American Reporter statement on cybercensorship

The following is an editorial that appears in today's editions of The American Reporter, at

December 7, 1995				           (213)467-0616

                             by Joe Shea
                  American Reporter Editor-in-Chief

Well, it looks like push may come to shove. A joint Senate-House conference committee has inserted language into the telecom reform bill that replaces a prohibition on Internet speech that is "harmful to minors" with a ban on Internet speech that is "indecent" -- normal speech, in many cases, and not necessarily lewd or obscene speech.

As many of you know, in Issue No. 49, in an editorial entitled "We Vow To Challenge The Exon Act" our newspaper took the stand that such language violates the right to speak freely granted by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. We said then, and we say again, that the survival of free speech on the Internet is more important than even the survival of this newspaper, and we will risk its very existence to fight for a principle in which we fully believe.

We immediately won widespread support for our stand, and in the ensuing days, Visiting Judge Stephen Russell of the Texas judiciary agreed to write the "indecent" article we had vowed to publish if the bill becomes law, and Russell Boe, an attorney with Arent, Fox, a distinguished First Amendment proponent that litigated the "Seven Dirty Words" case, agreed to represent our newspaper in an an action that would be pursued all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, if necessary, to overturn it

We have often believed in the past months that the language would be abandoned, especially after House Speaker Newt Gingrich declared the Exon language to be, in his opinion, unconstitutional and a violation of our free speech rights. Exon has gone, but the language survived. We now believe it will probably be adopted.

In the months since that June declaration, we decided that we would ask other publications to join us in publishing the offensive article by providing links to it from their home pages. We devised a legal strategy which, if it is successful, may preempt the law, and may even make it unnecessary to publish the offensive article, which we would prefer not to do.

Nonetheless, we plan to proceed as have vowed to proceed. This may create some discomfort, and we will honor any request to be formally disassociated from the newspaper that any of our writers or subscribers may make. It is not our desire to offend anyone with language that even offends us, but we will not give away to anyone even a hair's breadth of our right to free speech, in any medium, at any time.

Please be with us in our fight.

                      The American Reporter
          Copyright 1995 Joe Shea, The American Reporter
                       All Rights Reserved
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Joseph P. Shea, Editor-in-Chief         William  Johnson, Correspondent
Steve Herman, Japan Editor              Jeff Foust, Space Editor
Walter Brasch, Correspondent            Jim Tynen, Humor Correspondent
Clarence Brown, Correspondent           Philip E. Daoust, Correspondent
Calvin Demmon, Science Editor           E.W. Count, Crime Editor
Robert J. Morgan, Correspondent         Frank Stietzen, Jr., Correspondent
Karen Hawkins, Correspondent            Andreas Harsono, Correspondent
Paula Linville, Correspondent           Stephen O'Reilly, Correspondent
Scott Lewis, Correspondent              Anne Bilodeau, Correspondent
Thomas Marzahl, Book Editor             Bob Elston, Jr., Correspondent
Wilson da Silva, Correspondent          Russell Sadler, Correspondent
Dennis Hinkamp, Correspondent           Elaine Hopkins, Correspondent
Joan Silverman, Correspondent           David Hipschman, Correspondent
Mike Finley, Correspondent              Yves Leclerc, Correspondent
Frank Touby, Correspondent              Bob Ewing, Corresponden
Elaine K. Crabtree, Correspondent       Craig A. Johnson, Correspondent

                     Webster:  Bill Densmore

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