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EFFector - Volume 11, Issue 13 - ALERT: House Commerce Committee Poised to Pass CDA II


EFFector - Volume 11, Issue 13 - ALERT: House Commerce Committee Poised to Pass CDA II

             EFFector       Vol. 11, No. 13       Sep. 23, 1998
   A Publication of the Electronic Frontier Foundation     ISSN 1062-9424
     * ALERT: House Commerce Committee Poised to Pass CDA II: Contact
       Legislators ASAP!
          + ACTION
          + MESSAGES
          + SUMMARY
     * EFF calls for recognition of rights in Domain Naming System
     * Administrivia
   See for more information on EFF activities &
  ALERT: House Commerce Committee Poised to Pass CDA II: Contact Legislators
   Electronic Frontier Foundation Alert, Sept. 23, 1998 (partially
   expires Sept. 24, 1998; please do not redistribute after Oct. 1, 1998;
   check Web site for update.)
   (This is another unfortunately short-notice alert; sometimes Congress
   acts rapidly and with little warning, several times in a row.)
   Please IMMEDIATELY call and fax the House Commerce Committee (contact
   info below), and urge them to to REJECT the Internet censorship bill
   known as the "Child Online Protection Act" (a.k.a. "CDA II"), H.R.
   Next visit the alert page of the Blue Ribbon Campaign for Online Free
   and follow the instructions to contact your own legislators to oppose
   this and related legislation (you can send your legislators a free fax
   via the Web!)

   with Web sites to please actively join the campaign by putting Blue
   Ribbon icons and links to the Blue Ribbon Page on your own Web pages!
   When contacting the Committee, if you wish to elaborate on why the
   Committee should reject this bill, here are some basic talking points:

    1. This legislation contains most of the unconstitutional flaws of
       the original CDA, and last week's Telecommunications Subcommittee
       markup made the bill even worse than it already was by introducing
       a prior restraint on free expression.
    2. Though the sponsors of this bill claim it is intended to address
       only commercial pornographers intentionally targeting minors, the
       actual language of the bill is vague and overbroad, and would
       likely sweep in much more than explicit for-profit visual
       materials. The bill will censor a wide variety of legitimate,
       protected expression, for adults as well as children.
    3. Congress's own posting of the Starr report would likely violate
       H.R. 3783.
    4. It is the responsibility (and right) of parents, not the federal
       government, to decide what is or is not appropriate for minors to
       have access to, and to supervise minors. In the classroom, this is
       a local, not federal, issue.
    5. What is appropriate for a 5-year-old is not the same thing as what
       is appropriate for a 16-year-old, and this bill fails to take
       account of this basic fact.
    6. Intentionally providing a minor with "harmful matter", online or
       offline, is already illegal under general obscenity and
       harmful-to-minor statutes. Congress cannot expand this to a ban on
       all online publication (which the bill amounts to; the Supreme
       Court has already found that the kind of age verification this
       bill, like the CDA, calls for is impractical.
    7. The bill is unnecessary - as parents learn how to supervise their
       children's online activities (directly, or indirectly with the use
       of filtering software), the risk of children's exposure to
       inappropriate online materials is declining.
   Feel free to use your own wording of course. The last point can be
   skipped when contacting the Committee by voice phone, since it is long
   and rather technical. Other points can be shortened for voice calls,
   e.g., "The bill will censor a lot more than the commercial
   pornographers it aims at," for point 2.
   The House Commerce Committee
     * Phone: +1-202-225-2927
     * Fax: +1-202-225-1919
     * E-mail: (it's important to phone or fax
   There is insufficient time to contact individual legislators' offices.
   The markup is likely to be completed by early afternoon at the latest.
   More information on contacting Congress is available at:
   The Subcommittee on Telecommunications, Trade, and Consumer Protection
   of the House Commerce Committee passed a revised (and worsened)
   version of legislation intended to establish restrictions on online
   publication of content deemed "harmful to minors" on the Net, on Thu.,
   Sep. 17, 1998. The full House Commerce Committee is now taking up the
   legislation and is ready to pass it Thu., Sep. 23, 1998.
   The untitled bill, which many refer to as "CDA II", would block many
   adults from receiving or posting a wide variety of legitimate material
   online that falls under vague harm criteria and includes many of the
   same constitutional defects as the original Communications Decency Act
   (CDA). The new version even introduces a prior restraint on
   publication, which the Supreme Court has already ruled
   unconstitutional. The bill is a completely useless measure intended to
   curry favor with theocratic organizations and voters, and does not
   actually do anything to protect children.
   In the name of ostensibly protecting young users of the Internet, CDA
   II is intended to enact a wide-ranging ban on Web posting of material
   deemed "harmful to minors." The bill number is H.R. 3783, and it is a
   companion bill to the Senate's S. 1482, passed as an amendment to an
   appropriations bill that cleared the Senate over the summer. H.R. 3783
   was introduced by Rep. Michael Oxley (R-OH-5).
  EFF calls for recognition of rights in Domain Naming System administration
   FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE September 23, 1998

