Our opposition to the Communication Decency Amendment and similar laws
The U.S. Congress has repeatedly passed legislation that effectively bans all indecent
material from the Internet. President Clinton signed the first bill into law as the Communications
Decency Amendment. An offender could receive fines of $250,000 and jail sentences of
2 years. It was part of a giant telecommunications bill. Although it was declared
unconstitutional by the U.S. supreme court, a similar law, the Child On Line
Protection Act (COPA) was signed into law by President Clinton on 1998-OCT.
At first glance, it seems strange to be against "decency"; it is like being
against motherhood or apple pie. But consider what the word "indecency" means. Webster's
New World Dictionary defines "indecency" as meaning "not
proper and fitting; unseemly; improper; morally offensive; obscene." We
personally find some of the misinformation, hatred and propaganda spread by some Internet
religious and counter-cult sites against minority religions (such as
Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormon Church, Santeria, Unification Church, Wicca, Vodun etc) to be
indecent. We view anti-homosexual, anti-Wiccan
hate sites to be morally offensive. Those sites probably regard portions of our
site which describe all sides of many hot religious topics (like abortion,
capital punishment, creation science
etc) to be improper and unseemly as well. These types of sites could conceivably be closed
down by this law, along with many others.
An image of a crucifix might be viewed by one person as a beautiful religious symbol;
another person might see it as dangerous to children because it displays a nearly naked
person being tortured to death. A Wiccan might view a pentacle
(5 pointed star inside a
circle) as their prime religions symbol; another individual might see it as a dangerous
evil Satanic or gang-related symbol. Indecency and offensiveness is, like beauty, in the
eye of the beholder.
The Internet is a wide-open facility. WWW sites can normally be accessed by anyone,
regardless of their age. So, anyone who creates a site knows that some people under the
age of 18 will probably eventually surf it. If it contains any material that anyone
finds unseemly, indecent, improper, or offensive, then all sorts of groups could be
charge, convicted and either imprisoned or fined:
||the writer of the "offensive" essay
||the group which operates the web site where the essay is found
||the Internet Service Provider (ISP) which stores the site in its computer and makes it
accessible by the world
||the ISP at the subscriber's end which gives the subscriber access to the Internet
This means that no passionately held, controversial, belief system could be discussed
on the Internet. It means that nothing that might upset a 5 year old person could be
included in any web site.
We favor censorship at the parental level of their children's access to the Internet.
There are many types of censorship software that are available and easily installed on a
home computer. Parents have to be cautious because some software companies filter out
material for the simple reason that it contains certain words; others ban access to cites
of different religions for the simple reason that they are not Christian. It is important
for parents to find out exactly what are the software provider's criteria for censorship.
You may wish to check with:
||The Electronic Frontier Foundation is at: http://www.eff.org.
They are one of the 10 most-linked-to-sites on the Internet.
||Citizens Internet Empowerment Coalition (CIEC) is at: http://www.cdt.org/ciec/. They give you an opportunity
to join their effort and to subscribe to their mailing list.
||Peacefire is a volunteer-based organization composed of young people (ages 13 -
20) working for freedom of speech on the Internet. See: http://www.10mb.com/peacefire/
Essay last updated: 1999-JUL-18
Author: B.A. Robinson