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NY Times Cybertimes Article

N.Y. Times zur Verurteilung des CDA.


>NY Times Cybertimes
>June 28, 1997
>>From Decency Act Ruling, A Global Impact, Experts Say
>When the United States Supreme Court gave a green light to freedom of
>speech on the Internet in a historic decision issued on Thursday, the
>justices were in essence telling millions of ordinary people online to go
>ahead and speak their minds.
>But unlike other free speech rulings handed down by the high court in the
>last 200 years, this decision is likely to dictate far more than the
>parameters of discourse in the United States.
>In striking down the Communications Decency Act, the Supreme Court sent a
>clear "hands off the Net" message, a decisive act of jurisprudence that
>many lawyers and Internet experts say will resound far beyond U.S.
>borders, because it carries the weight of the court's own prestige backed
>by the technological pedigree of the democracy that invented the Internet.
>"A number of countries used the Communications Decency Act as
>justification for their own Net censorship; Singapore comes to mind,"
>David Banisar, staff counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information
>Center, a Washington, D.C.-based public interest group, said on Friday.
>"Now they can no longer claim we are the ones practicing it. A lot of
>countries look to the U.S. for guidance on the Internet, both on the
>technology and the resulting issues that come up."
>Barry S. Steinhardt, associate director of the American Civil Liberties
>Union and a founding member of the Global Internet Liberty Campaign, a
>year-old group founded to advocate Internet freedoms, predicted that the
>decision would have a "profound" impact around the planet.
>"If the United States, which holds itself out as a leader of the free
>world, had engaged in wholesale censorship of the Internet, it would have
>encouraged nations around the globe to follow its lead," Steinhardt wrote
>in e-mail response from Brussels to a reporter's questions.
>Many nations have either considered or are already regulating the Internet
>in some way, by criminalizing certain content, for example, in the case of
>Germany and Singapore or by restricting access to cyberspace altogether in
>the case of Iran. A report by Human Rights Watch last year found that at
>least 20 nations had Internet restrictions in place.
>In Singapore, for example, Internet service providers must abide by strict
>content regulations. And in Germany, a university student was recently
>charged in connection with posting a home page that contained a link to an
>online left-wing newspaper that is supposed to be blocked within that
>The global nature of the Internet, however, can undermine such efforts to
>regulate online content. In a brief filed against the Decency Act, for
>example, the American Library Association argued that no United States law
>restricting indecent speech could be truly effective, because so much
>sexually explicit content originates overseas. Justice John Paul Stevens,
>in a footnote to his opinion, conceded that this argument raised
>"difficult issues," but he said the court did not have to consider those
>issues to decide the case.
>Stevens recognized the huge variety of Internet speech -- some of it
>innocuous, some incendiary -- throughout his opinion. He ignored the
>suit's well-known plaintiffs, like Microsoft Corporation, and instead made
>direct or indirect references to the "little guys" -- the publishers of
>small Web sites devoted to AIDS prevention information, for example, or to
>the uncomfortable subject of prison rape.
>Heralding the possibilities of the new medium to give real impact to these
>speakers, Stevens noted that in a chat room any person "can become a town
>crier with a voice that resonates farther than it could from any soapbox."
>Likewise, he noted that by using a Web page, automated mailer or
>newsgroup, "the same individual can become pamphleteer."
>But what if the electronic pamphleteer's message, considered within the
>bounds of rational discourse within his community in the United States, is
>regarded as beyond the pale on the other side of the globe?
>Jay Friedland, an executive of the company that sells SurfWatch, a
>filtering program that blocks access to potentially objectionable sites on
>the Internet, said that customers in different nations take umbrage at
>different things.
>"Sex is a much lower concern in Europe than in the United States," he
>said. "Everybody wants to stop child pornography, but many Europeans would
>say the U.S. is very puritanical."
>Germans, he said, are more worried about neo-Nazi propaganda than other
>nations are. Scandinavians are more leery of sites promoting alcohol use.
>And some Muslim nations are sensitive about sites perceived to be
>Apart from these differences, most people share certain universal
>concerns: child pornography, vicious hate speech and depictions of brutal
>violence -- all of which can be found in corners of cyberspace, though
>they make up a miniscule proportion of the Internet's content.
>There is also the possibility on the Internet for what Mike Godwin, staff
>attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, calls "the Pierre
>Salinger syndrome" -- that is, the ability of the global network to spread
>utterly unfounded rumors around the globe in seconds.
>Still, Godwin said Friday, with the Decency Act as precedent, governments
>worldwide may have to learn to live with the bazaar of speech that is the
>Internet -- with junk hawked in some booths, jewels in others.
>"On the Internet," Godwin said, "everybody has a loud voice."
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>Global Internet Liberty Campaign
>David Banisar (Banisar@epic.org)                *    202-544-9240 (tel)
>Electronic Privacy Information Center           *    202-547-5482 (fax)
>666 Pennsylvania Ave, SE, Suite 301             *    HTTP://www.epic.org
>Washington, DC 20003 * PGP Key  http://www.epic.org/staff/banisar/key.html