Computer underground Digest Sun Feb 11, 1996 Volume 8 : Issue 14 ISSN 1004-042X Editors: J
Computer underground Digest Sun Feb 11, 1996 Volume 8 : Issue 14
Editors: Jim Thomas and Gordon Meyer (TK0JUT2@MVS.CSO.NIU.EDU
Archivist: Brendan Kehoe
Shadow Master: Stanton McCandlish
Field Agent Extraordinaire: David Smith
Shadow-Archivists: Dan Carosone / Paul Southworth
Ralph Sims / Jyrki Kuoppala
Cu Digest Homepage: http://www.soci.niu.edu/~cudigest
CONTENTS, #8.14 (Sun, Feb 11, 1996)
File 1--EFF to Challenge Telecom Bill
File 2--ACLU v Reno: Update (2/8/96)
File 3--Sen. Leahy's bill to repeal CDA, and floor statement
File 4--An Open letter to NIU President La Tourette in re: CDA
File 5--A Cyberspace Independence Declaration
File 6--The ACLU Online
File 7--Cu Digest Header Info (unchanged since 16 Dec, 1995)
CuD ADMINISTRATIVE, EDITORIAL, AND SUBSCRIPTION INFORMATION APPEARS IN
THE CONCLUDING FILE AT THE END OF EACH ISSUE.
Date: Thu, 8 Feb 1996 02:13:55 -0800 (PST)
From: Declan McCullagh
Subject: File 1--EFF to Challenge Telecom Bill
Lori Fena, Exec. Dir.
Mike Godwin, Staff Counsel
Shari Steele, Staff Counsel
EFF TO CHALLENGE CENSORSHIP PROVISIONS
OF THE TELECOMMUNICATIONS BILL IN COURT
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif., Feb. 7, 1996 -- The Electronic Frontier Foundation
(EFF) today joins the American Civil Liberties Union and several other
plaintiffs in challenging the censorship provisions of the 1996
Telecommunications Act. The challenge is based upon the belief that the
Act contains overly broad and vague restrictions on constitutionally
protected speech on the Internet.
"I see no Constitutional authority at all for this kind of comprehensive
legislation," said Mike Godwin, staff counsel at EFF. "Proponents of the
legislation argue that it is necessary to combat poronography on the
Internet, however the language in the bill goes far beyond this purpose."
The Act overwhelmingly passed both houses of Congress last week and is
expected to be signed into law Thursday by President Clinton. EFF will be
both plaintiff and counsel in the complaint to be filed in Pennsylvania
immediately after the bill is signed.
The complaint will be grounded primarily in what Godwin terms "three
affronts to the First Amendment." The three basic arguments are as follows:
* Unconstitutional Expansion of Federal Authority. It is inappropriate
for the Federal Communications Commission or any other federal agency to
dictate standards for content in a medium where there is no independent
Constitutional justification for federal regulation, as there has been in
the broadcast arena and in certain narrow areas of voice telephone
service. Like newspapers and bookstores, the Internet is fully protected
by the First Amendment.
* Vagueness and Overbreadth. The terms the act relies on -- "indecency"
and "patently offensive" -- have never been positively defined by the
Supreme Court or the Congress, and so create uncertainty as to the scope of
the restrictions, necessarily resulting in a "chilling effect" on
protected speech. Moreover, these terms criminalize broad classes of
speech that are understood to be protected by the First Amendment,
including material that has serious scientific, literary, artistic,
political, and cultural value.
* Failure to Use the "Least Restrictive Means" to Regulate Speech. Even
if there were Constitutional authority for this legislation and even if
its terms were neither overly broad nor vague, the censorship
prescriptions built into this legislation cannot survive the Supreme
Court's "least restrictive means" test. That is, if otherwise-legal
government regulation of speech content does not minimize its restriction
of lawful speech, it fails to qualify as the "least restrictive means" of
implementing the government's goal. Our Bill or Rights requires that such
regulations be struck down. In addition to these traditional First
Amendment challenges, the lawsuit also challenges a provision that may
infringe on speech concerning abortion when that speech takes place online.
In the case of the Internet, the censorship provisions of the
Telecommunications Reform Act are not the least restrictive means, since
filtering, rating and labeling technologies and services are already
available. There already are software tools to help parents shield their
children from inappropriate material and these tools are vastly more
flexible and effective than this ill-considered legislation. Unlike the
censorship provisions, these tools prevent harm to children before it
EFF is committed to work to ensure that First Amendment freedoms that
apply to traditional speech and publication are understood to apply to
communications in the online world. The organization deplores the fact
that taxpayer and industry time, money and energy will be consumed by
this effort, but it is an effort that is essential to preserving the
Constitutional rights of every American.
