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EFFector Online Volume 08 No. 14 July 26, 1995 firstname.lastname@example.org
A Publication of the Electronic Frontier Foundation ISSN 1062-9424
"Cyberporn" Hearing and Exposure of Flaws in Rimm Study
EFF's Mike Godwin Testifies Against Grassley Censorship Bill
Calendar of Events
Quote of the Day
What YOU Can Do
* See http://www.eff.org/Alerts/ or ftp.eff.org, /pub/Alerts/ for more
nformation on current EFF activities and online activism alerts! *
Subject: "Cyberporn" Hearing and Exposure of Flaws in Rimm Study
A July 24 hearing chaired by Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) on the
ssues surrounding children's getting access to so-called "indecent" material
on the Internet, did not go exactly as planned for the Senator.
expert on online pornography named Martin Rimm -- ranking minority member
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) effectively controlled the hearing.
Grassley's attempt to center his hearing on Rimm's controversial pornography
comprehensive study dealing with pornography in cyberspace", now,
thanks to recent articles discussing the motives and ethics of its
undergraduate author, Grassley was forced to disavow it: "Now under
criticism, that study is under review as it should be."
EFF lawyer Mike Godwin had taken the lead weeks before in coordinating
efforts to challenge former CMU student Martin Rimm's "study" of
critical review of it by independent experts.
Working with EFF interns Beth Noveck and Ben Manevitz, Godwin had arranged
for copies of the study to get into the hands of reporters and academics
across the country. This in turn had generated press coverage that led both
to the discrediting of the Rimm study (which is riddled with methodological
flaws and unsupportable conclusions) and to Time magazine's seemingly
unprecedented disavowal of its own cover story in a followup article
only three weeks later.
"The Rimm affair shows the potential of the Net for both political action and
academic inquiry," Godwin said. "A decade ago, the study and its author
might have been accepted without question for months, continuing to distort
evaluations of the Rimm study from professors Donna Hoffman of Vanderbilt
and Jim Thomas of Northern Illinois University, as well of from pioneer
first critique of the Rimm study, from EFF Policy Fellow David Post, a
circulated. In subsequent weeks, Godwin became a clearinghouse of
nformation about the so'called "CMU study" and its controversial author.
July 24 hearing sponsored by Sen. Grassley, who is sponsoring legislation
At the hearing, Sen. Leahy commented that, "he [Rimm] got disinvited when
the study that everyone embraced as gospel was a little bit less than
that. I would expect any time now to see _Time_ say that even great media
can be conned." In point of fact, _Time_ Senior Editor Philip Elmer-Dewitt
"The voice you didn't hear at that hearing," Godwin later said, "was that of
establish him as the national expert in online pornography." Once Rimm
and his questionable study were discredited, Godwin said, "the hearing
lost a lot of drama, but it gained a lot of balance."
There was still some drama, however. Two women, one a minor, testified
that they had been stalked online, and anti-porn lobbyists demanded
legislation to "fix" the online porn problem. Sen. Leahy's questioning,
and federal law. Leahy concluded, of course, that the problem was one of
law enforcement resources, not any imaginary gaping holes in the law itself.
Sen. Leahy was also had critical words for the majority of his
colleagues: "The Senate went in willy-nilly and passed this legislation
[the similar Exon/Gorton Comm. Decency Act]. Most senators who voted wouldn't
the popular online service, is a den of iniquity: "I am here to tell the
American people that not only are their children unsafe on America
Online, their children are unsafe because of it." This may have been
These antics do not appear to have been enough, fortunately, to turn this
By and large, sensible testimony ruled the day. Jerry Berman, representing
the Center for Democracy and Technology, and the Interactive Working
Group (a coaltion of non-profit and industry organizations, including
EFF and many others), delivered solid oral testimony, showing the Grassley
anti-porn bill to be an unconstitutional attempt to ban protected speech.
