CPSR Members and Supporters -
Congressional action on the telecommunications deregulation bill has
stalled, which means there is still time to lobby Congress to prevent
Internet censorship and increased monopoly control of media.
Please act now!
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What's Wrong with S. 652 and H.R. 1555?
It allows oligopolies to form that control the information we
receive on radio, television, newspapers, and electronic networks.
It allows gaps to widen between segments of society (rich and poor,
educated and uneducated). It censors public discussion on
electronic networks. It lets rates rise too fast and too much.
Why Is This Legislation Important?
The legislation loosens restrictions on the behavior of giant
industries that influence the very way we think and behave. In
removing those restrictions, the legislation also removes historic
protection for diversity of opinion and reasonable rates. The
stated purpose of the legislation is to increase technology in
homes, businesses and institutions. The results, however, are not
in line with the purpose.
What We Recommend
CPSR believes the bill can be improved by adding provisions that:
Promote diversity of programming by requiring carriers, like
telephone and cable companies, to provide services to other
companies at reasonable rates.
Protect the "free market of ideas" by preventing the formation of
even larger media monopolies and oligopolies and keeping regulatory
safeguards in place until proof of true competition emerges.
Retain current limits on the percentage of markets that one firm can
Continue to make it possible for users of one service to connect
with users of other services.
Reject censorship and allow parents to decide what their children
Ensure that all individuals have equitable access to the new
Maintain affordable rates for cable and telecommunications services.
Require telephone companies to pass on to customers a portion of
what they save through more efficient operation.
Preserve the preferential access available to public, educational
and governmental organizations.
Require additional public interest programing, and more diversity in
programming, in exchange for providing television broadcasters with
A copy of CPSR's full policy analysis can be obtained by contacting
the CPSR National Office at (415) 322-3778, or electronically at
firstname.lastname@example.org. The document is also available on the World Wide Web
VTW's alert follows with detailed tips on lobbying Congress.
CAMPAIGN TO STOP THE NET CENSORSHIP LEGISLATION
(SEE THE LIST OF CAMPAIGN COALITION MEMBERS AT THE END)
Update: -Latest News: We've won our reprieve! Make this count!
-What You Can Do Now: Meet with your Congress-person and
ask them to oppose the Telecomm bill
CAMPAIGN TO STOP THE UNCONSTITUTIONAL COMMUNICATIONS DECENCY ACT
Jan 1, 1996
PLEASE WIDELY REDISTRIBUTE THIS DOCUMENT WITH THIS BANNER INTACT
REDISTRIBUTE ONLY UNTIL Jan 30, 1996
REPRODUCE THIS ALERT ONLY IN RELEVANT FORUMS
What You Can Do Now
How To Setup A Really Good Meeting With Congressional Staff
The Latest News
Chronology of the CDA
For More Information
List Of Participating Organizations
WHAT YOU CAN DO NOW
As you probably already know, Congress has attached legislation to the
Telecommunications Deregulation bill that will criminalize much speech
on the Internet that may be considered "indecent" with a 2 year jail
term and a US$100,000 fine. Online activists have been fighting to have
these provisions removed from the bill from Day 1. Our latest thrust
has been to stall the passage of the bill, hoping to gather enough
support to have these provisions removed.
As you also probably already know, Congress broke for the year without
voting on the Telecommunications Deregulation bill. Although net
activists should not take too much credit for this nonevent, our loud
objections to the language being tossed around in the Conference
committee certainly helped slow things down a bit.
We have bought ourselves some time, and now we must meet with our
legislators and explain to them why the Telecommunications Deregulation
bill will cripple the Internet as a medium for commerce, education, and
We've done well so far in establishing ourselves and our concerns in
Washington DC. We need to transform ourselves, evolve into the next
step in the political process and begin the face to face work that will
convince candidates that we vote, and our votes turn on the First
Make a New Year's resolution: vow to have a face to face meeting with
the staff of your local legislator. Follow the directions below and
help become a part of the growing Internet Voter block.
1. Setup a meeting at the local office of your Congress-person.
Sample phone call (a bit long for a call, but use it as a guide)
Hi, I'm a constituent.
The pending Telecommunications Reform bill contains a provision
which, under the guise of protecting children from
objectionable material on the Internet, will destroy the
Internet as a viable medium for commerce, education, and
democracy. I believe that there are other, less restrictive
ways to address this issue.