Electronic Frontier Foundation
The Electronic Frontier Foundation is a civil liberties organization
founded to ensure that individual rights are not abridged in the online
world. Headquartered in San Francisco, the organization seeks to educate
the public, industry and government on the issues surrounding online
communications and to shape policies that protect indicidual rights and
promote individual responsibility. To learn more about the organization
and today's issues, visit EFF at http://www.eff.org
Date: Fri, 9 Feb 1996 15:04:42 -0800 (PST)
From: Declan McCullagh
Subject: File 2--ACLU v Reno: Update (2/8/96)
ACLU v Reno: UPDATE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Phil Gutis/(202) 675-2312
Thursday, February 8, 1996 Emily Whitfield/(212) 944-9800, x426
* Judge Sets Date for Government to File Reply Brief
* Government Agrees Not to Prosecute for 7 days
* Government Concedes that Abortion Speech Restrictions Are Unconstitutional
1 In the first court action over the constitutionality of the
Communications Decency Act, federal Judge Ronald L. Buckwalter today
instructed the government to file a reply brief to the ACLU's request for
a temporary restraining order by Wednesday, February 14. Lawyers
representing the ACLU and the 19 other plaintiffs challenging the law said
that Judge Buckwalter's reaction to the arguments against the
constitutionality of the law was positive.
2. Although he declined to issue an immediate restraining order against
the law, Judge Buckwalter directed the government to refrain from
prosecuting for so-called indecent or patently offensive material online,
at least until the TRO motion is decided. ACLU Attorney Chris Hansen, who
is leading the litigation, said that he was pleased with the judge's
action today, but cautioned that the Internet community still faces
prosecution should the Communications Decency Act ultimately be upheld.
3. During today's hearing, the government conceded the unconstitutionality
of the abortion speech restrictions of the telecommunications act. While
the ACLU claimed an early win for reproductive rights and free speech,
Catherine Weiss of the ACLU's Reproductive Freedom Project said that a
complete victory could not be claimed until the Justice Department puts
the concession in writing, which she said they have so far refused to do.
Complete information on the lawsuit is available via ACLU's new
"Freedom Network" World Wide Web page, <>, and via
the ACLU's Constitution Hall forum on America Online.
Date: Sat, 10 Feb 1996 19:33:50 -0800 (PST)
From: Declan McCullagh
Subject: File 3--Sen. Leahy's bill to repeal CDA, and floor statement
The text of Leahy's bill to repeal the CDA, and his floor statement on his
(PS: Factoid from WELL discussion: Clinton intentionally timed his signing of
the telecom bill to coincide with "24 Hours in Cyberspace.")
S 1567 IS
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.
IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES
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
SECTION 1. REPEAL OF AMENDMENTS.
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.
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
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
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
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
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 "clarinet.news.gays," 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
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.
Date: Sat, 10 Feb 1996 02:31:44 -0600
From: Jim Thomas
Subject: File 4--An Open letter to NIU President La Tourette in re: CDA
((The following was written to the President of Northern
Illinois University following the signing of the Telecommunications
8 February, 1996
President John E. La Tourette
Lowden Hall 301
Northern Illinois University
DeKalb, IL 60115
Dear President La Tourette:
My name is Jim Thomas. I am a professor in sociology at NIU. I
was tenured in 1986 and given an early promotion to full
professor five years later. I have devoted my life at NIU to
teaching, research, and service, and I believe my record
demonstrates that I have been reasonably successful.
Because of my dedication to my vocation, and because of the oath
I swore to uphold the U.S. Constitution when hired at NIU, I am
compelled to confess that I am not what I seem, and I seek your
You see, I am a criminal, and I fear that I may be indicted and
prosecuted for my felonious acts by the Federal government. I
also confess to conspiring in my felonious activities with other
NIU faculty and staff, which compounds my crime.
In my own defense, I was not a criminal when I arose today,
Thursday, February 8. Yet, just a few hours later, I now find
myself at risk of discovery and apprehension. Today, at 11 a.m.
(CST), President Clinton signed the Telecommunications Act of
1996, which made me, and other NIU faculty and staff, criminals.
Buried in the Act is an amendment called the "Communications
Decency Act" (CDA). The intent of this legislation is to ban
"indecency" on the Internet, the electronic communication network
in which I work as part of my professional teaching, service, and
research duties. The broad language of the Act prohibits actions
that most of us agree should be prohibited, and for which laws
already exist, such as banning obscenity and child pornography.
But, it prohibits much more.
As the leader of one of the largest Universities in the U.S., I'm
certain that you have been following the CDA controversy closely.