EFF Staff Counsel Mike Godwin submitted written testimony, which appears
Also combatting hysterical testimony from anti-porn group Enough is
Enough were Michael Hart of the Project Gutenberg electronic library, AOL's
Several important ideas were aired without serious challenge in the hearing,
mostly by Sen. Leahy and Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin):
* The Exon and Grassley legislation is inconsistent with the current
Congress' and Administration's expressed goal of "keeping government
off our backs"
* The legislation is unlikely to solve the problems they purport to solve
* The right and responsibility to decide what is and is not appropriate
for a child lies with that child's parents
* Current law already suffiently covers this area
* Software tools and special services will enable individuals to "filter"
online content for themselves and their children.
* These censorship bills fail to distinguish between obscenity, which
is illegal (though defined different in different jurisdictions), and
indecency, which is constitutionally protected and subject to regulatory
control only under specific and very narrowly defined circumstances.
* The legislation would chill speech not only directly, in attacking
indecency, but indirectly by, in effect, requiring online services
such as Netcom, the WELL, AOL or local BBSs, to become full-time
censors, and forcing them to censor anything that *might* conceivably
be indecent. Otherwise, they would be in grave danger of prosecution.
Sen. Exon attempted to rebuff civil libertarians' concerns by claiming
that he is being "viciously attacked", and by repeating tired arguments
that such legislation will "protect children." However, we think reason
finally prevailed in this debate, and that the time is right to push
forward. Please see the "What You Can Do" section of this newsletter.
[Thanks to Declan McCullagh for comparing his notes from the hearing with
Subject: EFF's Mike Godwin Testifies Against Grassley Censorship Bill
Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)
The "Protection of Children From Computer Pornography Act of 1995" (S.892)
the Senate Judiciary Committee
July 24, 1995
My name is Mike Godwin, and I am staff counsel for the Electronic Frontier
Foundation. I'd like to thank you, Mr. Chairman, on behalf of my
organization, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, for allowing EFF to
assist policymakers and legislators in developing a framework to
understand the legal and social significance of what is, in effect, a
expanding and preserving the democratic potential of this new medium,
very first mass medium, the printing press. The issues raised by computer
communications transcend partisan politics and require of us all that we
of this revolution is to assume that this new medium is, so far as the
Constitution and laws of the United States are concerned, essentially the
communications -- and especially those communications that depend on
computer networks of national or global reach, raise new problems and
questions for lawmakers. At the same time, this medium promises to be the
fulfillment of our oldest First Amendment values.
But I come here not just as a lawyer who is concerned about the First
Amendment. I'm also a father. My little girl will be the first person in
my family to have grown up with the Internet. As a parent, I'm deeply
concerned with protecting Ariel from bad material and from bad people. And
this concern is the other reason for my being here -- I want to help
ensure that whatever legislation or policy comes from Congress regarding
the Internet will help me as a parent in protecting my little girl, while
at the same time ensuring that she's able to benefit fully from access to
While I do want to talk a bit about some of the Constitutional issues
analysis submitted to this committee by Jerry Berman of the Center for
Democracy and Technology. Instead, I want to focus on giving you a better
fundamentally new and different from previous communications media.
Now, figuring out the proper legal framework for the Net is tricky. Even
f you didn't know anything else about computer communications, you'd know
t's tricky from one simple fact: you've got Rush Limbaugh and Newt
Gingrich and the ACLU on one side of the issue, and Senators Robert Dole
and Dianne Feinstein on the other side. What this tells us, I think, is
that one's approach to making policy about computer communications derives
less from one's political affiliations than it does from how one sees it
n relation to traditional communications media.
You see, the more you know about computer networks and the Internet, the
clearer it becomes that the these networks are different in several
broadcasting, and the telephone. And these differences, once grasped,
entail that top-down, government-centered approaches to protecting
children will be ineffective. They also entail that the "least restrictive
means" test of First Amendment jurisprudence will lead to different
begin with what I promise will be a short history of the Internet.
