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EFFector - Volume 5, Issue 1 - Three Perspectives Of A Two-Day Meeting in Atlanta Between EFF and Representatives of Regional Groups of Grassroots Networking Activists


EFFector - Volume 5, Issue 1 - Three Perspectives Of A Two-Day Meeting in Atlanta Between EFF and Representatives of Regional Groups of Grassroots Networking Activists

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EFFector Online Volume 5 No. 1       2/5/1993
A Publication of the Electronic Frontier Foundation   ISSN 1062-9424
584 lines
                               In this issue:
Three perspectives of a two-day meeting in Atlanta between EFF and 
representatives of regional groups of grassroots networking activists.


This past January 23rd and 24th, 11 members of the electronic 
community met in Atlanta with members of the staff and board of 
the Electronic Frontier Foundation.  The meeting lasted a day and a 
half, with topics of discussion including EFF's recent organizational 
restructuring and how groups serving the electronic community can 
work together to be more effective.  By the end of the two days, 
meeting attendees had formed a group to organize and formulate 
guidelines for continuing interchange among all who work to 
strengthen electronic communications.

This issue of EFFector Online presents some first-hand views of what 
transpired in Atlanta.  Mitch Ratcliffe, one of the members of 
This!Group out of San Francisco's Bay area, David Smith, a board 
member of the EFF-Austin group, and Jerry Berman, EFF's Executive 
Director, all offer their thoughts about the meeting.  Other meeting 
attendees were:

	Dick Anderson, Delegate from EFF-Austin
	John Perry Barlow, EFF Executive Committee Chairman
	Judi Clark, Delegate from This!Group
	Esther Dyson, EFF Board Member
	Dave Farber, EFF Board Member
	Cliff Figallo, EFF Online Coordinator
	John Gilmore, EFF Board Member
	Mike Godwin, EFF Legal Services Counsel
	Mitch Kapor, EFF Board Chairman
	Jon Lebkowsky, Delegate from EFF-Austin
	Matt Midboe, Delegate from Huntsville, Alabama
	Simona Nass, Delegate from NTE (New York)
	Alexis Rosen, Delegate from NTE (New York)
	Shari Steele, EFF Staff Attorney
	Bob Stratton, Delegate from Washington, DC, area
	Glenn Tenney, Delegate from This!Group
	Ed Vielmetti, Delegate from Ann Arbor, Michigan 

     Information Activists Confer, Establish Understanding 
by Mitch Ratcliffe

Atlanta, where the world comes everyday for news and colorized 
movies, the capitol of Cyberspace, was the setting for a discussion 
between the Electronic Frontier Foundation and information activists 
on the weekend of January 23-24. After two days of discussions, the 
parties came away with a new understanding of EFF's legislative 
agenda in coming years, and how local groups can work together to 
raise awareness of electronic freedom and privacy. 

EFF has endured a roller-coaster year, during which it wrestled with 
the growth of its influence in Washington and growing interest in 
local chapters. After the group's board of directors rejected investing 
organizational energy in local chapters and closed its Cambridge, 
Mass. office -- shifting all funding to a Washington office -- they 
faced the challenge of explaining their new role to the world. EFF's 
founders had already discovered the Internet community can be a 
fickle friend. As the group succeeded inside the Beltway, its Internet 
constituency has savaged them in e-mail and news groups. People 
have questioned their commitment to civil liberties and whether the 
EFF agenda served only its corporate sponsors. 

So, the purpose of the meeting in Atlanta was clearly two-fold. In 
addition to identifying the projects on which the attendees can work 
together, EFF needed to cultivate a chorus of voices in key virtual 
and actual forums that can articulate their new agenda. The 
representatives invited to the summit included members of the 
Austin, Texas,-based EFF chapter that has been growing for the past 
year, as well as activists from New York, San Francisco, Ann Arbor, 
Mich., and Huntsville, Ala.

EFF and the representatives of the various groups met bearing with 
them considerable defensiveness after months of crossed signals and 
animosity. What transpired was not a conversion, but a discovery of 
the personalities behind the EFF machine. Mitch Kapor and John 
Perry Barlow, the founders, and Jerry Berman, the lobbyist who has 
ascended to head the now Washington-based organization, exposed 
themselves to questioning for two days. What we found were very 
human leaders, who are as confused about perceptions of them as 
the world is about where they came from, what they have 
accomplished and how they operate in Washington. While we do not 
agree with everything they do, there is no denying that they are 
effective. Considerable educational and advocacy territories are also 
wide open for other groups who want to make them their own.

