The Communication Decency Act: The Fight For Freedom Of Speech On The Internet Essay, Research Paper
The Communication Decency Act: The Fight For Freedom of Speech on the Internet
The Communication Decency Act is a bill which has insulted our right as
American citizens. It a bill which SHOULD not pass. I’ll share with you how
Internet users are reacting to this bill, and why they say it is
Some individuals disagree with one part of the bill. According to
http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ query/z?c104:s.652.enr:, which has the
Communications Decency Act on-line for public viewing,: “Whoever uses an
Internet service to send to a person or persons under 18 years of age……any
comment, request, suggestion, proposal, image,……..or anything offensive as
measured by contemporary community standards, sexual or excretory activities or
organs…..shall be fined $250,000 if the person(s) is/are under 18…….
imprisoned not more than two years…….or both.”
The wording of that section seems sensible. However, if this one little
paragraph is approved, many sites such as the: Venus de Milo site located at:
http://www.paris.org/Musees/Louvre/Treasures/gifs/venusdemilo.gif; the Sistine
Michelangelo’s David @ http://fileroom.aaup.uic.edu/FileRoom/images/image201.gif
could not be accessed and used by anybody under the age of 18. These works of
art and many other museum pictures would not be available. The bill says these
sites show indecent pictures.
The next part of the CDA has everybody in a big legal fit. We, concerned
Internet users, took the writers of this bill to court, and we won.
This part of the bill states: “Whoever….makes, creates, or
solicits………..any comment, request, suggestion, proposal, image, or other
communication which is obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, or indecent…….with
intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass another person……by means of an
Internet page……….shall be fined $250,000 under title 18……imprisoned
not more than two years….or both……”
The writer of that paragraph of the bill forgot something. It violates
the constitution. The First Amendment states: “Congress shall make no
law….prohibiting or abridging the freedom of speech……the right of the
people peaceably to assemble…..and to petition the Government…………..”
This bill does exactly that. It says we cannot express our feelings
cleanly. I understand that what may be of interest to me, may be offensive to
others. Many people put up warning signs on their websites stating, “This site
may contain offensive material. If you are easily offended you may not want to
come here.” If the writers of this bill would have listed that as a requirement
there would have been no trouble.
Here is the way I look at it. I think that some things should be
censored on the Internet. Child pornography, for instance, is already illegal,
so it follows that it should also be illegal on the Internet. Besides,
psychologically, it damages the children involved.
Something else that should be banned from the Internet are “hacker”
programs meant to harm other Internet users. Some examples of such programs are
AOHell which can give you access to America On-line for free and E-mail Bomb, or
otherwise harass others using the service (American On-line just passed a bill
that gave them the right to allow users to let them scan their mail for such
harmful things.) Another thing that could be banned are text files which
describe how to complete illegal actions, such as make bombs. The most famous
is the “Anarchist Cook Book,” which shows Internet users some of the above
I also believe that the use of log-ins, passwords, and rating systems on
pages for the Internet are a good idea, and are not violations of our civil
rights. They simply allow the user to choose what they want to see. Some of
these systems are already in use today, along with programs that watch for
obscene and profane keywords, and links to pornographic sites.
What have Internet users learned from the courts? After all was said
and done, we have learned that passing unconstitutional laws like the CDA is not
the exception but the rule these days in Washington, DC.
Next, the people responsible for giving us the CDA are respectable
Republicans and Democrats, not liberals and conservatives. If someone would have
asked an Internet user who is opposed to the CDA to vote for Clinton or Dole
this past fall, they would say, “Wouldn’t that have been like being given a
choice between cancer and heart disease?” In other words, disrespect for the
President and Congress seem appropriate.
Third, the White House recognizes that it is cheaper to pass this bill,
by saying, this is the law. Live with it. Doing this would prove to me this
country is run by politicians who do not care about the people, their rights, or
the law. This bill, if passed, would only prove to me that all the government
cares about is themselves and their money. A great president by the name of
Abraham Lincoln once said, “This country was made for the people, and run by the
people…” America can now only hope, for another man like Lincoln, to step up,
and lead this country, bringing it back to what it used to be.
Also, it is time to focus on the things we need to have in this country,
like building a new society. After World War II and Vietnam, I believe it is the
computer generation’s destiny to rebuild our family and give community abilities
to evolve, solve problems, generate and distribute wealth, promote peace, and
Finally, freedom is struggle, by definition. Freedom on the Internet
is not a gift. It’s the space we ourselves own, in the face of the government
and the media, who have seemingly tried to take that space away from us.