s increasingly the link among commercial online providers, businesses,
communications -- was conceived 30 years ago by Paul Baran, a RAND
Corporation researcher. In a highly theoretical paper, Baran addressed a
quintessentially Cold War problem: How could U.S. authorities
The problem was that traditional communications network designs were
vulnerable to strategic attacks. Hubs and main arteries could be
control authority would be a particularly enticing target for a surgical
Baran developed a theory of a truly decentralized, "distributed"
communications network, with no central authority, and no main hubs or
arteries. Any given communication on the network was sliced into what
later were called "packets," and each packet was separately addressed,
then thrust by the network in the general direction of the communication's
and some of those routes might involve serious detours (a packet might
travel from Chicago to Seattle by way of Texas, for example). If a
a given packet would simply continue trying new routes until it found one
that worked. The recipient computer on the far end would collect each
This kind of network design probably sounds highly inefficient. That's
because it is -- but it is also highly robust, and it turns out to be very
Baran's theoretical design remained just that -- theory -- for several
years. Then, in 1969, a group of engineers working for ARPA (the federal
first seeds of what later became known as the Internet. Although these
engineers had never heard of Paul Baran or his paper, they'd brought his
theory to fruition anyway. And once the RAND Corporation and other early
military value of the new network (which turned out to be a plus when
At first it was called the ARPAnet -- only later was the term "Internet"
coined. The new network grew quickly: in late 1969, there were only four
computers on the network, but by 1972 there were 37 sites. By the 1990s,
the number of computer sites on the Internet had grown exponentially -- in
number in the millions.
One reason the Internet grew so rapidly is that one doesn't have to
construct special wires or conduits to connect to it -- connectivity
ndependent, and had to handle its own financing and its own technical
Also fueling the explosive growth of the Internet was the increasing
availability and decreasing price of desktop computers. Any one of the
But the cheapness of computing power these days tells only part of the
You see, unlike every other mass medium that has ever existed, the
s no person in charge of the "printing press," no "editor-in-chief," no
capital or seek the approval of an editor. In this the Internet is similar
to the telephone (no one tries to edit your phone conversations while
they're happening), but the potential scope of the communications are far
newspaper or TV station, it takes only a few hundred dollars to reach
large audiences. If, as A.J. Liebling once commented, freedom of the press
belongs to those who own one, the Internet suggests that we all may
establishment, has suddenly become a meaningful right for every individual
This kind of empowerment of individuals is something new under the sun,
and it blurs traditional distinction between "content producers" and
"consumers" (everyone on these computer networks can produce "content").
This may blur the line between reporter and reader -- to take only the
most recent example: it was an ad-hoc group of individual Internet users
Rimm/Carnegie Mellon pornography study that you may have heard about. And
flaws, these individuals uncovered them in mere weeks.
To touch briefly on some other things that make this medium different:
the time, the medium cannot be considered a "scarce" resource in the way
the Supreme Court characterized the broadcasting spectrum in Red Lion.
And since content is primarily "pulled" by user choices rather than
"pushed" by content producers, the medium lacks the "pervasive" character
of broadcasting that was central to the Court's decision in the Pacifica
Finally, the relatively low cost of acquiring access to the Internet means
that would-be entrepreneurs face relatively low barriers to entry into
this new market. Now that the government no longer plays even a nominal
s becoming a playing field for pure capitalism. To start a successful
business on the Internet, you don't need to be a millionaire, and you
the economic promise of computer communications. S. 892, with its clear
ntent to impose new duties and broader legal risks for service providers,
that a provider's liability for content hinges not on legal obscenity, but
on the far broader, far vaguer concept of "indecency," a term imported
from the realm of broadcasting regulation whose meaning has never been
been defined, it would be inapplicable to a medium that is neither
"scarce" nor "pervasive" in the Constitutional senses of those terms. Our
federal government's special role in regulating the content of the
broadcast media and of the dial-a-porn services is grounded in particular
factual findings about the characteristics of those media. There have been
no such findings with regard to computer communications, and, given the
nature of the medium as discussed above, it is difficult to see how there
Compounding the "chilling effect" this legislation would have on lawful
"bomb-proof" nature of the Internet, an individual provider's decision to
censor certain content may have no effect at all with regard to its
ncreasing number of Internet sites are operated in foreign countries, and
their owners, while theoretically extraditable and prosecutable in the
United States, would rarely be meaningfully deterred -- they know that
only a very few foreign offenders will ever be pursued by a U.S. attorney.
n the United States can dodge both the providers' attempts at monitoring
and the law-enforcement agencies' attempts at policing by originating
message traffic offshore or by routing illegal information through a chain
of intermediate sites that obscures its origin. S. 892 would not even pose
a meaningful threat to those who prey on children -- no limit on
"indecency" prevents the solicitation of innocent children with
nonobscene, nonindecent speech.