"There has been some ambiguity in people's minds with regard to 
who we are," Barlow said. "We are who we've always been. The 
changes we announced are fairly minimal. We've decided to focus a 
lot of our activities in Washington because there is a significant 
window of opportunity there"

If EFF has suffered from anything this last year, it's bad 
communication. Without a concerted effort to reach out to the Net -- 
and to everyday people who live and work on the fringes of 
Cyberspace, because they use computers, cable television and ATM 
cards -- the organization has allowed itself to become a victim of its 
own early expectations that enlightened visions of the future would 
allow them to transcend organizational and Beltway politics. Instead, 
the EFF received a fierce, full-body reality check. They've found that 
experience can be a high-sticking teacher on the black ice of life.

"We're a bunch of permanent, chronic mavericks," Kapor said. "But 
certain things became very clear when the board met to discuss our 
direction. We clarified the role of chapters, or lack of chapters, 
deciding that we did not want a centralized organization. The other 
thing that's increasingly clear is that there is a sense in certain parts 
of the net that EFF has a perceived obligation to serve particular 
constituencies. We are not trying to be the provisional government of 
Cyberspace, and we also reject the idea that we have an obligation to 
serve the good of the net," he said.

He also said his own personal animosity for running the day-to-day 
operations of a large organization had contributed to the 
miscommunication between EFF and potential chapters. 

Discussion on the first day revolved around the recently announced 
changes at EFF. After EFF presented several perspectives on its 
Washington-based strategy, the activists from around the country 
explained how their groups were founded and had begun to grow.

"We're better defined and we're capable of changing based on what 
we hear from the outside," said EFF board member Esther Dyson. "We 
are not for the net community, we're for the idea of communities. 
One that we come from and feel close to is the net community, but 
that's not the only one." 

Jerry Berman explained that EFF will continue to advocate for 
freedom of expression and extension of civil liberties into 

"We are committed to the legal services and civil liberties service 
role and we will work with people using the technology in different 
ways that will raise constitutional and public policy issues," Berman 
said, citing as an example the 2600 case the EFF has just joined with 
the American Civil Liberties Union. "With regard to those two 
functions, of representing people in trouble and civil liberties 
representation, we are on the ground. With regard to representation 
of the net community, there is a strong part of all of us who wants to 
work with grass-roots organizations outside of Washington DC." 

That outreach will come through collaboration with local information 
advocates, Berman said.

The regional groups in attendance outlined their organizations: 

This!Group, the San Francisco-based group, said that it has pursued a 
loose structure, but tightly defined projects. Without a board or 
officers in place, This!Group has not grown particularly fast. It has, 
however, begun work on a pamphlet, "Thirteen Things to Keep You 
Awake at Night at the Dawn of the Information Age", and a CD-ROM 
containing video and audio clips from the Computers, Freedom and 
Privacy Conferences I and II, and text of various electronic civil 
liberties cases and papers.

EFF-Austin, the "alpha" chapter that EFF sanctioned in 1991, has 
grown very quickly and holds monthly Cyberdawg events to reach a 
large audience of potential members. With approximately 70 
members, EFF-Austin has published "InfoDisks" of EFF-related 
documents and conducted seminars on sysop liability.

NTE, the New York group that sprung up last fall, has 50 or so active 
members. They have established a board of directors and hold 
monthly meetings in Manhattan that are well attended. Net access is 
a focus for NTE, because several public access UNIX providers have 
joined; they would also like to conduct educational programs for 
ordinary folk and the law enforcement community.

Ann Arbor, the Washington DC area and Huntsville, where people 
have discussed forming groups, were represented, as well.

Conversation about how the Net might be organized to fight 
intrusions on privacy or freedom of expression revolved around how 
EFF might act as a central clearinghouse for information. But more 
than that, it became apparent that a national action coordinator is 
needed. This person or organization must be a conduit not only 
between EFF and the regions, but also a mechanism for generating 
letters to Congress, agencies and so on (for example, imagine the 
impact of 100,000 letters sent to the National Security Agency vis-a-
vis encryption export policy -- the Director of the NSA should have 
to wonder about how people got his address by now -- but no 
such coordinated mailings have happened).

