>> breast cancer. She used the service to exchange the latest
>> information on detection of breast cancer or engage in support to
>> those who are survivors of breast cancer. Of course, eventually,
>> America Online apologized and indicated they would allow the use of
>> the word where appropriate.
>> We are already seeing premonitions of the chilling effect this
>> legislation will have on online service providers. Far better we
>> use the laws on the books today to go after child pornographers, to
>> go after child abusers.
>> What strikes some people as "indecent" or "patently offensive" may
>> look very different to other people in another part of the country.
>> Given these differences, a vague ban on patently offensive and
>> indecent communications may make us feel good but threatens to
>> drive off the Internet and computer networks an unimaginable amount
>> of valuable political, artistic, scientific, health and other
>> speech.
>> For example, many museums in this country and abroad are going
>> hi-tech and starting Web pages to provide the public with greater
>> access to the cultural riches they offer. What if museums, like the
>> Whitney Museum, which currently operates a Web page, had to censor
>> what it made available online out of fear of being dragged into
>> court? Only adults and kids who can make it in person to the museum
>> will be able to see the paintings or sculpture censored for online
>> viewing under this law.
>> What about the university health service that posts information
>> online about birth control and protections against the spread of
>> AIDS? With many students in college under 18, this information
>> would likely disappear under threat of prosecution.
>> What happens if they are selling online versions of James Joyce's
>> Ulysses or of Catcher in the Rye? Can they advertise this? Can
>> excerpts be put online? In all likelihood not. The Internet is
>> breaking new ground important for the economic health of this
>> country. Businesses, like the Golden Quill Book Shop in Manchester
>> Center, Vermont can advertise and sell their books around the
>> country or the world via the Internet. But now, advertisers will
>> have to censor their ads.
>> For example, some people consider the Victoria's Secret catalogue
>> indecent. Under this new law, advertisements that would be legal in
>> print could subject the advertiser to criminal liability if
>> circulated online. You could put them in your local newspaper, but
>> you cannot put it online.
>> In bookstores and on library shelves, the protections of the First
>> Amendment are clear. The courts are unwavering in the protection of
>> indecent speech. In altering the protections of the first amendment
>> for online communications, I believe you could cripple this new
>> mode of communication.
>> At some point you have to start asking, where do we censor? What
>> speech do we keep off? Is it speech we may find politically
>> disturbing? If somebody wants to be critical of any one Member of
>> Congress, are we able to keep that off? Should we be able to keep
>> that off? I think not. There is a lot of reprehensible speech and
>> usually it becomes more noted when attempts are made to censor it
>> rather than let it out in the daylight where people can respond to
>> it.
>> The Internet is an American technology that has swept around the
>> world. As its popularity has grown, so have efforts to censor it.
>> For example, complaints by German prosecutors prompted an online
>> service provider to cut off subscriber access to over 200 Internet
>> news groups with the words "sex", "gay" or "erotica" in the name.
>> They censored such groups as "," which is an
>> online newspaper focused on gay issues, and "gay-net.coming-out",
>> which is a support group for gay men and women dealing with going
>> public with their sexual orientation.
>> German prosecutors have also tried to get AOL to stop providing
>> access to neo-Nazi propaganda accessible on the Internet. No doubt
>> such material is offensive and abhorrent, but nonetheless just as
>> protected by our First Amendment as indecent material.
>> In China, look what they are trying to do. They are trying to
>> create an "intranet" that would heavily censor outside access to
>> the worldwide Internet. We ought to be make sure it is open, not
>> censored. We ought to send that out as an example to China.
>> Americans should be taking the high ground to protect the future of
>> our home-grown Internet, and to fight these censorship efforts that
>> are springing up around the globe. Instead of championing the First
>> Amendment, however, the Communications Decency Act tramples on the
>> principles of free speech and free flow of information that has
>> fueled the growth of this medium.
>> We have to be vigilant in enforcing the laws we have on the books
>> to protect our children from obscenity, child pornography and
>> sexual exploitation. Those laws are being enforced. Just last
>> September, using current laws, the FBI seized computers and
>> computer files from about 125 homes and offices across the country
>> as part of an operation to shut down an online child pornography
>> ring.
>> I well understand the motivation for the Communications Decency
>> Act. We want to protect our children from offensive or indecent
>> online materials. This Senator --and I am confident every other
>> Senator-- agrees with that. But we must be careful that the means
>> we use to protect our children does not do more harm than good. We
>> can already control the access our children have to indecent
>> material with blocking technologies available for free from some
>> online service providers and for a relatively low cost from
>> software manufacturers.
>> Frankly, and I will close with this, Mr. President, at some point
>> we ought to stop saying the Government is going to make a
>> determination of what we read and see, the Government will
>> determine what our children have or do not have.
>> I grew up in a family where my parents thought it was their
>> responsibility to guide what I read or would not read. They
>> probably had their hands full. I was reading at the age of 4. I was
>> a voracious reader, and all the time I was growing up I read
>> several books a week and went through our local library in the
>> small town I grew up in very quickly. That love of reading has
>> stood me in very good stead. I am sure I read some things that were
>> a total waste of time, but very quickly I began to determine what
>> were the good things to read and what were the bad things. I had
>> read all of Dickens by the end of the third grade and much of
>> Robert Louis Stevenson. I am sure some can argue there are parts of
>> those that maybe were not suitable for somebody in third grade. I
>> do not think I was severely damaged by it at all. That same love of
>> reading helped me get through law school and become a prosecutor
>> where I did put child abusers behind bars.
>> Should we not say that the parents ought to make this decision, not
>> us in the Congress? We should put some responsibility back on
>> families, on parents. They have the software available that they
>> can determine what their children are looking at. That is what we
>> should do. Banning indecent material from the Internet is like
>> using a meat cleaver to deal with the problems better addressed
>> with a scalpel.
>> We should not wait for the courts. Let us get this new
>> unconstitutional law off the books as soon as possible.
>> ##
> _
>This SIGfile would wear a blue ribbon ( ) (imagine
>to protest internet censorship, if it ^ this
> wasn't an ASCII file / \ in blue)
> OR, aka Heidala, aka Bubbles
> One of TOW wants to convince everyone ITZ to read _The Eight_
> Zone Lawyer/WZON Legal Advisor
> Zone HeidiWonderTwin
> Zone not-illegal-subletters-ever-again gang
>I have adopted him for a friend. You an do that with people you never speak
>to at all. You can just watch them, and think about them, and be sorry for
>them, until they seem almost like relations.
> -A Little Princess