                  True Internet Democracy Undermined
            by Latest Agreement Over Domain Naming System

 Electronic Frontier Foundation Sends Open Letter and Revised Bylaws
 to IANA & NSI Emphasizing Need to Protect Free Expression on the Net

   SAN FRANCISCO, CA -- Charging that a proposed plan to revamp the
   Internet Domain Naming System (DNS) would threaten both the democratic
   governance of the Internet and basic human rights principles of free
   expression and due process, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)
   today called for substantial changes in the scheme.
   EFF's call came in an open letter to the Internet community and a set
   of proposed bylaw changes sent to the Internet Assigned Numbers
   Authority (IANA) and Network Solutions, Inc. (NSI). Together, IANA and
   NSI have drafted a "New IANA" plan to revamp the DNS processes, in
   response to a Clinton Administration White Paper calling for changes
   that reflect the global nature of the Net and which address
   inefficiencies, over-centralization and several other current
   problems. The "New IANA" plan is considered the main contender in
   satisfying these requirements. EFF argues that the plan fundamentally
   fails to meet these requirements.
   EFF Board member John Gilmore said, "we believe that the latest
   IANA/NSI proposal does not follow the requirements set forth by the
   White Paper for protecting openness and free expression."
   "There are several organizations quietly registering complaints about
   the proposal with the architects of the New IANA," he continued.
   "We've tried working from within the process to get our specific
   concerns related to free speech into the Bylaws and nothing has
   happened. EFF sees this as such a serious impediment to the future of
   the Internet that we feel compelled to make this public announcement."
   What's at stake is the executive responsibility for the technical
   aspects of the Internet, as the New IANA will oversee the management
   of the Internet's infrastructure, including domain name registration
   and setting technological standards and protocols. The latest
   agreement between IANA and NSI, which is articulated in a fourth draft
   of the Bylaws for the New IANA, is close to being finalized since the
   NSI contract over the DNS is about to expire at the end of this month.
   "The U.S. and other governments, Internet users, and standards
   organizations asked for an international, legally binding, democractic
   body governed by the full spectrum of Internet users," said Gilmore.
   "What it's getting instead is another U.S.-centric, closed corporation
   that would be run by an elite group shielded from public scrutiny."
   Specifically, EFF believes that the proposed New IANA Bylaws do not
   protect the public in the following four areas:

     * The lack of transparency and openness in the Bylaws prevents the
       public from participating in the governance of the DNS;
     * The Bylaws are silent on the importance of protecting free
       expression, which leaves the public vulnerable to arbitrary
       decisions that violate the basic right to speak freely;
     * The transition arrangements written into the Bylaws undermine the
       authority of the newly formed IANA board, rendering their
       articulated powers irrelevant; and
     * The lack of public disclosure of key contracts, and certain other
       clauses assist in the perpetuation of existing monopoly
   EFF has crafted a set of enhanced and revised Bylaws that address
   these four areas, which are vital to protect the public interest.
   "As a basic principle, any foundation for governance of a
   communications system, such as the Internet, should stand on the
   fundamental human right of free expression," said EFF President Barry
   Steinhardt. "The strongest guarantees of free speech and publication,
   due process, and nondiscriminatory administration should be written
   into the charter of any organization empowered with Internet
   "True Internet-wide democracy has to happen now," added Gilmore. "If
   we were to enact the Bylaws agreed to by IANA and NSI today we would
   be turning our backs on the possibility of an open governance of the
   EFF has been tracking the DNS governance issue for the past several
   years. One of EFF's Board members is on the IANA Transition Advisory
   Group; another has agreed to join the Interim Board; a third was
   instrumental in the CORE effort to provide a capable competitor in
   global domain registration. In addition, EFF's legal staff has tracked
   and commented on numerous proposed policies and drafts, while our
   activists have closely followed the controversies online and in the
   EFF's Letter and Revised Bylaws sent to IANA and NSI are on the Web
   Version 4 of the Proposed Bylaws for the New IANA, agreed to by
   IANA/NSI, are on the Web at:
   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
   at of information on electronic privacy, online
   free speech, and encryption policy.
   EFFector is published by:
   The Electronic Frontier Foundation
   1550 Bryant St., Suite 725
   San Francisco CA 94103-4832 USA
   +1 415 436 9333 (voice)
   +1 415 436 9993 (fax)
   Editor: Stanton McCandlish, Program Director/Webmaster (
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