Attendees called repeatedly for a national coordinator staff member 
at EFF. They also demanded that EFF take its show on the road, 
having staffers and the board meet with activists around the 
country. However, this may have been missing the real point -- if the 
people of the Net want to have this kind of coordination, they are 
probably going to have to set the wheels in motion themselves. EFF 
has a talent for lobbying, and will be honing their legislative blade 
over the next year. The Net -- or better, people concerned about the 
extension of civil liberties into Cyberspace -- had better get to 
organizing a body that can provide these services. The message is 
that EFF is already busy. 

So came the suggestion on the second day that a federation of 
information activist organizations would be one possible solution to 
the problem. Of course, more organization may be the last thing the 
Net and activists need. But the suggestion was made and approved 
resoundingly by all. A steering committee was named to explore how 
such an organization might be launched, and to gauge the interest of 
groups like Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility, the 
American Library Association, ACLU and many others. The steering 
committee began work on a statement of principles and conjured the 
working title for the group: Congress of Information Associations 
(CIA). A Birds of a Feather session to discuss the CIA will be 
scheduled for the Third Conference on Computers, Freedom and 
Privacy in Burlingame, Calif. on March 9 - 12, 1993. (for CFP 
information, send mail to

What was accomplished? The reestablishment of communication 
among members of a broad coalition, but one that has not succeeded 
in including everyone concerned about electronic communications 
and civil liberties. Contentiousness is the first law of the Net, and 
there is certain to be argument about the motivations of EFF in 
holding this conference without invitations to CPSR, ACLU and the 
thousands of activists who are reaching users in the far corners of 
the Matrix. But for those who attended, it was a weekend of 
productive face-to-face talk that may serve as the foundation for 
future collaboration and action. 

Mitch Ratcliffe
Editor at Large


February 7, 1993


David Smith
[This is not intended to be a definitive account, but rather my 
personal account of what I thought was important at the Atlanta 
Summit Conference. --D.S.]

The format of the conference was (roughly) a day and a half of 
conversations while seated in a Georgia Tech campus building, 2-3 
hours of conversation while seated at a Chinese restaurant, and many 
more hours of conversation while seated in the lobby and bar of the 

In addition to a greater understanding of the other groups and 
individuals, I learned a lot more about EFF-Austin, and how we fit 
into the "national scheme."

Take, for example, the nature of each organization. The word "civil 
liberties" was dropped more times by lunch than I had heard in 
almost a year of my own involvement with EFF-Austin. While EFF-
National works primarily as a political activist, EFF-Austin works as a 
social activist. The strength of our organization is providing a forum 
and common ground for the vast and diverse members of the Austin 
electronic community. 

While a wing of EFF-Austin may develop in the future that more 
closely resembles the traditional cyber-liberties organizations, a self-
definition of "community activist" more aptly describes not only our 
history but future goals as well.

A preconception I carried into Atlanta was thinking that the "Best 
Thing To Do" was the creation of a document, FAQ, outline, or 
guideline that served as a cookbook for creating other local groups 
across the country. After meeting and speaking with members from 
the other groups, however, I now believe a cookie sheet cut-out 
won't work, because each group exists as a function unique to their 
environment and local area.

Some examples.

San Francisco already hosts a strong Computer Professionals for 
Social Responsibility (CPSR) group as well as Bay Area MacIntosh 
User Group (BMUG). There is no need (or desire) for This!Group to 
replicate those efforts. There is no need (or desire) for another highly 
structured organization like an EFF-Austin, and so this is a very loose 
affiliation of people picking and choosing tasks that interest them. 
Judi Clark and Mitch Ratcliffe are working a CD-Rom that will be a 
combination of historical archive of the Computers Freedom and 
Privacy Conference (sound bytes, multi-media), as well as having 
600+ textfiles. Glenn Tenney mentioned as another possible project 
an informational brochure or pamphlet. 

Another example of a group being a function of their area is Matt 
Midboe, the representative from Huntsville. He cannot receive UUCP 
access in his area, much less an Internet connection. (Note: He is 
"borrowing" one from one of the Departments at his University, with 
implicit permission). Austin has at least a dozen sites to receive 
USENET newsgroups and e-mail access, so this is not an issue of 
concern for EFF-Austin.

Finally, after listening to Simona Nass and Alexis Rosen discuss the 
organization-building experiences of NTE, I am glad that we had the 
good common sense to only have *one* lawyer-type and not half a 
dozen or more. 


