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FW: Internet: Network Briefing - Jul 23, 1998

Ich weiss nicht, ob sich das schon bis hierher durchgesprochen hat...


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Sent: Donnerstag, 23. Juli 1998 06:08
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Subject: Internet: Network Briefing - Jul 23, 1998 





US Editor: Jonathan Collins (jonc@computerwire.com)
Internet Editor: Nick Patience (nick@computerwire.com)
European Editor: Joanne Taaffe (joannet@computerwire.co.uk)
Deputy Internet Editor: Rachel Chalmers (rachel@computerwire.com)
Staff Writer: Tom Hughes (tomh@computerwire.co.uk)
Contributors: William Fellows, John Rogers

Editorial: nwbed@computerwire.com
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Copyright 1998 ComputerWire Inc. 
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                             Jul 23, 1998


The US Senate has angered civil libertarians by passing two bills
restricting access to a wide range of materials deemed 'harmful to
minors' on the internet. The amendments were tacked onto a $33bn
spending bill for the State, Justice and Commerce departments, and
could yet be eliminated when the House conference committee reconciles
the bills. 

One amendment, offered by Senators John McCain and Patty Murray,
threatens to pull federally funded internet service from schools and
libraries that "fail to implement a filtering or blocking system". The
other bill, sponsored by Senator Dan Coats, goes even further,
prompting critics to nickname it "Spawn of CDA" - a reference to the
infamous Communications Decency Act which the US Supreme Court
eventually ruled unconstitutional. 

The Coats bill hopes to prohibit "commercial distribution on the world
wide web of material that is harmful to minors." That material is
pretty broadly defined, covering "matter of any kind" that "lacks
serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value." As
posters to Slashdot.org have pointed out, that pretty much winds
things up for the web. 

If the bill becomes law, commercial sites publishing questionable
material will be required to verify that readers are over 17 years of
age, or risk a $50,000 fine or six months in jail. The bill helpfully
suggests that sites require use of a verified credit card to establish
a reader's age, because as we all know, credit card numbers never get
into the wrong hands. 

The Senate passage of the amendments has ignited a storm of protest.
Most criticism rests on two points, arguing that the bills are both
unconstitutional and unenforceable. "CDA II will be no more effective
than CDA I," said Jerry Berman, executive director of the Center for
Democracy and Technology. 

The American Civil Liberties Union has been campaigning against both
bills since they were first drafted. In a March letter to members of
the Senate Committee on Commerce, ACLU Washington DC director Laura W.
Murphy argued that Congress may not require libraries and schools to
give up their first amendment rights in exchange for federal dollars,
and that the Coats bill would criminalize protected speech among

The Electronic Frontier Foundation's executive director Barry
Steinhardt points out that the bills were "brought up without any
notice to those members of Senate who opposed them and without any
opportunity for meaningful debate. In effect, free speech on the
internet was the victim of an ambush." 

Steinhardt says the McCain/Murray amendment should be considered
unconstitutional because of the crudity of current filtering
technology, which blocks out a wide array of non-harmful speech. But
he added that the other amendment is worse: "At first glance, the
Coats' CDA II bull appears to be a relatively benign provision that
purportedly applies only to commercial pornographers who market to
minors," Steinhardt said, "but it is a Trojan horse."
(c) ComputerWire Inc, 1998.