As a parent who happens to be a lawyer, I know that federal and state laws
already define a framework for the prosecution of those trafficking in
obscenity, those who possess or distribute child pornography, and those
Senator Grassley's instincts are right when he perceives that there is
they are rarely deterred by legal risks -- even in the face of likely
children. And as a parent I can assure you that it is little comfort to me
to know that if such an offender harms my child, that person may be
caught, prosecuted, and imprisoned at some point -- the damage, which may
last a lifetime, has already been done.
This is why I believe that the right role for Congress to play is to
encourage the development of software filters that prevent my child and
others from being harmed in the first place.
Recall that the basic technology we're talking about here is the computer
-- the most flexible, programmable, "intelligent" technology we build and
market. Filtering software enables parents to screen certain language,
certain kinds of content, certain people, or certain areas on the networks
from their children.
Such an approach does no damage to First Amendment values (it does not,
for example, put a nonlawyer hobbyist who operates a tiny computer
bulletin-board system in the position of having to determine what is
"indecent"), yet it does solve the problems (e.g., solicitation through
nonindecent communications, or offenders who conceal the origin of their
Furthermore, since such tools are designed to be customizable, parents are
empowered to set their own standards of what is acceptable for their
children, rather than relying on what the nonelected officials at the FCC
choose to include under the definition of "indecency." For example, even
f the FCC determines that detailed information about safe-sex techniques
s not indecent, a parent who believes that her children should receive
all their sexual information from her and not from the Internet could
customize the family computer's "filters" to block that information.
We already have the laws in place. Federal and state laws prohibit the
exposure of children to inappropriate or harmful material. Federal and
used to facilitate it.
Speaking as a concerned parent and a lawyer, I believe the question isn't
"Do we need more criminal laws?" -- it's "What can we do to supplement the
legal framework with policies and tools that empower parents to protect
their children and preserve the values of their families?" And answering
that question will require the Congress to draft laws and support policies
that are grounded not in simplistic analogies to old media, but in a
thorough understanding of this new medium and of what makes it different.
Members of the committee, you are at a crossroads. Down one road lies a
future in which parental rights are supported by a Congress that has
abandoned the outdated, big-government approach to solving social
Amendment and welfare of families against eachother, but that instead chooses
The letters referred to are available in the archived version of the
Subject: Calendar of Events
This schedule lists EFF events, and those we feel might be of interest to
our members. EFF events (those sponsored by us or featuring an EFF speaker)
are marked with a "*" instead of a "-" after the date. Simlarly, government
events, such as deadlines for comments on reports or testimony submission, are
marked with "!" in place of the "-" after the date.
The latest full version of this calendar, which includes material for
later in the year as well as the next couple of months, is available from:
ftp: ftp.eff.org, /pub/EFF/calendar.eff
Updated: July 26, 1995
Aug. 1 - TOOLS '95, Technology of Object-Oriented Languages and Sustems;
Santa Barbara, California.
Contact: +1 805 685 1006 (voice), +1 805 685 6869 (fax)
5 - 4th Annual Conference on Multimedia in Education and Industry;
Asheville, North Carolina.
Contact: +1 803 737 7440
6 * DEF CON III; the Tropicana Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada; "a
convention for the "underground" elements of the computer
culture...the Hackers, Phreaks, Hammies, Virii Coders,
Programmers, Crackers, Cyberpunk Wannabees, Civil Liberties
Groups, CypherPunks, Futurists, Artists, Etc." Members of
the enforcement & security communities are also regularly in
attendance. EFF co-founder John Perry Barlow and EFF Online
Services Coordinator Selena Sol are featured speakers.
Email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
- The Digital Dialectic: A Conference on the Convergence of
Technology, Media & Theory; Ahmanson Auditorium, Art Center
College of Design, Pasadena, Calif. Panelists include:
Robert Stein, Florian Brody, George Landow, Peter Lunenfeld, Lev
Manovich, Erkki Huhtamo, Brenda Laurel, Christian Mueller,
William J. Mitchell, N. Katherine Hayles, Michael Heim, Carol
Gigliotti. This is a free event, attendance limited to 423.