I am very concerned about this issue, and I would like to come
in and meet with someone in your office to talk about why this
bill must not be passed in its current form. How soon can I
schedule a meeting?
If you don't know who your local legislator is, try these methods:
League of Women Voters: In many cities you can call them and they will
look up your legislator for you.
Elections Board: Many cities allow you to look up your legislator by
calling the local Elections board.
The Zipper: Stardot Consulting has setup a Congressional lookup service
called the Zipper, which lets you look up your legislator by entering
your zipcode. URL:http://www.stardot.com/zipper/
You can call the capitol switchboard at: 202 224-3121
A list of phone numbers for Congress is available also at:
2. Tell us about your meeting, preferably before and after by sending us
mail to email@example.com. We will be keeping track of feedback to help
coordinate lobbying efforts in DC if and when Congress votes on this issue.
$ Mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: meeting setup with Rep. Snodgrass
I've got a meeting scheduled with Rep. Snodgrass' staff on Tues.
I'm taking the Internet Parental Control FAQ and will educate them
about why these laws are not only unnecessary, but will not help
control kids' access to the net!
$ Mail email@example.com
Subject: my meeting with Rep. Snodgrass
I just got back from my meeting with Snodgrass' staff. It went well!
They didn't know anything about the Internet, but I helped explain
to them about parental control tools and the fact that current laws
are *already* being enforced there, and they seemed to understand!
3. Relax! You have really done a lot to help the cause.
HOW TO SETUP A REALLY GOOD MEETING WITH CONGRESSIONAL STAFF
REMEMBER THE POINT OF THE MEETING
You must have a clear theme in the meeting. Even if you say it and you
think it sounds corny, you don't want to leave a staffer guessing at what
The theme should be:
The Telecom bill should not pass with the net censorship
provisions in its current form. House Speaker Gingrich and
Senate Leader Dole have both expressed concern over these
provisions. Please work with them to protect free speech and
It will help if you bring a personal Internet success story, such as
important medical information found on the net, children gets material
for school reports, car-owners talking to one another, camping tips,
consumer product information from companies, local library card
catalog, government information from CDC, Census, USDA, NASA, etc.
SCHEDULING THE MEETING
When you setup your meeting, do not overload the meeting. It is better
to have a local office have three meetings with three people, rather
than one meeting with nine people.
A perfect meeting would include an Internet user, an Internet business
(like an Internet provider or another company that uses the net), and a
librarian. Pick someone to be the MC so things progress smoothly.
If you're the only one going to the meeting, that is good too. It's
better to go to the meeting alone, rather than have no meeting at all.
PREPARING FOR THE MEETING
Make sure you're familiar with the issues before going into the
meeting. Take some time to read the Communications Decency Act FAQ
available from URL:http://www.vtw.org/pubs/cdafaq to get a sense of the
myths you may have to dispel during the meeting. Also, become familiar
with, and take a copy of the VTW Internet Parental Control FAQ to back
up claims that there are many parental control devices out there that
allow parents to control what their children see on the Internet. It
is available from URL:http://www.vtw.org/pubs/ipcfaq.
Are you ready? Ask yourself if you know why no new laws are necessary
to control information on the Internet.
If the answer is that current laws about child porn and obscene
material extend there already, which, combined with parental control
tools, make such unconstitutional laws unnecessary, then you're ready.
RUNNING THE MEETING
Remember that most staffers know nothing about the Internet. You'll have to
bring them up to speed on the net, as well as why the net needs no new laws.
It's crucial you be polite. This is the first time they've met Internet
Voters, and first impressions count.
Dress appropriately, a jacket and tie are not out of the question. Be very
polite and patient. Never raise your voice or utter the following phrases
during a meeting with a staffer:
"I pay my taxes" or "You work for me, I'm a taxpayer"
(We all pay taxes, this is moot)
"I'll make sure you're not re-elected"
(They haven't met that many Internet Voters yet to convince them
this might be true)
Make sure everyone has a chance to speak, answer any questions they might
have, and then thank the staffer for their time. Leave your name and number
so they can call you and ask you any questions they might think of later.
