EFFector Vol. 11, No. 13 Sep. 23, 1998
A Publication of the Electronic Frontier Foundation ISSN 1062-9424
IN THE 141st ISSUE OF EFFECTOR:
* ALERT: House Commerce Committee Poised to Pass CDA II: Contact
+ COMMITTEE CONTACT INFO
* EFF calls for recognition of rights in Domain Naming System
See http://www.eff.org 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!)
Please JOIN THE CAMPAIGN! We need ALL EFF MEMBERS AND EFFECTOR READERS
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
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.
COMMITTEE CONTACT INFO:
The House Commerce Committee
* Phone: +1-202-225-2927
* Fax: +1-202-225-1919
* E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org (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: http://www.iana.org/bylaws-coop.html
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 http://www.eff.org of information on electronic privacy, online
free speech, and encryption policy.
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