The Communications Decency Act and You

Recent Info

Senator Leahy has introduced a measure to combat the Decency Act's implications on the Internet. Read the message that he sent back to everyone who wrote him about the measure, and you can find out more under the "Measures to Combat the Act" section below.

The Communications Decency Act is not limited to just the Internet...a new twist some members of the Christain Coalition want to use the law for is to impose censorship on cable TV. Not just the pay-per-view smut channels will be affected, though. Normal pay TV channels like HBO, Cinemax, and Showtime can also be censored through the bill. Some of our best entertainment is quite at risk...

A federal judge as of 2/15/96 has put a restraining order on the government to prohobit the enforcement of the Communications Decency Act. The Justice Department, which had intended to begin enforcing the law in full force on Thursday 2/15/96, is now merely gathering "information" to be used against sites once the restraining order is lifted. Read the AP article about the restraining order. The text is taken from the CNN Interactive newssite.

Measures to Combat the Act

Senator Patrick Leahy has introduced a measure in the Senate to revoke the application of the Communications Decency Act to the Internet. Through his homepage, you can see the text of his bill along with his statement. Send him mail today indicating your support for his measure and the maintainence of free speech on the Internet.

Mailing Lists and Statistics

Mailing lists for House members and Senators who voted for and who voted against the Communications Decency Act are now available. They are in text format, and are designed for use with Eudora, although they may work on UNIX systems as well. Instructions for using them are the same as for our GSS mailing list, which can be accessed from the main homepage.

Only 12.5 percent of House members have e-mail addresses.

Only 20 percent of Senators have e-mail addresses.

Only 2 House members have a hompage

Only 2 Senators have homepages

What is wrong with this picture?

What is the Communications Decency Act?

The Communications Decency Act, a part of the telecommunications reform bill that was signed into law on Feb 8, 1996, contains portions of the Exon bill that effectively censor the Internet. Dispersion of "indecent materials to minors" is now illegal. Effectively, the open and free exchange of information on the Internet is now prohibited. Besides the restriction on the use of the word "abortion" on the Internet (see Dave's response below), now any type of material that is considered indecent is also controlled. Because of the looseness of the language, things that may be called indecent include The Catcher in the Rye, the paintings of the Sistene Chapel, information on testicular and breast cancer, as well as information on contraceptives and abortion. Such sites must now be password protected, or they are illegal. Currently, these types of information are not considered indecent under the current Supreme Court definition of indecency, but since there is no definition of indecency in the law itself, anyone can change the scope of the law by merely changing the definition of indecency. While not illegal in themselves, the transmission of the material on those sites to minors carries a harsh penalty: up to 2 years in prision and a quarter million dollar fine.

The fact that the law does not specify the types of materials banned allows for an unusual precedent. The banning of transmission of indecent speech has been upheld in cases involving television and radio. The argument of the ACLU in challenging the law, however, is that the Internet is not a public and free medium like television and radio as people must pay for their access if they want it as they don't have to do for radio and television, must actively search for "smut", and that the Internet represents a private medium such as printed media or a telephone conversation or letters.

You can find out more from The Electronic Frontier Foundation, an organization dedicated to promoting free speech on the Internet.

Why is GSS 94 Illegal?

This site is now illegal because of our Humor&Sex forum. The Humor archive, dedicated to archiving some of the best in college e-mail chain humor, contains some questionable material. Because of the loose definition (mainly none) of "indecent" in the new law, if any minors access the GSS site, I personally may face the fines and prison term mentioned above as the material can be construed as to be "indecent".

How can I Protest?

If you have a homepage, make the background black and text white for 48 hours following the passage of the bill (today at noon). The ACLU has launched a battle against the Communications Indecency Act in the courts as it is a violation of the First Amendment. You yourself can send mail to the President voicing your opinion, or visit the related sites that can be found through Yahoo, which is also participating in the protest, or most importantly, be sure to register for the vote in 1996 and make your voice known.

Things that can be construed as Illegal on the GSS Site

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