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EFFector - Volume 11, Issue 1 - Action Alert: Contact Key Senators to Oppose McCain/Coats Internet Censorship bills

EFFector        Vol. 11, No. 1        Mar. 11, 1998        editor@eff.org
A Publication of the Electronic Frontier Foundation        ISSN 1062-9424

IN THIS ISSUE:

IMMEDIATE ACTION ALERT, MAR. 12 DEADLINE:
 CONTACT KEY SENATORS TO OPPOSE MCCAIN/COATS INTERNET CENSORSHIP BILLS    
    1. INTRO
    2. IMMEDIATE ACTION TO TAKE
    3. SAMPLE PHONE "SCRIPT" & SAMPLE FAX
    4. MORE ACTION TO TAKE
 ADMINISTRIVIA

 See http://www.eff.org for more information on EFF activities & alerts!

----------------------------------------------------------------------
   
The Electronic Frontier Foundation       For immediate release: Mar. 11, 1998
      
IMMEDIATE ACTION ALERT, MAR. 12 DEADLINE: 
CONTACT KEY SENATORS TO OPPOSE MCCAIN/COATS INTERNET CENSORSHIP BILLS
   
Please distribute widely to appropriate forums, no later than Apr. 1, 1998.
      
   SUMMARY:
   
     * Latest News:
       Senate "CDA 2" bills would renew "Communications Decency
       Act"-style online content ban, and force federally-funded
       libraries (and schools) to censor with filtering software.

     * What You Can Do Now:
       Follow the directions below and call Sen. John McCain and members
       of Senate Commerce Committee. Ask them to allow parents to make
       choices for their children, and teachers to run classrooms,
       instead of imposing federal government censorship that will not
       protect children anyway. Explain that Internet censorship bills
       are unconstitutional.
       
     _________________________________________________________________
   
   
THE LATEST NEWS
  
   On Feb. 9, 1998, US Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) introduced a new piece of
   Internet Censorship legislation, the "Internet School Filtering Act",
   S.1619. Rep. Bob Franks (R-NJ, 7th Dist.) introduced a House version,
   the "Safe Schools Internet Act", H.R.3177. The McCain/Franks
   legislation would mandate that any public libraries, or schools,
   receiving federal funds from the 1996 Telecommunication Act universal
   service fund must install "a system for computers with Internet access
   to filter or block matter deemed to be inappropriate for minors."
   
   This legislation follows on the heels of another "CDA 2", an unnamed
   bill, S.1482, by Sen. Dan Coats (R-IN) that attempts to replace the
   failed "Communications Decency Act" and it's "indecency" standard of
   censorship with a "harmful to minors" standard in hopes of passing
   constitutionality challenges in the courts.
   
   Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT) has indicated that at the Thursday, March 12,
   Commerce Committee markup meeting he may introduce an amendment to
   S.1619 to require libraries and schools to simply certify that they
   have local Internet appropriate use policies (AUPs), in order to
   receive the e-rate telecommunications discounts (subsidies available
   under the Telecommunications Act of 1996). Although the Burns
   legislation would be a far more acceptable alternative to Sen.
   McCain's bill, we feel that no bill conditioning library/school
   subsidies on a notion of "appropriateness" of content is good or
   necessary, and that the threat posed by the McCain legislation is
   sufficient that the Commerce Committee needs to receive an unambiguous
   message from the public to stop S.1619 in its tracks.
   
   Theocratic organizations like the Family Research Council are asking
   their supporters to lobby for the McCain bill and to oppose Sen.
   Burns's alternative.
   
   YOUR immediate countering action is needed to preserve online free
   speech! The Senate needs to hear opposition to censorship or it will
   bow to the extremists' pressure to censor.

     _________________________________________________________________

      
IMMEDIATE ACTION TO TAKE
   
   Free speech supporters, *especially supporters from states represented
   on the Commerce Committee*, are asked to IMMEDIATELY contact these key
   Senators and ask them to "kill" the McCain bill, S.1619, and Coats
   bill, S.1482, at the Senate Commerce Committee markup meeting this
   Thursday, March 12 1998 at 9:30am (ET).
   
   We ask you to take JUST TWO MINUTES or so per call to contact the
   offices of Sen. McCain (Chair of the Commerce Committee) and the rest
   of the Committee and express your opposition to this legislation! Urge
   the Senators to allow parents to make choices for their children, and
   teachers to run classrooms, instead of imposing federal government
   censorship that will not protect children anyway.
   
   Feel free to make use of the sample fax and phone "script" below.
   
    SENATE COMMERCE, SCIENCE & TRANSPORTATION COMMITTEE

    ST  PTY   SENATOR                       PHONE          FAX
    ---------------------------------------- (Use 202 area code)---

    AZ   R    John McCain, chair            224-2235       228-2862
    SC   D    Ernest Hollings, rnk. mem.    224-6121       224-4293
    AK   R    Ted Stevens                   224-3004       224-2354
    HI   D    Daniel K. Inouye              224-3934       224-6747
    KS   R    Sam Brownback                 224-6521       228-1265
    KY   D    Wendell H. Ford               224-4343       224-0046
    LA   D    John B. Breaux                224-4623       228-2577
    ME   R    Olympia J. Snowe              224-5344       224-1946
    MA   D    John F. Kerry                 224-2742       224-8525
    MI   R    Spencer Abraham               224-4822       224-8834
    MS   R    Trent Lott                    224-6253       224-2262
    MO   R    John Ashcroft                 224-6154       228-0998
    MT   R    Conrad Burns                  224-2644       224-8594
    NV   D    Richard H. Bryan              224-6244       224-1867
    ND   D    Byron L. Dorgan               224-2551       224-1193
    OR   D    Ron Wyden                     224-5244       228-2717
    TN   R    Bill Frist                    224-3344       228-1264
    TX   R    Kay Bailey Hutchison          224-5922       224-0776
    WA   R    Slade Gorton                  224-3441       224-9393
    WV   D    John D. Rockefeller, IV       224-6472       224-7665
   
     _________________________________________________________________

   
  SAMPLE PHONE "SCRIPT" & SAMPLE FAX
   
   If you would like to both call, and send a fax, this extra action
   would certainly help.
   
