The following is taken verbatim from the Communications Decency Act of 1996, and contains, in our opinion, some of the most remarkable language to be found is this legislation. Emphasis is added by us.
(a) Findings: The Congress finds the following:
(b) Policy: It is the policy of the United States--
(c) Protection for 'Good Samaritan' Blocking and Screening of Offensive Material:
If our congress, as stated in Section A paragraph 4 above, recognizes that the Internet has flourished without their interference, why are they now attempting to interfere? We can only assume that they wish to put a halt to this success. As we see from section C paragraph 2 A, they clearly recognized that it would require subverting the constitution to accomplish this. Their intentions are remarkably clear here, in what is, in many other sections, a very muddled piece of legislation.
There is, however, one rather vague and troublesome phrase:
"otherwise objectionable". Considering that this act
gives all of us the power to censor anything we find "otherwise
objectionable," whether or not it is constitutionally protected, it
might be helpful to assist our enlightened legislators in defining what
"otherwise objectionable" means to us. We, for instance, find
it "otherwise objectionable" to have our constitutional rights
abridged by them. There are many other things, not specifically
enumerated, which we find
The Communications Decency Act is now law in the United States. While the tuna family has always voluntarily kept the material here "PG-Rated" and as non-offensive as possible, we feel very strongly about having our constitutional right to free speech abridged. I, for one, wish to add my voice to that of Mr. Barlow in saying to our enlightened government, and in violation of the Communications Decency Act, "Fuck You!!!")
Subject: That Great Invertebrate
From: email@example.com (John Perry Barlow)
Date: 96-02-09 11:18:54 EST
Yesterday, that great invertebrate in the White House signed into the law the Telecom "Reform" Act of 1996, while Tipper Gore took digital photographs of the proceedings to be included in a book called "24 Hours in Cyberspace."
I had also been asked to participate in the creation of this book by writing something appropriate to the moment. Given the atrocity that this legislation would seek to inflict on the Net, I decided it was as good a time as any to dump some tea in the virtual harbor.
After all, the Telecom "Reform" Act, passed in the Senate with only 5 dissenting votes, makes it unlawful, and punishable by a $250,000 fine to say "shit" online. Or, for that matter, to say any of the other 7 dirty words prohibited in broadcast media. Or to discuss abortion openly. Or to talk about any bodily function in any but the most clinical terms.
It attempts to place more restrictive constraints on the conversation in Cyberspace than presently exist in the Senate cafeteria, where I have dined and heard colorful indecencies spoken by United States senators on every occasion I did.
This bill was enacted upon us by people who haven't the slightest idea who we are or where our conversation is being conducted. It is, as my good friend and Wired Editor Louis Rossetto put it, as though "the illiterate could tell you what to read."
Well, fuck them.
Or, more to the point, let us now take our leave of them. They have declared war on Cyberspace. Let us show them how cunning, baffling, and powerful we can be in our own defense.
I have written something (with characteristic grandiosity) that I hope will become one of many means to this end. If you find it useful, I hope you will pass it on as widely as possible. You can leave my name off it if you like, because I don't care about the credit. I really don't.
But I do hope this cry will echo across Cyberspace, changing and growing and self-replicating, until it becomes a great shout equal to the idiocy they have just inflicted upon us.
I give you...
Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.
We have no elected government, nor are we likely to have one, so I address you with no greater authority than that with which liberty itself always speaks. I declare the global social space we are building to be naturally independent of the tyrannies you seek to impose on us. You have no moral right to rule us nor do you possess any methods of enforcement we have true reason to fear.
Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. You have neither solicited nor received ours. We did not invite you. You do not know us, nor do you know our world. Cyberspace does not lie within your borders. Do not think that you can build it, as though it were a public construction project. You cannot. It is an act of nature and it grows itself through our collective actions.
You have not engaged in our great and gathering conversation, nor did you create the wealth of our marketplaces. You do not know our culture, our ethics, or the unwritten codes that already provide our society more order than could be obtained by any of your impositions.
You claim there are problems among us that you need to solve. You use this claim as an excuse to invade our precincts. Many of these problems don't exist. Where there are real conflicts, where there are wrongs, we will identify them and address them by our means. We are forming our own Social Contract . This governance will arise according to the conditions of our world, not yours. Our world is different.
Cyberspace consists of transactions, relationships, and thought itself, arrayed like a standing wave in the web of our communications. Ours is a world that is both everywhere and nowhere, but it is not where bodies live.
We are creating a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth.
We are creating a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity.
Your legal concepts of property, expression, identity, movement, and context do not apply to us. They are based on matter, There is no matter here.
Our identities have no bodies, so, unlike you, we cannot obtain order by physical coercion. We believe that from ethics, enlightened self-interest, and the commonweal, our governance will emerge . Our identities may be distributed across many of your jurisdictions. The only law that all our constituent cultures would generally recognize is the Golden Rule. We hope we will be able to build our particular solutions on that basis. But we cannot accept the solutions you are attempting to impose.
In the United States, you have today created a law, the Telecommunications Reform Act, which repudiates your own Constitution and insults the dreams of Jefferson, Washington, Mill, Madison, DeToqueville, and Brandeis. These dreams must now be born anew in us.