AFTER THE MEETING
Send a thank you letter (faxing it is appropriate). Remember to let VTW
know that you had the meeting by sending email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
THE LATEST NEWS
Congress has broken for the year without a vote on the Telecomm bill.
We have been given the breathing room we sorely needed. We must now
convince legislators to vote against the censorship legislation.
Just to refresh your memory, the House and Senate passed different pieces
of legislation which addressed regulation of the Internet. Some of the
legislation promoted a "parental control" approach, where parents, not
the government, were the most appropriate to control children's access
to speech on the Internet. (This approach was called Cox/Wyden and was
approved 421-4 by the House)
Other proposals advocated dumbing down the content of the Internet to
that which is acceptable to children, and holding providers responsible
for the speech of their users. These approaches were the Communications
Decency Act (S314 approved 84-16 by the Senate), and the Manager's Amendment
(slipped into the House Telecomm bill at the last second).
Although we are trying very hard to get an electronic copy of the conference
report, it's not fast in coming. As soon as we can get a copy into electronic
form we'll put it up on several WWW pages.
In the meantime, here's a summary of what the bill looks like.
CRIMINALIZATION OF "INDECENT" MATERIAL
The proposed legislation relies on the unconstitutional "indecency standard".
Like the Exon Communications Decency Act, it seeks to regulate all indecent
Indecency is a broad category that may include everything from George Carlin's
"seven dirty words" to such classic novels and "The Catcher in the Rye",
"Lady Chatterly's Lover", "The Scarlet Letter", "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn",
"Our Bodies, Our Selves", Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet", and "Catch-22".
The Supreme Court has ruled that restrictions on indecent speech are
Constitutional only if they rely on the "least restrictive means". Broad
indecency restrictions on interactive media do not satisfy the "least
restrictive means" test, because interactive media allows users and
parents tremendous control over the information they receive.
The net effect of an indecency restriction would be to tone down every
conversation, web page, newsgroup, and mailing list on the Internet
to the level of what is not offensive to children.
Even the Department of Justice, who will have to enforce this law once
it becomes public, says that the indecency standard is "constitutionally
problematic". (Letter from Andrew Fois of US DOJ to Rep. Howard Berman,
CONTENT PROVIDERS, ONLINE SERVICES, AND LIBRARIES CRIMINALLY LIABLE FOR
Although the proposed legislation tries to hold harmless those who simply
function as "pipelines" for Internet access, there are many Internet
businesses who act as more than just access providers. Hosting discussion
groups, chat rooms, and other additional services, many Internet providers
function as content providers as well as simple access providers.
On top of this, the rest of us who provide content on the net (which includes
everyone who sends mail, posts to Usenet, puts up a WWW page, maintains an
ftp directory, or a gopher page) will fall under the indecency law, and
be forced to screen our material and "dumb it down" to the level of what is
not offensive to a child.
This will include anything having to do with sexual abuse, abortion, or any
"GOOD SAMARITAN" PROVISION REMAINS IN BILL
The original Cox/Wyden/White legislation included a "Good Samaritan"
provision which said that a provider who takes some actions to police
their content cannot be penalized for not taking action in other places.
UNPRECEDENTED CONTROL OVER ONLINE SPEECH FOR THE FCC
The original Cox/Wyden/White bill prohibited FCC jurisdiction over the
Internet. This provision has been removed from the proposed legislation,
which now leaves the FCC open to make a case for regulating this new
The Internet has developed from a government project to a market-driven
economic boom for thousands of businesses. Giving the FCC authority over
this medium would significantly hinder the growth of this new industry.
CHRONOLOGY OF THE COMMUNICATIONS DECENCY ACT
Dec 7, '95 The House half of the Telecomm conference committee
votes the "indecency" standard for online speech into
the Telecomm Deregulation bill.
Sep 26, '95 Sen. Russ Feingold urges committee members to drop
Managers Amendment and the CDA from the Telecommunications
Aug 4, '95 House passes HR1555 which goes into conference with S652.
Aug 4, '95 House votes to attach Managers Amendment (which contains
new criminal penalties for speech online) to
Telecommunications Reform bill (HR1555).
Aug 4, '95 House votes 421-4 to attach HR1978 to Telecommunications
Reform bill (HR1555).
Jun 30, '95 Cox and Wyden introduce the "Internet Freedom and Family
Empowerment Act" (HR 1978) as an alternative to the CDA.