   For best results try to put this in your own (short!) words, and be
   emotive without being hostile.
   
   IF YOU ARE A CONSTITUENT (i.e., you live in the same state as the
   Senator you are contacting, or the same district as the Rep. you are
   contacting) make sure to say so. For example "I am a constituent, and
   I'm calling/writing because..."
   
   IF YOU ARE A PARENT, mention this too: "As a constitutent, and a
   parent of two, I'm calling to urge the Senator..."
   
   IF YOU REPRESENT A COMPANY OR ORGANIZATION, say so: "I'm Jane Person
   from Personal Technologies Inc. of Austin. I'm calling on behalf of
   Personal Technologies to ask the Senator to..." Business interests
   carry a lot of weight with many legislators, especially if they are in
   the legislator's home state/district. Legislators also generally heed
   organizational voices over individiual ones.
   
   PHONE "SCRIPT"

     
     You: [ring ring]
     
     Legislative staffer: Hello, Senator Lastname's office.
     
     You: I'm calling to urge the Senator to REJECT online censorship
     bills, like S.1619 and S.1482. These bills are clear threats to the
     First Amendment. They won't protect children, just censor them, and
     adults. Filtering software can't block legal categories like
     "obscene", but it DOES block all kinds of political speech and news
     reportage. Parents and teachers, not the FCC or Congress, should
     decide what is and isn't OK for kids to read. This is a local and
     state, not federal, matter. And censorship does not belong in our
     public libraries at all. Thank you.
     
     Staffer: OK, thanks. [click]
     
   
   It's that easy.
   
   You can optionally ask to speak to the legislator's technology
   staffer. You probably won't get to, but the message may have more
   weight if you succeed. The staffer who first answers the phone
   probably won't be the tech staffer.
   

   SAMPLE FAX
   
   Relevant Congressional fax numbers are in the contact list above.
   Please, if you have the time, write your own 1-3 paragraph letter in
   your own words, rather than send a copy of this sample letter (though
   even that is far better than taking no action!)

     
     Dear Sen. Lastname:
     
     I'm writing to urge you to reject online censorship bills, like the
     McCain "Internet School Filtering Act", S.1619, and the Coats "CDA
     2" or "online harmful to minors" bill, S.1482. These bills are clear
     threats to the First Amendment. They won't protect children, just
     censor them, and adults as well.
     
     Filtering software like that mandated by S.1619, is physically
     incapable of blocking legal categories of content such as "obscene"
     or "harmful to minors", but it DOES block all kinds of political
     speech and news reportage. The bill is unconstitutionally vague and
     over-broad. Based on some third party's notion of
     "inappropriateness", a term with no legal meaning, S.1619 calls for
     widespread censorship of material that is protected by the First
     Amendment, even for minors. Such a law would also violate adults'
     constitutional rights, especially as applied to libraries. As for
     S.1482, this bill is simply an attempt at re-passing the doomed
     "Communications Decency Act" (CDA). All of the faults of the
     original CDA are still present in this new bill, including
     vagueness, reduction of adults to reading only what is fit for
     children, and expansion of FCC powers to include Internet
     regulation, which has also already been rejected by the Supreme
     Court. Neither bill calls for the least restrictive means. As with
     the CDA, civil liberties groups are already preparing an immediate
     legal challege to this legislation should it pass.
     
     Parents and teachers, not the FCC or Congress, should decide what is
     and isn't appropriate for our children to read, at home, in the
     library and in the classroom. This is a local and state, not
     federal, matter.
     
     Sincerely,
     My Name Here
     My Address Here
     
   
   (Address is especially important if you want your letter to be taken
   as a letter from an actual constituent.)
   
   For brief tips on writing letters to Congress, see:
   http://www.vote-smart.org/contact/contact.html 
   The most important tip is to BE POLITE AND BRIEF. Swearing will NOT
   help.
   
     _________________________________________________________________

   
MORE ACTION TO TAKE
   
   After calling/faxing members of the Senate Commerce Committee, please
   contact your own Senators and urge them to oppose the McCain & Coats
   Internet censorship bills. Do this even after the Mar. 12 deadline for
   the main action.
   
   You may also wish to follow up your calls and faxes with e-mail.
   
   If you are unsure who your legislators are or how to contact them, see
   the EFF Congress Contact Factsheet at:
   http://www.eff.org/congress.html
   
   For more information about the McCain & Coats Internet censorship
   bills and why they should be opposed, and the draft Burns amendment,
   including the full text of these bills, see the Blue Ribbon Campaign
   for Online Free Speech page at:
   http://www.eff.org/blueribbon.html
   
[end of alert]

______________________________________________________________________

ADMINISTRIVIA

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