You are terrified of your own children, since they are natives in a world where you will always be immigrants. Because you fear them, you entrust your bureaucracies with the parental responsibilities you are too cowardly to confront yourselves. In our world, all the sentiments and expressions of humanity, from the debasing to the angelic, are parts of a seamless whole, the global conversation of bits. We cannot separate the air that chokes from the air upon which wings beat.
In China, Germany, France, Russia, Singapore, Italy and the United States, you are trying to ward off the virus of liberty by erecting guard posts at the frontiers of Cyberspace. These may keep out the contagion for a small time, but they will not work in a world that will soon be blanketed in bit-bearing media.
Your increasingly obsolete information industries would perpetuate themselves by proposing laws, in America and elsewhere, that claim to own speech itself throughout the world. These laws would declare ideas to be another industrial product, no more noble than pig iron. In our world, whatever the human mind may create can be reproduced and distributed infinitely at no cost. The global conveyance of thought no longer requires your factories to accomplish.
These increasingly hostile and colonial measures place us in the same position as those previous lovers of freedom and self-determination who had to reject the authorities of distant, uninformed powers. We must declare our virtual selves immune to your sovereignty, even as we continue to consent to your rule over our bodies. We will spread ourselves across the Planet so that no one can arrest our thoughts.
We will create a civilization of the Mind in Cyberspace. May it be more humane and fair than the world your governments have made before.
February 8, 1996
John Perry Barlow, Cognitive Dissident
Co-Founder, Electronic Frontier Foundation
||We strongly support the Blue Ribbon Campaign against online censorship.|
||We appreciate the efforts of the
Center for Democracy and Technology|
and are members of the Citizens Internet Empowerment Coalition
|The folks at the ACLU are hard at work, as always to force our enlightened government to honor the constitution and Bill of Rights. They need and merit the support of each of us.|
|EPIC is a public interest research center in Washington, D.C. It was established in 1994 to focus public attention on emerging civil liberties issues relating to the National Information Infrastructure, such as the Clipper Chip, the Digital Telephony proposal, national ID cards, medical record privacy, credit records, and the sale of consumer data.|
|The Families Against Internet Censorship (FAIC) goals are 1) to provide a resource for anti-censorship families on the net, 2) to maintain a list of families willing to speak out against Internet censorship, 3) to make families aware of commercial products for filtering objectionable material, and 4) to oppose those who would use the power of government to regulate Internet content in the name of "protecting the family" We are members of FAIC, and urge you to support them as well.|
|The Electronic Frontier Foundation is a non-profit civil liberties organization working in the public interest to protect privacy, free expression, and access to online resources and information.|
|It has been said many times that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. If this is true, then Peter Meyer must really be impressed with our page. :) His page contains a very large number of links to well-written essays on various subjects having to do with the CDA, as well as other pro-freedom homepages. Also, it flatters us quite sincerely.. While is it certainly not the first freedom page, it is one of the best we have seen.|
A decision has been reached. It would appear that there are at least three men of intelligence remaining in government service. The battle may not yet be over. The government is expected to appeal this to the Supreme Court. It is our opinion that this would be unwise on their part; with a Supreme Court decision, they stand to lose all power to abridge our constitutionally guaranteed freedoms.
The three judges hearing this case had no difficulty whatsoever in understanding that the CDA would have been a clear violation of the First and Fifth Amendments. We would remind you that our executive and legislative branches of the federal government nearly unanimously voted to subvert the Constitution and deny its protection to all Americans. We believe this is a thing worth remembering in November. Below are links to some of the sites where full text of the decision is available.
The decision is available at:
The government has appealed the lower court injunction to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case. Hopefully, this nonsense will soon be over once and for all. The full text of the coalition brief to the Supreme Court is available at http://www.cdt.org/ciec/SC_appeal/970220_brief.html.
"... But the bottom line is that the First Amendment should not be interpreted to require us to entrust the protection it affords to the judgment of prosecutors. Prosecutors come and go. Even federal judges are limited to life tenure. The First Amendment remains to give protection to future generations as well. I have no hesitancy in concluding that it is likely that plaintiffs will prevail on the merits of their argument that the challenged provisions of the CDA are facially invalid under both the First and Fifth Amendments."
"... Indeed, the Government's asserted "failure" of the Internet rests on the implicit premise that too much speech occurs in that medium, and that speech there is too available to the participants. This is exactly the benefit of Internet communication, however. The Government, therefore, implicitly asks this court to limit both the amount of speech on the Internet and the availability of that speech. This argument is profoundly repugnant to First Amendment principles."
"... Any content-based regulation of the Internet, no matter how benign the purpose, could burn the global village to roast the pig."
". . .As the most participatory form of mass speech yet developed, the Internet deserves the highest protection from government intrusion."
"Just as the strength of the Internet is chaos, so the strength of our liberty depends upon the chaos and cacophony of the unfettered speech the First Amendment protects."
Now, there might be some of you out there who do not know what the seven words prohibited in broadcast media are. This is no surprise, as how can you know what they are unless you hear them. Well, due to the CDA, we will not print these seven dirty words where little kids can look over your shoulder and see them. However, we will let George Carlin give you a quick tutorial when you click on the nifty speaker icon below, and you can tell any little kids in the room to get out of the house. This still probably violates the CDA, but, as we already have some violations here, one more isn't going to make a difference.Hear Carlin give us a tutorial on the Seven Dirty Words.