CAMPAIGN TO STOP THE NEW YORK STATE INTERNET
January 24, 1996
Coalition members of this campaign include:
Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT)
New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU)
Voters Telecommunications Watch (VTW)
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This alert was authored by the Voters Telecommunications Watch.
The bill would prohibit the knowing "dissemination" of material that depicts "actual or simulated nudity,[or] sexual conduct", that is "harmful to minors" and is communicated to a minor through a "computer communications system".
If Gov. Pataki signs this bill into law it could impose significant burdens upon Internet Access businesses to screen the Internet for their users, drive Internet content businesses from New York state, and chill free speech. Here is a short list of the problems with this bill:
CONTAINS VAGUE AND OVERBROAD LANGUAGE IMPLYING
LIABILITY FOR ONLINE
The bill penalizes those who "knowingly" disseminates material that depicts "actual or simulated nudity". The term "knowingly" is not clearly defined. Everyone knows there is a small amount of material that may not be suitable for consumption by minors. Moreover, the term "disseminates" could be understood to apply to *both* individual subscribers *and* service providers who operate online networks
SERVICE PROVIDERS MAY BE FORCED TO SCREEN ONLINE
In order to avoid liability under this legislation, an online service provider may be compelled to pre-screen all material on their networks to which minors have access. From a practical standpoint, such pre-screening is simply impossible due to the literally millions of pages of information which flow over online services every day.
Holding service providers liable for the content on their networks also creates tremendous free speech and privacy problems. If service providers are forced to pre-screen the material on their networks in order to avoid liability, no message will be private. Privacy and the free flow of information online will be severely impaired.
DOES NOT TAKE INTO ACCOUNT EXISTING PARENTAL
The law does not take into account the fact that parents and teachers have extensive tools to control children's access to the Internet already, and that these will be far more effective than state laws that cannot stop people outside the NY from making such information available.
PUTS VAGUE AND OVERBROAD RESPONSIBILITIES ON
If you are a content provider, you will be responsible under this bill to ensure that nothing you publish contains "actual or simulated nudity" or "sexual conduct" and is "harmful to minors". If you are unsure, you will be required to take measures to ensure that minors cannot access your information. However what measures those might be are not made clear. Even if asking for an age was the requirement, this is not an insignificant amount of work for those with sites with hundreds of pages.
This is especially dangerous for those who have WWW pages, mailing lists, or newsgroups which republish submissions from others.
On the net, everyone is a publisher, so you will be just as liable under this bill as the largest publishing company in the world.
While the intent of the drafters of this legislation is noble, the New York "Cyberporn" bill could force many New York based online service providers and content providers to violate the free speech and privacy rights of their users and in some cases to go out of business, or, worse yet, leave New York for other states which do not impose liability on them if this is signed into law.
There is one last chance to stop this proposal. Follow the instructions below and ask the sponsors of this bill to halt this proposal. Please also ask New York Governor Pataki to veto any bill without these changes. Children can be protected online and criminals can be punished without forcing online service providers to violate their users privacy and free speech rights.
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2. Call or fax the sponsors of the bill and ask them to revise the bill so it does not infringe on the First Amendment. Explain to them it is poorly worded and does not clearly exempt online services or clearly define what it is trying to accomplish.
Here is a list of the people you should call or fax using the sample communique below.
|Speaker Sheldon Silver||212 385-6680||212 385-6799|
|Assemblywoman Destito||518 455-5454||518 455-5928|
|Majority Leader Joseph Bruno||518-455-3191||518-455-2448|
|Minority Leader Martin Connor||518-455-2701||518-432-8832|
3. Call or fax Governor Pataki and ask him not to sign the bill in its current form because of the negative impact it will have on businesses and free speech. It is very important that you make sure you mention that you are a business owner if you are.
You can reach the Governor at:
Telephone: (518) 474-8390 or (518) 474-1041
Fax: (518) 474-0888 or (518) 474-2344
GOV: Executive Chamber, yes?
You: Hi, I'd like to urge the governor to veto S210/A3967, as it will be very harmful to my Internet business. My business is:
Joe's Internet Provider
New York, NY 11201
212 555 1212
GOV: Executive Chamber, yes?
You: Hi, I'd like the governor to veto the Internet censorship bill S210/A3967, as it will be harmful to Internet free speech. I'm a New York resident at:
212 Exon St.
NY NY, 11111
Please be *very* polite. This person will be taking a lot of calls.
4. Send a letter to email@example.com and let us know that you called.
$ Mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: called gov pataki
I called Pataki's office and asked him to veto the bill. I'm a business owner and can be reached at 212 555 1212.
I called Pataki's office and asked him to veto the bill. I'm a New Yorker!
