Free Speech

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,

or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of

speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble,

and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

Amendment 1 Bill of Rights

National ID    HR 3028    Liberal Hate Speech    CableTV Restriction    COPA

Mandatory Library Censorware Bill Nears Passage

For several years Congress has sought to impose some form of mandatory or "pseudo-voluntary" content filtering on all public libraries and public schools. The idea seems to sound nice to legislators and to a large segment of the general public, because they simply do not understand how the technology works (and, more importantly, how it fails to work.)

The principal problems with the proposal are inherent in the software and services themselves. These include:

a) subjective filtering criteria, in which a software company (i.e. a government contractor, subject to the First Amendment) gets to decide broadly what is and is not available to some or all library patrons via library Internet terminals;

b) biased (typically politically-motivated) filtering decisions, in which software company employees or their consultants (who are again covered by First Amendment requirements because they are doing a job for the government), choose to block material that is not even covered by any stated filtering criteria of the product/service in question; such biases have blocked everything from EFF's own site to gay-rights news stories to Christian church Web pages;

c) harm to the First Amendment-protected right to read, in an unprecedented system in which unaccountable software companies deny access to materials that are constitutionally protected (including material that no court has ever deemed indecent, obscene, or harmful to minors, as well as content not restricted by any legal category at all, such as "intolerant" material;

d) mistaken blocking of innumerable sites as "pornographic", "violent", "intolerant" or otherwise "wrong", when in fact they contain no such content at all;

e) mistaken blocking of names, non-vulgar words, and other material due to bad keyword matching algorithms;

f) overly broad blocking in which entire directory structures or entire Web sites with thousands of users/authors are wholly blocked for content only found on one page;

g) alteration of content in mid-stream, often in such a way as to either leave no indication that material has been censored, or to make the material nonsensical because material has been removed (e.g., in mid-sentence); this technique also raises issues of author's copyright-derived rights to control the distribution of "derivative works", when their words are "sanitized" by filtering software;

h) provision of few (in many cases, no) options for selecting blocking criteria other than those pre-configured in the software; imposition of censorware would effectively force everyone to adhere to someone else's morality, in clear violation of the Freedom of Religion clause;

i) dismal ineffectiveness at actually doing what they are advertised to do (block out sexually explicit and certain other kinds of content); no filtering service or product on the market has anywhere near even a 90% effectiveness rate, resulting in a completely false sense of security, and a "solution" that fixes nothing at all;

j) blocking of materials that are constitutionally protected even for minors, as well as for adults;

k) imposition of technological censorship measures that have already been ruled unconstitutional, in the Mainstream Loudoun v. Loudoun Co. [VA] Library case.

For more information: 


COPA Commission Endorses User Empowerment, No New Legislation

The Commission on Online Child Protection (COPA Commission) issued its report today looking at technologies and methods for children's online safety. In its recommendations to Congress, the Commission advocated renewed efforts at both parent and child education, user empowerment, and more aggressive enforcement of existing laws. The Commission did not advocate new legislation, and cited Constitutional concerns associated with the filtering technology currently being proposed for mandated use in schools and libraries.    MORE


Supreme Court Strikes Down Cable TV Restriction 

The Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional a federal law requiring cable TV operators to scramble or block channels "primarily dedicated to sexually-oriented programming" during hours when children might see them. The Court ruled that the requirement imposed by Congress was not the least restrictive means of protecting children.

The decision has important implications for the Internet, as illustrated by the following excerpt from the majority opinion, written by Justice Kennedy, summarizing the meaning of the First Amendment in the face of developing technology:

"When a student first encounters our free speech jurisprudence, he or she might think it is influenced by the philosophy that one idea is as good as any other, and that in art and literature objective standards of style, taste, decorum, beauty, and esthetics are deemed by the Constitution to be inappropriate, indeed unattainable. Quite the opposite is true. The Constitution no more enforces a relativistic philosophy or moral nihilism than it does any other point of view. The Constitution exists precisely so that opinions and judgments, including esthetic and moral judgments about art and literature, can be formed, tested, and expressed. What the Constitution says is that these judgments are for the individual to make, not for the Government to decree, even with the mandate or approval of a majority. Technology expands the capacity to choose; and it denies the potential of this revolution if we assume the Government is best positioned to make these choices for us."