You likely read the following from the Chronicle of Higher
COLLEGES WORRY ABOUT NEW LIABILITY FOR INTERNET CONTENT
The recent passage of the telecommunications reform bill has
some college administrators worried over new liability
issues for educational institutions that might unknowingly
make "indecent" material available to minors through their
Internet access operations. In addition, they've expressed
concern over potential First Amendment violations if they
censor the content too heavily. "We have programs on campus
about date rape, unwanted pregnancy, and reproductive-health
options, so I don't see how we'd tolerate censorship of that
kind of information in the electronic format," says the head
of telecommunications at Carnegie Mellon University.
(Chronicle of Higher Education 9 Feb 96 A23)
I'm certain that you know that the language of the Act prohibits
"indecency" from being collected or stored in, and transferred
by, computer systems. As astonishing as it may seem, the Act also
limits discussion of abortion information, criminalizes
dissemination of certain types of drug information, and allows
local jurisdictions to determine what constitutes "indecency." In
short, the CDA criminalizes in electronic media that which enjoys
First Amendment protections if in, for example, the NIU library
or a class text.
You likely have already consulted with NIU counsel, who have told
you that "indecency" is a vague concept, and what is considered
valuable information in DeKalb, Illinois, may be offensive to
those in Memphis, Tennessee. So, you are aware of the risk that
the lowest threshhold of tolerance for "indecency" may now become
the national standard in electronic media.
Reading material that we routinely assign to students or make
available to 17 year old freshmen in the library may now be
criminalized if made available on a World Wide Web homepage.
Works of art that we appreciate in exhibits cannot be safely made
available on the Net. Discussions that we have in Sandburg
Auditorium, NIU classrooms, or on the pages of the Northern Star
can be criminalized if conducted in an electronic discussion
group or stored in electronic archives. Forms of expression
heard routinely on television now put authors at risk if posted
on the Net. Lyrics from musicians ranging from the Beatles to
contemporary rap or "grunge" could be restricted from the Net and
subject those who participate in the discussion of such lyrics to
The new law puts not only the publisher of "indecency' at risk.
It also makes the provider of the computer service on which
"indecency" occurs equally liable for criminal prosecution. This
makes me a criminal, and it places at criminal risk all other NIU
faculty and staff who are required, as part of their duties, to
maintain the computer systems on which possible transgressions
might occur. In fact, some legal analysts suggest that, because
of a quirk in statutory wording, this letter places you at risk.
This letter makes you aware of criminal activity, and by failing
to address it, you may be complicit by knowingly providing the
resources for the electronic crimes.
Here are a few ways in which the new law affects me:
I currently conduct a class in which 50 percent of the course is
conducted on the Internet by use of a discussion group,
homepages, and electronic mail. Some of my course material,
including reproductions of court cases, put me in non-compliance
with the law if posted on the class homepage.
Any discussions in the class discussion group that violate the
new law will put me and the poster in non-compliance. This
restricts course content and also restricts electronic lecturing
and making some class lecture notes electronically available.
Any discussion of "indecent" material that occurs on, for
example, TOMPAINE--an NIU faculty/staff discussion list--will put
me at risk.
Any homepage material that a faculty member publishes that
violates the proscriptions in the law will put me at risk.
Why am I accountable for the actions of others? Because I also
maintain sun.soci, the sociology department's Internet-connected
computer system that encourages use of the new technology for
pedagogy, exploration of intellectual and artistic issues, and
discussion. The Act make me liable for what occurs on the system.
I also publish an electronic newsletter/journal with over a
quarter of a million readers (Cu Digest). The newsletter is in
demonstrable non-compliance with the law, because it contains,
among other material, "indecent" public documents and legal
decisions available in any library.
The ACLU and other organizations have joined to file a
restraining order against the Act. Senator Patrick Leahy will
soon introduce legislation to repeal the Act. Representative
Patricia Schroeder will be introducing legislation to repeal the
restrictive language in the CDA. But, until and unless the Act is
changed, it has created a "criminal culture" at NIU. You can find
considerable information and on the Act at
http://www.soci.niu.edu/~critcrim/cda/cda.html. I urge you and
NIU legal counsel to examine and respond to the issues.
I see two possible responses you could make:
First, you could order all "indecent" material to be removed from
NIU homepages, create a barrier that prohibits newsgroup and
Usenet access on campus, and create a monitoring system that
would assure that the content on all computer systems with
Internet access at NIU be approved. In short, you could exercise
prior restraint, restrict academic freedom, and engage in
censorship. Of course, you must first ascertain what is
"indecent," and in what jurisdictions such standards of
"indecency" might apply.