Jerry Berman, executive director of EFF-National, spoke about the 
recent reorganizations, the role of EFF, and how it operates. After 
reading the press release and litany of jilted lovers on, and after speaking with other EFF-Austin Board 
members, my impression was that EFF had engaged in a full scale 

Berman's explanation, however, showed the re-organization as an 
attempt to realign the organization with their commitments to 
advance the cyber liberties agenda. Not only did it not work to have 
two offices, he said, but it was counter- productive, created mixed 
signals, and was not very effective. Rather than abandoning the 
communications function of the Cambridge office, they were simply 
re- consolidating inside the Beltway. Nearly every member of EFF-
National that spoke admitted to the organization having a serious 
communication problem, aggravated in part by having two offices.

Berman also left me with a greater understanding of the role that EFF 
plays in national politics. Cyberspace is a domain in the Washington 
political arena surrounded by entities who have interests other than 
the First Amendment at heart : the CIA, FBI, the military, AT&T, NSA, 
IBM, et. al. These organizations have enclosed telecommunications 
policy into a gridlock and the way EFF-National has chosen to break 
this gridlock is through alliances with as many members as possible 
in order to provide for the passing of the civil liberties agenda.

Berman gave as an example the digital telephony bill, which the FBI 
proposed, allowing law enforcement agencies (in essence) a back 
door to all encryption methods. 

EFF-National opposed this on constitutional grounds and enlisted the 
aid of several business and telecommunication industry interests. 
Perhaps these corporations were *really* concerned with the bottom 
line and thought that the scheme would be too expensive to 
implement. Perhaps they aligned with EFF-National not out of 
concern about being a good democratic citizen, but out of the desire 
to protect profits. 

So what? says the EFF-National.

The alliance was so effective that not a single member of the Senate 
nor House of Representatives sponsored the bill, when it could have 
just as easily been framed as protecting the public from terrorists or 
the need to be tough on crime etc. etc. The civil liberties agenda was 
served through alliances with industry spear-headed by EFF-

That is the dance that Jerry Berman is hosting in Washington. 


Besides a sense of greater understanding and co-operation between 
groups (as measured by a whole week sans flames on the 
thesegroups mailing list), some more concrete items are rising out of 

The local groups banded together to present EFF-National with a joint 
proposal about what we wanted from EFF-National. Essentially we 
made a list of resource-sharing tasks that would help us out, and 
asked EFF-National to assign or hire a person to perform these tasks. 
Berman said this would be discussed at the Board Meeting (which 
was scheduled for Sunday afternoon), though no official 
announcement or follow- up as been released as of this writing.

As a direct result of contacts made in Atlanta, Matt Midboe reports 
that he has located a company interested in providing access to the 
Huntsville area.

A special Steering Committee was formed to investigate the creation 
of a formal organizational structure that will serve as an alliance 
between the cyber-liberties groups. Jon Lebkowsky immediately 
volunteered as the representative for EFF-Austin, pending Board 
approval at the next Director's meeting.

We also agreed to continue using the thesegroups mailing list as a 
forum for communication. We discussed having another conference 
in a year from now, and immediately volunteered Austin as a host 
site.  EFF-Austin is also working on projects that involve 
members of different groups. 

* * *

End note :

I want to point out that both Dick Anderson and Jon Lebkowsky 
were vigorous participants in representing EFF-Austin as well. There 
just wasn't room to try and discuss everything. 

Also, I want to personally thank EFF-National for sponsoring the 
conference and taking the time to listen to our concerns. I want to 
thank EFF-National for paying for our round trip airfare and dinner 
Saturday night, as well as Mike Godwin for picking up the tab at the 
bar, even if Atlanta doesn't stock Shiner Bock.

EFF-Austin contact information
E-mail :
Snailmail : PO Box 18597,  Austin, TX 78760
VoiceMail : 512-465-7871
Disclaimers : You are encouraged to re-distribute this.
document electronically. Any opinions expressed belong to
the author and not the organization. (c) 1993
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February 5, 1993

An Open Letter from Jerry Berman
Executive Director
Electronic Frontier Foundation

	On January 12, 1993, the Electronic Frontier Foundation 
announced that it was moving all of its operations to Washington, DC, 
and that I was EFF's Executive Director.  At the same time, EFF 
announced that it was not going to establish formal EFF chapters 
around the country.  On January 23 and 24, members of EFF's board 
and staff met in Atlanta with representatives of groups interested in 
possible EFF affiliation to explain our decisions and discuss future 
cooperative efforts.  In this first issue of EFFector Online for 1993, we 
offer you both "grass roots" and EFF views on what this all means.  I 
am including my own first take on the changes at EFF.