The case, United States v. Playboy Entertainment Group Inc., is available on the Supreme Court's website in pdf format: May 23, 2000


'Shoot him with a .44': Liberal hate speech, 1999 --REMEMBER THE WAVE of outrage that swept the nation after Charlton Heston, the president of the National Rifle Association, told a radio interviewer that the best way to deal with liberal filmmaker Spike Lee would be to "shoot him with a .44-caliber Bulldog" revolver? Remember how newspaper editorials scathingly condemned Heston's appalling remark? Remember the full-page ads blasting the twisted mindset that leads conservatives like Heston to say such grotesque things?

You don't remember? Don't feel bad. It never happened. Heston never spoke those words about Lee.

Lee spoke them about Heston.

He was talking to reporters in May, just a few weeks after the slaughter in Littleton, Colo. Asked for his thoughts on Heston, Lee recommended assassinating him with a .44 special. A conservative who made such a comment about a liberal would have been crushed under an avalanche of denunciation. But when a liberal talks that way about a conservative, the media rarely notice.

Welcome to my yearly column on liberal hate speech and the double standard that shields it. By "hate speech," I don't mean language that is merely insulting. When Rosie O'Donnell, hosting a Hillary Clinton fundraiser in October, described Rudolph Giuliani as New York's "village idiot" and compared his looks to "a Pez dispenser," she was simply being obnoxious.

When Margaret Carlson of Time magazine said, apropos congressional Republicans, that "the only thing that could explain this love of tax cuts is a lowered IQ," she was engaging in childish name-calling.

But when liberals liken conservatives to Hitler, or call for them to be killed -- that's hate speech.

It isn't only Spike Lee who advocates death for those who have the temerity to hold non-left-wing views.

No doubt Polonsky, Cohen, and McGruder didn't mean for their words to be taken literally. But the test of hate speech isn't what you mean, it's what you say. And saying that a public figure ought to be murdered is so far beyond the pale that even liberals shouldn't be allowed to get away with it.

Central to the leftist mentality is the belief that conservative opinions are not simply misguided, they're evil. Conservatives are not erring brethren to be reasoned with, they're moral heretics to be excommunicated. And so liberals routinely reach for the most vicious comparisons when talking about nonliberals: Nazis, racists, the Ku Klux Klan.

"Conservative legal interest groups," says Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell, "such as the Center for Individual Rights and the Southeastern Legal Foundation" -- both of which oppose racial preferences and quotas -- "are ... a homogenized version of the Klan. They may have traded in their sheets for suits ..., but it's the same old racism."

Newsweek's archliberal Eleanor Clift was one of many who erupted with venom when Bill Clinton was impeached. "That herd of managers from the House," she hissed in January, "I mean, frankly all they were missing was white sheets. They're like night riders..." The left-leaning Arkansas Times spat poison at the independent counsel. "Kenneth Starr," the paper editorialized, "is cunning, ruthless, and about as well-mannered as Heinrich Himmler." In the Los Angeles Times, Karen Grigsby Bates wrote, "Whenever I hear Trent Lott speak, I immediately think of nooses decorating trees. Big trees, with black bodies swinging...."

Cartoonist Paul Conrad, also of the L.A. Times, drew a sketch of Buford Furrow -- the bigot who opened fire in a Jewish community center in August, then murdered a Filipino mailman -- and labeled it: "A faith-based compassionate conservative." Republicans opposing a minimum wage hike, charged US Rep. Major Owens of New York, are comparable to foreign leaders who support "ethnic cleansing" -- i.e., mass killing.

Then there was the proposal in Florida to raise funds for adoption agencies through a new specialty license plate bearing the logo "Choose Life." There are already 45 such plates, which promote everything from protecting dolphins to Special Olympics. A pro-life message, however, was too much for state Senator Skip Campbell, who fretted that senators would next be asked to approve a plate reading "Be a Nazi."

But for sheer filth, nothing in 1999 topped Salon's hate-filled attack on Ann Coulter, an attractive and well-known conservative activist and Clinton critic. In June, Coulter wrote a nonpolitical column lamenting the state of romance in Washington. Soon after, the web magazine Salon, an avidly pro-Clinton publication, launched a malignant personal attack. It purported to offer 11 tips for improving her love life. Among them: "Quit injecting yourself with your own urine," "Stop being a mean b-tch," "Buy a vibrator," and "Get your head out of your as-." It urged her to tape a sign in her kitchen reading, "Men don't want to date castrating b-tches." And that's not to mention the gross innuendoes that can't be repeated in a family newspaper.

If a conservative web site had hurled such vileness at, say, Cheryl Mills, Clinton's liberal young attorney, there would have been a furious outcry. It would have become a national scandal. Pundits and talk show hosts would have torn the web site and its writer to shreds.