CDA will also take away some sites such as: The Library of Congress Card
Catalog, which some say contains “indecent” language. We will not be able to
view such literature as Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, because the CDA says those “classics”
contain offensive material. The act also prevents any sites in existence which
tell teens about safe sex and Sexually Transmitted Diseases. Most on-line
newspapers such as USA TODAY, will have to be blackened out when the monitor’s
screen shows them articles about sex.
“Ignorance is caused by stupidity!” That has become a familiar “battle”
cry of Internet users. The goverment knows hardly nothing about the pride
Internet users take in having their own “world.” That is the stupidity part of
it. The ingnorance is the politicians refusing to listen to us. They do not
want to understand.
Some ways you can help fight this terrible bill would be to march
through Washington, DC on July 30, 1997. Many people have turned their web
pages backgrounds black to show they are protesting. Some display blue ribbons
to show an Internet users’ displeasure with the CDA.
Another way to show you care is to e-mail high political officers. I
have e-mailed the current president (9:23 PM, 11-5-96) Bill Clinton and the
vice-president Al Gore. I have also mailed Bob Dole and Jack Kemp.
On the more local level I have e-mailed Senators: Rick Santorum and
Arlen Specter and Representatives: Jon Fox, Paul Kanjorski, Paul McHale, John
Murtha, Robert Walker, and Curt Weldon. I have mailed: Gov. Tom Ridge, Lt. Gov.
Mark Schweiker and Senators Roy Afflerbach, Gibson Armstrong, Clarence Bell,
David Brightbill, J. Doyle Corman, Daniel Delp, Vincent Fumo, Jim Gerlach,
Stewart Greenleaf, Melissa Hart, F. Joseph Loeper, Roger Madigan, Robert Mellow,
Harold Mowery Jr., John Peterson, James Rhoades, Robert Robbins, Allyson
Schwartz, Joseph Uliana, Noah Wenger, Rep. Lisa Boscola, Rep. Italo Cappabianca
and Rep. Lawrence Curry have been contacted by myself as well. I have e-mailed
Happy Fernandez, a Philadelphia City Councilwoman. The message I sent them is a
smaller version of this one: “To whom it may concern,
I am writing to you about the Communications Decency Act. I believe the
act is unconstitutional. Amendment I states: “Congress shall make no
law……abridging the freedom of speech….” This alone should prohibit this
act. The Communications Decency Act will force many educational Internet sites
to close. I, as a student, use the Information Super Highway for exactly that,
information. It is very helpful to have updated facts and so forth. With the
Communications Decency Act such sites as the Library of Congress Electronical
Card Catalog would be kept away from me because of “indecent” titles. I use the
word indecent in quotation marks because I feel it is being used improperly.
Some other sites, will be closed because of nudity. Such sites as
Michelangelo’s David, because of the “nudity.” There again I use quotations.
Sites informing teenagers such as myself of the dangers of Unprotected Sex and
AIDS, as well as other STD’s will not be allowed to be shown.
I know I may be taking this the wrong way, so I would appreciate
response telling me why this act should pass. I hope you consider what I, and
many others, have been saying.
Thank you for your time, Ryne Crabb ”
Another huge part of this world-wide protest was the Electronic March on
Washington, DC. People, of all ages, who care about the unconstitutionality of
the CDA, went to the White House and made signs, etc. while marching around the
White House’s property. Also, everybody was asked to e-mail the president in
protest. President Clinton got over 10,000 e-mail messages on that day. I
think it opened a lot of eyes.
Black Thursday was another big issue. Over 82% of the Internet’s
websites had a “blackout.” “Yahoo!” the famous search engine also blackened all
of their pages in protest. It was beautiful how many heads were turned. Major
businesses such as AT&T and ESPN also did their part in this battle by making
comments about it to less informed Internet users.
Although there are other things happening in cyberspace, this issue
remains a major problem. Chances are, however, when this piece of legal mess is
settled, happily or not, another will come up. I can almost see what is next on
the list. Some countries are taxing the Internet. Trust me, we do not even WANT
to get into that, yet.
I hope this opened your eyes as to the importance of this fight. We
need to show the government this country still is made for the people, and run
by the people. That is written in the constitution. We do not want to change
the document our forefathers wrote expressing their wishes for our future
generations. That document protects our freedoms. It is important that the
constitution remains intact so that it can preserve all of our freedoms
including use of the Internet as we see fit.