	First and foremost, we are consolidating our operations in 
Washington, DC, in order to better carry out our mission of fostering 
openness, individual freedom and community on the electronic 
frontier.  We want to serve as more effective advocates of policies 
and causes that increase civil liberties and democratic values in new 
digital media, and we want to engage in education and advocacy both 
with other groups who share a common mission and with "grass 
roots" citizens on and off the net who want to join with us in these 

	But why Washington?  The answer is plain:  While many of us 
are increasingly cynical about Washington, DC, and "inside the 
beltway" politics, we must also understand that the momentous 
decisions that affect our society are being made in Washington.  This 
is as true when it comes to the shaping and civilizing of cyberspace 
as with anything else.

	While many who already communicate online think of the 
electronic frontier as inhabited by BBS systems, the WELL, USENET 
and other fledgling outposts of new digital communities, in fact the 
electronic frontier exists within communications wires that are 
highly regulated and structured.  Today, giant public and private 
institutions -- from the FBI to the Congress, from the FCC to the 
telephone and cable companies -- are battling between and among 
themselves over the future control and governance of the electronic 

	Recognizing the importance of being "inside the beltway," EFF 
opened the Washington office last January and ever since has 
devoted an increasing amount of staff and resources to shape the 
outcome of these policy battles in ways that are consistent with and 
supportive of civil liberties and democratic values.  Unfortunately, 
we have not communicated well about our goals and activities.  
Seldom have our electronic public interest policy efforts, or those of 
others, been discussed in EFFector or other EFF outlets.  And when 
they have, they have often been badly garbled or misconstrued.    
We can only accept full responsibility for failing to explain the civil 
liberties implications of the "ISDN thing" or to fully communicate 
EFF's leadership role in thwarting the FBI's effort to "dumb down" 
new computer and communications technologies and networks to 
carry out government wiretapping.

	As none of these policy debates or issues are resolved, nor can 
they be resolved in ways that serve the public interest without 
broader citizen participation, we are restructuring our operations and 
our communications.

	Soon, both EFFector and our new public policy newsletter will 
set out the critical issues.  For example, we will explain how:

		* our ISDN initiative and our involvement in the NREN are 
designed to empower a diversity of electronic voices to share politics, 
commerce and culture with one another as we transition to the 
broadband networks of the next century;

		* EFF will continue to coordinate a broad coalition of 
organizations -- from public interest groups like the ACLU and CPSR 
to companies interested in the future of communications like AT&T, 
Microsoft, Lotus and Sun Microsystems -- in opposition to the FBI's 
legislation to "certify" technologies and networks only when they 
meet broad, ill-defined wiretapping standards;

		* EFF wants to build grass roots support for lifting export 
and other controls on encryption to guarantee the right of privacy 
and security;

		* EFF  not only wants to litigate future "Steve Jackson 
Games"-type cases, but it wants to avoid the need to do so by 
establishing new Secret Service and FBI investigative guidelines that 
keep law enforcement officers from trampling on the First and 
Fourth Amendment rights of computer users;

		* we want other groups to use EFFector and other EFF 
publications for communicating about their local, state and national 
policy and cultural initiatives; and

		* EFF is interested in working toward a possible 
federation of electronic frontier outposts that we would join but not 
govern or control.

	To accomplish this mission, we will be located in Washington 
but will maintain our presence on the Net.  We are committed to 
listen, learn and work towards common goals but maintain our 
independence.  Members of the EFF board and staff will be out and 
about, both online and off.

	EFF is a unique organization, operating at a critical moment.  
Major policy decisions affecting free speech and privacy will be made 
over the next several years.  Combining technical, legislative and 
legal expertise, EFF is committed to engaging in vigorous advocacy 
for our vision of the electronic future, which we hope you share.  We 
look forward to working with you to make this vision a reality.

Jerry Berman*
EFF Executive Director

(*Before joining EFF as Washington Office and now Executive Director, 
Jerry Berman was Chief Legislative Counsel for the American Civil 
Liberties Union and founder of the  ACLU Projects on Privacy and 
Information Technology.)


For information on EFF membership, email  or call 
     EFFector Online is published by
     The Electronic Frontier Foundation
     666 Pennsylvania Ave., Washington, DC 20003
     Phone: +1 202 544-9237 FAX: +1 202 547 5481
     Internet Address:
     Coordination, production and shipping by Cliff Figallo, EFF 
     Online Communications Coordinator (
 Reproduction of this publication in electronic media is encouraged.
 Signed articles do not necessarily represent the view of the EFF.
 To reproduce signed articles individually, please contact the authors
 for their express permission.

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