An alternative response would be to take a public stand against
the restrictive provisions of the CDA, support freedom of
expression, and join in opposition to the demonstrable "chilling
effect" produced by the new legislation.
A few years ago, you wrote me a memo. You concluded that memo
with the quotation: "I may disagree with what you say, but I will
defend to the death your right to say it." Given such a
commitment, I am confident that you will select the second
Previous pleas to urge NIU administrators to act on these issues
have failed. Given the urgency, I trust that you decisively will
act where others have not.
Jim Thomas, Professor
Northern Illinois University
Date: Fri, 9 Feb 1996 17:16:35 +0100
From: John Perry Barlow
Subject: File 5--A Cyberspace Independence Declaration
Yesterday, that great invertebrate in the White House signed into the law
the Telecom "Reform" Act of 1996, while Tipper Gore took digital
photographs of the proceedings to be included in a book called "24 Hours in
I had also been asked to participate in the creation of this book by
writing something appropriate to the moment. Given the atrocity that this
legislation would seek to inflict on the Net, I decided it was as good a
time as any to dump some tea in the virtual harbor.
After all, the Telecom "Reform" Act, passed in the Senate with only 5
dissenting votes, makes it unlawful, and punishable by a $250,000 to say
"shit" online. Or, for that matter, to say any of the other 7 dirty words
prohibited in broadcast media. Or to discuss abortion openly. Or to talk
about any bodily function in any but the most clinical terms.
It attempts to place more restrictive constraints on the conversation in
Cyberspace than presently exist in the Senate cafeteria, where I have dined
and heard colorful indecencies spoken by United States senators on every
occasion I did.
This bill was enacted upon us by people who haven't the slightest idea who
we are or where our conversation is being conducted. It is, as my good
friend and Wired Editor Louis Rossetto put it, as though "the illiterate
could tell you what to read."
Well, fuck them.
Or, more to the point, let us now take our leave of them. They have
declared war on Cyberspace. Let us show them how cunning, baffling, and
powerful we can be in our own defense.
I have written something (with characteristic grandiosity) that I hope will
become one of many means to this end. If you find it useful, I hope you
will pass it on as widely as possible. You can leave my name off it if you
like, because I don't care about the credit. I really don't.
But I do hope this cry will echo across Cyberspace, changing and growing
and self-replicating, until it becomes a great shout equal to the idiocy
they have just inflicted upon us.
I give you...
A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace
Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I
come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask
you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have
no sovereignty where we gather.
We have no elected government, nor are we likely to have one, so I address
you with no greater authority than that with which liberty itself always
speaks. I declare the global social space we are building to be naturally
independent of the tyrannies you seek to impose on us. You have no moral
right to rule us nor do you possess any methods of enforcement we have true
reason to fear.
Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. You
have neither solicited nor received ours. We did not invite you. You do not
know us, nor do you know our world. Cyberspace does not lie within your
borders. Do not think that you can build it, as though it were a public
construction project. You cannot. It is an act of nature and it grows
itself through our collective actions.
You have not engaged in our great and gathering conversation, nor did you
create the wealth of our marketplaces. You do not know our culture, our
ethics, or the unwritten codes that already provide our society more order
than could be obtained by any of your impositions.
You claim there are problems among us that you need to solve. You use this
claim as an excuse to invade our precincts. Many of these problems don't
exist. Where there are real conflicts, where there are wrongs, we will
identify them and address them by our means. We are forming our own Social
Contract . This governance will arise according to the conditions of our
world, not yours. Our world is different.
Cyberspace consists of transactions, relationships, and thought itself,
arrayed like a standing wave in the web of our communications. Ours is a
world that is both everywhere and nowhere, but it is not where bodies live.
We are creating a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice
accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth.
We are creating a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her
beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence
Your legal concepts of property, expression, identity, movement, and
context do not apply to us. They are based on matter, There is no matter
Our identities have no bodies, so, unlike you, we cannot obtain order by
physical coercion. We believe that from ethics, enlightened self-interest,
and the commonweal, our governance will emerge . Our identities may be
distributed across many of your jurisdictions. The only law that all our
constituent cultures would generally recognize is the Golden Rule. We hope
we will be able to build our particular solutions on that basis. But we
cannot accept the solutions you are attempting to impose.
In the United States, you have today created a law, the Telecommunications
Reform Act, which repudiates your own Constitution and insults the dreams
of Jefferson, Washington, Mill, Madison, DeToqueville, and Brandeis. These
dreams must now be born anew in us.