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We need to send this letter asap. Please respond in the affirmative if you wish to signon. To signon your ISP, web business, consulting business, or Internet cafe, send email@example.com an email with:
Your business name
Work phone number
Email address for you
Infobot email address if you have one
A one or two sentence description of your company
The number of employees you have (1 to however many)
The Internet censorship bill S210/A3967 would significantly hamper, if not drive away, businesses who provide Internet services and content in NY. For businesses to continue to survive in New York, you must veto it.
The bill attempts to regulate the Internet in such a way as to burden businesses with the responsibilities of parents by implying that Internet access and content providers screen such information.
In addition, this bill would chill free speech and force businesses to screen what their subscribers read, and does little to protect the interests of children who can obtain access to material outside New York and the US anyway.
Thousands of people use local New York businesses everyday as their onramp to the global Internet. They download millions of pages of information every day through these services. There is no feasible way for these businesses to screen what users want to look at, nor is it possible to ascertain the age of the person browsing the material.
Such a responsibility belongs with the consumers of such information. Many of our businesses have fewer than thirty employees. The staff required to screen all such information would easily have to be twice that size.
Finally, contrary to popular belief, the Internet is not an unregulated frontier. Current laws that criminalize the distribution of obscene material, child pornography, and the solicitation of minors for sex are illegal if they're done through computers, just as they are illegal if done on a street corner. Law enforcement has gone after those who commit these crimes already, and will continue to do so with the strength and force of existing statutes; no new laws are needed.
In closing, let us reiterate that this sort of legislation is likely to make other states besides New York with more rational approaches to the Internet more attractive to businesses.
Please veto the Internet censorship legislation before you. Our livelihoods, and the livelihoods of many New Yorkers, depends on it.
[The undersigned New York businesses]
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1995-1996 Regular Sessions
January 4, 1995
Introduced by M. of A. DESTITO, ROBACH, CONNELLY, GROMACK, CANESTRARI, PORDUM, SCHIMMINGER -- Multi-Sponsored by -- M. of A. BUTLER, CHRISTENSEN, ENGLEBRIGHT, GALEF, GANTT, GREENE, HARENBERG, HIKIND, KAUFMAN, KEANE, KLEIN, LAFAYETTE, ORTIZ, PERRY, PHEFFER, PRETLOW, SWEENEY, TOCCI, TOKASZ, TONKO -- read once and referred to the Committee on Codes -- committee discharged, bill amended, ordered reprinted as amended and recommitted to said committee -- again reported from said committee with amendments, ordered reprinted as amended and recommitted to said committee AN ACT to amend the penal law, in relation to disseminating indecent material to minors through any computer communication system THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND ASSEMBLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:
01 Section 1. The section heading and subdivision 1 of
section 235.15 of
02 the penal law, as amended by chapter 1031 of the laws of 1971, is
03 amended to read as follows:
04 Obscenity OR DISSEMINATING INDECENT MATERIAL TO MINORS IN THE SECOND
05 DEGREE; defense.
06 1. In any prosecution for obscenity, OR DISSEMINATING INDECENT MATERI-
07 AL TO MINORS IN THE SECOND DEGREE IN VIOLATION OF SUBDIVISION THREE OF
08 SECTION 235.21, it is an affirmative defense that the persons to whom
09 allegedly obscene OR INDECENT material was disseminated, or the audi-
10 ence to an allegedly obscene performance, consisted of persons or insti-
11 tutions having scientific, educational, governmental or other similar
12 justification for possessing, DISSEMINATING or viewing the same.
13 ' 2. The opening paragraph of section 235.20 of the penal law, as
14 added by chapter 791 of the laws of 1967, is amended to read as follows:
15 The following definitions are applicable to sections 235.21 [and],
16 235.22 AND 235.23:
17 ' 3. The section heading and the closing paragraph of section 235.21
18 of the penal law, as amended by chapter 582 of the laws of 1969, are
19 amended to read as follows:
20 Disseminating indecent material to minors IN THE SECOND DEGREE.
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The NYCLU is the NY State affiliate of the ACLU. Our defense of the First Amendment and the New York State Constitution's guarantee of freedom of expression is in the forefront of our efforts. You can Beth Haroules at NYCLU at 212-382-0557. NYCLU is on the WWW at http://www.aclu.org/
The Center For Democracy and Technology is a non-profit public interest organization based in Washington DC. The Center's mission is to develop and advocate public policies that advance constitutional civil liberties and democratic values in new computer and communications technologies. You can reach Jonah Seiger or Danny Weitzner at CDT at 202-637-9800. CDT is on the WWW at http://www.cdt.org/
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