Event scheduled for just before SIGGRAPH.
Contact: +1 818 568 4710 (voice), +1 818 795 0819 (fax)
9 - Seminar on Academic Computing '95: Tough Choices, Radical
Opportunities; Snowmass Village, Colorado.
11 - SIGGRAPH '95 - International Conference on Computer Graphics and
Interactive Techniques; Los Angeles, Calif.; sponsored by the Assoc.
for Computing Machinery. See also Digital Dialectic, Aug. 4-6.
9 *! US NII Advisory Council meeting; Seattle, Wash. Open to the
public; members of this civilian council include EFF board members
Esther Dyson and David Johnson.
Contact: +1 212 482 1835 (voice)
11 - Rural Cellular Association; Las Vegas, Nevada.
Contact: +1 800 722 1872 (voice)
11 - 11th Annual Conferenceon Distance Teaching and Learning;
Contact: +1 800 462 0876, +1 608 262 2061
12 - Tenth Annual Conference on Computing and Philosophy (CAP);
Contact: +1 412 268 7643 (voice)
Aug. 12 - Electronic Frontiers Houston Free Cryptography Workshop: How to
Use PGP; South Coast Computing offices, 1811 Bering St., Ste. 100,
Contact: +1 713 799 1044
15 - Hot Chips Symposium VII, a Symposium on High-Performace Chips;
Stanford University, Stanford, California. Sponsored by IEEE
Computer Society Technical Committee on Microprocessors.
http://dice.scu.edu/HotChips or http:/www.hot.org/hotchips
Contact: +1 415 941 6699 (voice)
16 - Conference on Organizational Computing Systems (COOCS'95);
Silicon Valley Sheraton, Milpitas, Calif.; sponsored by the
Assoc. of Computing Machinery.
Contact: +1 408 456 7667 (voice), +1 408 456 7050 (fax)
18 - Computers in Context: Joining Forces in Design; Aarhus, Denmark.
Contact: Computers in Context, Aarhus University, Dept. of
Computer Science, Bldg. 540, Ny Munkegade 116, DK-8000
Aarhus C, Denmark.
19 - Libraries of the Future - IFLA; Istanbul, Turkey.
- AI-ED'95: 7th World Conference on Artificial Intelligence in
Education. Washington, DC. Sponsor: The Association for the
Advancement of Computing in Education
Contact: +1 804 973 3987 (voice)
20 - ONE BBSCon '95; Tampa Conv. Ctr., Tampa, Florida
Largest BBS sysop/user convention in the world
Contact: +1 303 693 5253 (voice)
Aug. 18 - Registration deadline for Challenging Marketplace Solutions to
Problems in the Economics of Information (see Sep. 18 below).
20 - National Independent Politics Summit; Pittsburgh, Penn.
23 - Telecommunities '95, International Community Networking
Conference and Annual General Meeting of Telecommunities Canada;
University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.
Contact: +1 604 721 8746 (voice), +1 604 721 8774 (fax)
23 * Progress and Freedom Foundation Conference; Aspen, Colorado.
Speakers include EFF boardmembers Esther Dyson, Steward Brand
and John Perry Barlow.
Contact: +1 202 484 2312
- WebEdge II, the Second Macintosh World Wide Web Developers'
Conference; Austin, TX.
Contact: +! 512 326 8307
24 - 4th International Conference on Image Management and
Communication (IMAC 95); Hawaii.
Contact: +1 202 687 7955 (voice), +1 202 784 3479
http://www.imac.georgetown.edu go to ISIS Homepage
24 - 12th International Conference on Computer Communication;
Seoul, Korea. Advance registration deadline: July 25
Contact: +82 2 588 9246 (voice), +82 2 521 1352 (fax)
25 - KnowRight '95, International Congress on Intellectual Property
Rights for Specialized INformation, Knowledge and New
Technoligies; Vienna, Austria.