You are terrified of your own children, since they are natives in a world
where you will always be immigrants. Because you fear them, you entrust
your bureaucracies with the parental responsibilities you are too cowardly
to confront yourselves. In our world, all the sentiments and expressions of
humanity, from the debasing to the angelic, are parts of a seamless whole,
the global conversation of bits. We cannot separate the air that chokes
from the air upon which wings beat.
In China, Germany, France, Russia, Singapore, Italy and the United States,
you are trying to ward off the virus of liberty by erecting guard posts at
the frontiers of Cyberspace. These may keep out the contagion for a small
time, but they will not work in a world that will soon be blanketed in
Your increasingly obsolete information industries would perpetuate
themselves by proposing laws, in America and elsewhere, that claim to own
speech itself throughout the world. These laws would declare ideas to be
another industrial product, no more noble than pig iron. In our world,
whatever the human mind may create can be reproduced and distributed
infinitely at no cost. The global conveyance of thought no longer requires
your factories to accomplish.
These increasingly hostile and colonial measures place us in the same
position as those previous lovers of freedom and self-determination who had
to reject the authorities of distant, uninformed powers. We must declare
our virtual selves immune to your sovereignty, even as we continue to
consent to your rule over our bodies. We will spread ourselves across the
Planet so that no one can arrest our thoughts.
We will create a civilization of the Mind in Cyberspace. May it be more
humane and fair than the world your governments have made before.
February 8, 1996
John Perry Barlow, Cognitive Dissident
Co-Founder, Electronic Frontier Foundation
Home(stead) Page: http://www.eff.org/~barlow
Message Service: 800/634-3542
Barlow in Meatspace Today (until Feb 12): Cannes, France
Hotel Martinez: (33) 92 98 73 00, Fax: (33) 93 39 67 82
Coming soon to: Amsterdam 2/13-14, Winston-Salem 2/15, San Francisco
2/16-20, San Jose 2/21, San Francisco 2/21-23, Pinedale, Wyoming
In Memoriam, Dr. Cynthia Horner and Jerry Garcia
It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can
stand by itself.
--Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia
Date: Wed, 7 Feb 1996 20:10:01 -0500
Subject: File 6--The ACLU Online
ACLU Launches 'Freedom Network' Web Site
Brings Civil Liberties Activism To Cyberspace
Wednesday, February 7, 1995
The American Civil Liberties Union today launched its new World Wide Web site
-- the ACLU Freedom Network -- with special features for students, activists
and all Americans concerned about protecting and preserving liberty.
Opened as political leaders in Washington are poised to end free expression
on the Internet, the ACLU's Freedom Network has complete information on the
threats to cyber-liberties, including details of the ACLU's upcoming
litigation against the Communications Decency Act. Internet users can find
the Freedom Network by directing their web browsers to the following address:
The ACLU's provocative and informative site contains a comprehensive array
of documents, news releases, legal briefs and Congressional memos on all
aspects of the ongoing struggle to protect civil liberties. Among the special
features are extensive looks at 15 issues, including:
Church and State
Lesbian and Gay Rights
Each issue area contains internal links to ACLU press releases,
publications, and other resources -- including links to other Web sites --
allowing users to stay on top of the latest developments in their areas of
Activists, journalists, and many others will want to sign up for e-mail
delivery of ACLU News Releases, Legislative Alerts, Scheduled ACLU events on
AOL, and the biweekly newsletter, ACLU Cyber-Liberties Alert. For
subscription instructions, request the FAQ at <>.
Another Freedom Hall feature allows internet users to fax or e-mail a letter
to Attorney General Janet Reno, urging her to refrain from prosecuting any
indecency cases until the courts rule on the Constitutionality of the
indecency provisions of the telecommunications bill.
The Freedom Network's "In the Courts" and "In Congress" sections provide
further primary source material, such as the text of Supreme Court decisions
and summaries of current Congressional bills, as well as unique ACLU
information -- including photos and profiles of some ACLU clients.
Students and teachers will want to explore our special section devoted to
education, and sign-up for our online Students and Faculty databases. Users
can even pick up some T-shirts -- or videos, or books, or posters -- in our
sophisticated online store.
The launch of the Freedom Network marks the third step into cyberspace for
the ACLU, which has since 1994 explored the medium's capacity to broaden the
nationwide community of civil libertarians, distribute information, teach
young people and bring activists together. In addition to Freedom Hall, the
ACLU hosts a very active forum -- Constitution Hall -- on America Online, the
nation's largest commercial online service. (Keyword ACLU).
-- THE ACLU
Date: Sun, 16 Dec 1995 22:51:01 CDT
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Subject: File 7--Cu Digest Header Info (unchanged since 16 Dec, 1995)
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