Jun 21, '95 Several prominent House members publicly announce their
opposition to the CDA, including Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-GA),
Rep. Chris Cox (R-CA), and Rep. Ron Wyden (D-OR).
Jun 14, '95 The Senate passes the CDA as attached to the Telecomm
reform bill (S 652) by a vote of 84-16. The Leahy bill
(S 714) is not passed.
May 24, '95 The House Telecomm Reform bill (HR 1555) leaves committee
in the House with the Leahy alternative attached to it,
thanks to Rep. Ron Klink of (D-PA). The Communications
Decency Act is not attached to it.
Apr 7, '95 Sen. Leahy (D-VT) introduces S.714, an alternative to
the Exon/Gorton bill, which commissions the Dept. of
Justice to study the problem to see if additional legislation
(such as the CDA) is necessary.
Mar 23, '95 S314 amended and attached to the telecommunications reform
bill by Sen. Gorton (R-WA). Language provides some provider
protection, but continues to infringe upon email privacy
and free speech.
Feb 21, '95 HR1004 referred to the House Commerce and Judiciary committees
Feb 21, '95 HR1004 introduced by Rep. Johnson (D-SD)
Feb 1, '95 S314 referred to the Senate Commerce committee
Feb 1, '95 S314 introduced by Sen. Exon (D-NE) and Gorton (R-WA).
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Web Sites (roughly in alphabetical order)
email@example.com (put "ipcfaq" in the subject line for the Internet
Parental Control FAQ or "send cdafaq" for the CDA FAQ)
firstname.lastname@example.org (General CDA information)
email@example.com (Current status of the CDA)
LIST OF PARTICIPATING ORGANIZATIONS
In order to use the net more effectively, several organizations have
joined forces on a single Congressional net campaign to stop the
Communications Decency Act.
American Civil Liberties Union * American Communication Association *
American Council for the Arts * Arts & Technology Society * biancaTroll
productions * Boston Coalition for Freedom of Expression * Californians
Against Censorship Together * Center For Democracy And Technology *
Centre for Democratic Communications * Center for Public Representation
* Citizen's Voice - New Zealand * Cloud 9 Internet *Computer
Communicators Association * Computel Network Services * Computer
Professionals for Social Responsibility * Cross Connection *
Cyber-Rights Campaign * CyberQueer Lounge * Dorsai Embassy * Dutch
Digital Citizens' Movement * ECHO Communications Group, Inc. *
Electronic Frontier Canada * Electronic Frontier Foundation *
Electronic Frontier Foundation - Austin * Electronic Frontiers
Australia * Electronic Frontiers Houston * Electronic Frontiers New
Hampshire * Electronic Privacy Information Center * Feminists For Free
Expression * First Amendment Teach-In * Florida Coalition Against
Censorship * FranceCom, Inc. Web Advertising Services * Friendly
Anti-Censorship Taskforce for Students * Hands Off! The Net * HotWired
Magazine * Inland Book Company * Inner Circle Technologies, Inc. *
Inst. for Global Communications * Internet On-Ramp, Inc. * Internet
Users Consortium * Joint Artists' and Music Promotions Political Action
Committee * The Libertarian Party * Marijuana Policy Project *
Metropolitan Data Networks Ltd. * Michigan Electronic Communities of
Concerned Adults * MindVox * MN Grassroots Party * National Bicycle
Greenway * National Campaign for Freedom of Expression * National
Coalition Against Censorship * National Gay and Lesbian Task Force *
National Public Telecomputing Network * National Writers Union * Oregon
Coast RISC * Panix Public Access Internet * People for the American Way
* Republican Liberty Caucus * Rock Out Censorship * Society for
Electronic Access * The Thing International BBS Network * The WELL *
Web Review Magazine * Wired Magazine * Voters Telecommunications Watch
(Note: All 'Electronic Frontier' organizations are independent entities,
not EFF chapters or divisions.)
Audrie Krause * Executive Director * CPSR
Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility
P.O. Box 717 * Palo Alto * CA * 94302
Phone: (415) 322-3778 * Fax: (415) 322-4748
Send E-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
The keeper of this page is Brent Hugh (BHugh@CSTP.UMKC.EDU ). Feel free to email him with any questions about,
problems with, or complaints regarding the page.