Contact: +43 1 5120235 (voice), +43 1 5120235 9 (fax)
Aug. 22 - National Association of Telecommunications Officers and
Advisers Annual Meeting; Assistant Sec. of Commerce Larry Irving
scheduled to speak. Albuquerqu, NM.
Aug. 25 - 9th Congressional District Telecommunications Conference
(sponsored by US Congressman Rick Boucher); Roanoke, Virginia.
Assistant Sec. of Commerce Larry Irving scheduled to speak.
29 - 1995 CAUSE/CNI Midwest Regional Conference; Northwestern
University, Evanston, Illinois.
Contact: +1 202 296 5098 (voice), +1 202 872 0884 (fax)
Sep. 1 - ACM SIGCOMM 1995, Conference on Applications, Technologies,
Architectures, and Protocols for Computer Communications;
Contact: +1 908 582 3384 (voice), +1 908 582 5857 (fax)
Subject: Quote of the Day
"Censorship is the strongest drive in human nature; sex is a weak second."
- Phil Kerby
Find yourself wondering if your privacy and freedom of speech are safe
the rush to make us secure from ourselves that our government
Concerned that legislative efforts nominally to "protect children" will
actually censor all communications down to only content suitable for
Even if you don't live in the U.S., the anti-Internet hysteria will soon
be visiting a legislative body near you. If it hasn't already.
Subject: What YOU Can Do
* The Communications Decency Act & Other Censorship Legislation
The Communications Decency Act and similar legislation pose serious
threats to freedom of expression online, and to the livelihoods of system
operators. The legislation also undermines several crucial privacy
Business/industry persons concerned should alert their corporate govt.
affairs office and/or legal counsel. Everyone should write to their own
Representatives and ask them to support Rep. Klink's alternative
legislation, already folded into the House telecom reform bill, and
ask their legislators to oppose any efforts to remove the Klink
language from the bill and replace it with the CDA or similar
censorship legislation. Explain, quickly and clearly, why the CDA is
For more information on what you can do to help stop this and other
for information to email@example.com.
* The Anti-Electronic Racketeering Act
This bill is unlikely to pass in any form, being very poorly drafted, and
flying colors [the jolly roger?] in the Senate. It's better to be safe
than sorry. If you have a few moments to spare, writing to, faxing, or
calling your Congresspersons to urge opposition to this bill is a good
dea. If you only have time to do limited activism, please concentrate
on the CDA instead. That legislation is far more imminent that the AERA.
* Find Out Who Your Congresspersons Are
Writing letters to, faxing, and phoning your representatives in Congress
s one very important strategy of activism, and an essential way of
making sure YOUR voice is heard on vital issues.
EFF has lists of the Senate and House with contact information, as well
as lists of Congressional committees. (A House list is included in this
ssue of EFFector). These lists are available at:
The full Senate and House lists are senate.list and hr.list, respectively.
Those not in the U.S. should seek out similar information about their
own legislative bodies. EFF will be happy to archive any such
try contacting your local League of Women Voters, who maintain a great
* Join EFF!
You *know* privacy, freedom of speech and ability to make your voice heard
n government are important. You have probably participated in our online
campaigns and forums. Have you become a member of EFF yet? The best way to
opinions heard. EFF members are informed and are making a difference. Join
For EFF membership info, send queries to firstname.lastname@example.org, or send any
message to email@example.com for basic EFF info, and a membership form.
EFFector Online is published by:
The Electronic Frontier Foundation
Washington DC 20006-1605 USA
+1 202 861 7700 (voice)
+1 202 861 1258 (fax)
+1 202 861 1223 (BBS - 16.8k ZyXEL)
+1 202 861 1224 (BBS - 14.4k V.32bis)
Membership & donations: firstname.lastname@example.org
Legal services: email@example.com
Hardcopy publications: firstname.lastname@example.org
General EFF, legal, policy or online resources queries: email@example.com
Stanton McCandlish, Online Services Mgr./Activist/Archivist (firstname.lastname@example.org)
This newsletter printed on 100% recycled electrons.
Reproduction of this publication in electronic media is encouraged. Signed
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To subscribe to EFFector via email, send message body of "subscribe
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End of EFFector Online v08 #14 Digest