Electronic Frontier Foundation reacts to Senate passage of two Internet filtering bills

Published: 1998-07-22

Date: Wed, 22 Jul 1998 12:34:01 -0500
To: [email protected]
From: Dave Farber [email protected]

July 21, 1998


Electronic Frontier Foundation Reacts to Senate Passage of Two Internet Filtering Bills

Statement of Barry Steinhardt

President of the Electronic Frontier Foundation

This afternoon the Senate passed two draconian bills that would ultimately prevent access to a wide array of content on the Internet. The two bills were passed as an amendment to an appropriations bill for the Commerce, Justice and State Department. They were brought up without any notice to those members of the Senate who opposed them and without any opportunity for meaningful debate. In effect, free speech on the Internet was the victim of an ambush.

The first amendment offered by Senators John McCain (R-Arizona) and Patty Murray (D-Washington) would require schools and libraries that receive federal funds for Internet connections to install filtering software to block inappropriate material. The second, "the CDA II" bill sponsored by Senator Dan Coats (R-IN) would enact a wide ranging ban on Web posting of material deemed "harmful to minors."

The two bills represent a real and present danger to free speech on the Internet. The McCain/Murray amendment will force libraries and schools to use all too frequently crude and overbroad filters that block out a wide array of non-"indecent" speech — everything from the Quaker home page to the American Association of University Women has been blocked by these programs.

Indeed, you can no more create a computer program to block out one community's view of "indecency" or "obscenity" than you can devise a filtering program to block out misguided proposals by members of Congress. Both may be desirable, but neither are possible.

At first glance, the Coats' CDA II bill appears to be a relatively benign provision that purportedly applies only to commercial pornographers who market to minors. But it is a Trojan horse. Beneath the veneer, it covers any Web site that has a commercial component and which has material that some community will consider "harmful to minors." This ranges from the electronic bookseller Amazon.com to the EFF's site, which sells books and T-Shirts.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is one of the leading civil liberties organizations devoted to ensuring that the Internet remains the world's first truly global vehicle for free speech, and that the privacy and security of all on-line communication is preserved. Founded in 1990 as a nonprofit, public interest organization, EFF is based in San Francisco, California. EFF maintains an extensive archive of information on encryption policy, privacy, and free speech at http://www.eff.org.

Alexander Fowler
Director of Public Affairs
Electronic Frontier Foundation

E-mail: [email protected]

Tel/Fax: 202 462 5826 (East Coast)
Tel: 415 436 9333; Fax 415 436 9993 (West Coast)

You can find EFF on the Web at http://www.eff.org

EFF supports the Global Internet Liberty Campaign http://www.gilc.org

Additional information about this document
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Author(s): Barry Steinhardt
Title: Electronic Frontier Foundation reacts to Senate passage of two Internet filtering bills
Published: 1998-07-22
First posted on CODOH: July 20, 1998, 7 p.m.
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