Senate Bill 1619: Simply Censorship-ware

by David R. Parvo and Kenny Moore

On Monday, May 11, the ACLU is holding a "cybermarch" they hope will fill the email inboxes of Congressional members with protests against federal legislation, namely Senate Bill 1619. This bill is being sponsored by Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Ernest Hollings (D-SC), which would require both schools and libraries to install "censorware." The ACLU and Rock Out Censorship strongly believe that the online medium is a uniquely valuable forum, a forum which allows expression to flow freely to millions of Americans.

The prospect of such blatently unconstitutional legislation gets even more disturbing when students from one school district that we know of cannot even access the R.O.C. website, meaning the government is evidently now getting into the business of suppressing political thought such as ours. What was that we were told in fables as children--that people in the USA are free and that no opinions are suppressed as part of this wonderful concept of freedom? Yeah, right. This is not about protecting children--it never has been. This is about absolute control over the flow of information. Our rights in cyberspace, therefore, should be more than protected, they must be fought for.

The senatorial co-sponsors, McCain and Hollings say that the bill abides by constitutional free speech protections because it does not restrict what's on the Internet. "The prevention lies not in censoring what goes onto the Internet, but rather in filtering what comes out of it onto the computers our children use outside the home," McCain said. The bill would apply to schools that receive federal subsidies to help them gain Internet access.

Such justification is moving seriously into the realm of Orwellian doublespeak in our opinion. The idea that silencing content and opinions at the destination point rather than the source point is not censorship would be completely laughable if not for the seriousness of the attack on our rights. Applying this logic to the print medium, they are saying it would be perfectly fine for the government to confiscate all newspapers or magazines from library shelves that have anything "potentially" offensive within, thus blocking everyone from receiving that information. By their skewed logic it would not be censorship to do so since they didn't stop the publication of the material in question, but rather the distribution. Do we really think that such learned individuals as those in office are not intelligent enough to know their logic is seriously flawed? Of course they know they are trying to undermine our rights--they are just trying to come up with some pretty packaging to sell it to us, hoping the American public will fall for their soundbyte material hook-line-and-sinker. We urge all our readers to vehemently reject such con games with our rights. We feel that censors such as these masquerading as public leaders should "voluntarily" step down from office for simply making the attempt to insult our intelligence in this manner.

The Internet is uniquely valuable for lesbian and gay youth, among countless other groups, in breaking their isolation and giving them hope in a hostile world. However, Senate Bill 1619 and others like it are increasingly threatening their access to lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender, AIDS information, and even the NOW site, even when their content is entirely free of anything pornographic at all. What is even more disturbing is the potential for web sites like ROC's to be labeled "Adult" and denied to students across this country. This is not only disturbing but harmful as well, and makes a complete mockery of what the First Amendment stands for. The backers of bills such as this continually hide behind the tired "save the children and family" rhetoric. Rather than protecting the children, they are controlling them by trying to dissuade them from standing up for their rights. We ask who will "protect the children" from authority bent on abusing it's power in such a manner?

Here at R.O.C., we simply believe that they are anti-American; if implemented, stronger and stronger legislation will be passed until the Internet is a completely sterile environment where expression is squashed. It is a slippery slope which we are beginning to slide down as this article is written. Censorware companies are taking it upon themselves to block such topics as Paganism, Witchcraft and obviously political expression, since the ROC is evidently banned by some Censorware software based on a report sent to us by some students...so much for freedom of anything in this country. The idea that schools and libraries should be required to install this software is appalling. For details, see http://www.aclu.org/congress/cybmarch.html, or go to AOL keyword "ACLU."

Even if you read this Incident Update after May 11, 1998, still write to your congressman and tell them that you disapprove of any and all legislation whose intent is to erase the First Amendment from the Bill of Rights. You can do so by using the contacts provided below:

For the senators of your respective state, use:
http://www.senate.gov/senator/state.html

Or to contact the censors sponsoring Senate Bill 1619:

John McCain:
email: Senator_McCain@mccain.senate.gov
url: http://www.senate.gov/~mccain/
241 Senate Russell Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-0303
Phone: (202) 224-2235
Fax: (202) 228-2862
Suite 1150, Building #1
2400 East Arizona Biltmore Circle
Phoenix, AZ 85016
Phone: (602) 952-2410

Ernest Hollings:
email: senator@hollings.senate.gov and qmail@hollings-cms.senate.gov
url: http://www.senate.gov/~hollings/
125 Senate Russell Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-4002
Phone: (202) 224-6121
Fax: (202) 224-4293
Room 1551, Federal Building
1835 Assembly Street
Columbia, SC 29201
Phone: (803) 765-5731

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