But Salon is liberal and Coulter is not. So nobody said a thing.


Free Speech Advocates/Gun Owners Cheer As Congress Tears Up National ID Card

Gun Owners of America made a last-ditch effort recently to preserve legislation effectively gutting the National ID card. Thankfully, the hard work paid off, and the National ID system that was supposed to go on line next year is now dead.

Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) led the fight on the Hill against the National ID. "This is a great moment for all Americans," he said. "Thousands of Americans should feel great pride in knowing their calls and letters to Members of Congress succeeded in stopping the National ID."

Under the provisions of legislation passed three years ago, no one would be allowed after October 1, 2000 to purchase a gun, board a plane, open a bank account, go to a doctor, enter a school or take a new, private sector job without having a National ID card.

It is quite possible that the ID card could have become a vehicle for encrypting all kinds of personal information on it, including a person's fingerprints, gun owner status, etc. The creation of a National ID card could have easily facilitated attempts by anti-gun bureaucrats to register innocent gun owners. This also would have allowed government agencies to know where have been and what you were doing there.

The House of Representatives killed the ill-conceived National ID plan in the bill that funds the Transportation Department. The legislation became law on October 9.

TruePatriot's OPINION: Now more than ever, people and the government are interested in what you do at home, work or play. I think it's time for everyone who believes in the Constitution to stand up, be recognized and be heard. Let them know that what people do at these places is nobodies business but there own! As long as it doesn't affect me physically or my property I don't care.


Trademark Cyberpiracy Prevention Act

The "Trademark Cyberpiracy Prevention Act," H.R. 3028, is about to be voted on in the House of Representatives and would be disastrous to the free speech and privacy rights of domain name holders. EFF urges you to contact your Representative today and tell him or her to vote no on this bill. (The bill has already passed the Senate, and is expected to be voted on any day now in the House.)

With the stated goal of preventing trademark infringement and dilution in the Internet domain name space, the misguided "Trademark Cyberpiracy Prevention Act" the would make domain name holders legally liable in civil actions brought by trademark holders sharing the same name or one that is "confusingly similar."

H.R. 3028 gives trademark holders more rights than they currently have under trademark law. For example, domain name holders could be liable for "tarnishing" or "disparaging" a trademark. The concepts of tarnishment and disparagement are unique to the small number of trademarks that qualify as "famous marks". Yet H.R. 3028 expands these concepts to all trademarks. Another example: a domain name holder who has not actually set up a site using a registered domain name may be liable to a trademark holder if he offers to sell the domain name to the trademark holder, even if the offer is made in order to avoid costly litigation.

The effects on free speech and privacy are disastrous. Domain name registrants who want to remain anonymous, or even those who forget to update their registrations, may be held liable for "intentionally failing to maintain accurate contact information." Domain name holders engaging in protected criticism or satire would not only risk having their names taken away, but, ironically, they could be held responsible for compensating trademark holders who are the brunt of their criticisms. And trademark holders in the US would now, after a simple hearing, be able to take away domain names from domain name holders in other countries (holding them financially liable, as well), without actual notice being given to the domain name holders. Courts may award damages of as much as $100,000 per domain name registration, even in the absence of any lost profits or actual harm. Domain name holders have to file their own lawsuits to protect their interests, and in any event must affirmatively demonstrate good faith, use of the domain name for legit business interests, and otherwise prove they are not trademark pirates. Even then, these are only factors for the court to consider, not actual defenses. These problems are tantamount to "guilty until proven innocent". Among the few mitigating factors domain name holders can defend themselves with, only non-infringing commercial interests or use are given any weight.

The international and non-profit Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has been working to create consensus for the past year on this issue to carefully craft a dispute resolution procedure that balances the rights of all of the parties involved. While EFF has some concerns about ICANN's approach, H.R. 3028 and other attempts by the U.S. Congress to affect the delicate balance between domain name holders and trademark holders are far worse and must be stopped. The administration of domain names is an international issue, and ICANN was established to provide the type of leadership and stewardship required to protect the free speech rights of domain name holders. Congress should refrain from legislating in this area.

TruePatriot's OPINION: This is absolutely ridiculous! There are already hundreds if not thousands of laws governing and protecting trademarks. This is just another attempt at the government to control our lives and tell us what to do. We are not children who have to be looked after every minute of the day. Just another example of   how inflated our government has become.


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Last update: March 22, 2005