In an opinion piece for the February 1996 WebWeek, Senator James Exon says, "At issue is whether Congress will take reasonable steps to protect children on the Internet, or whether we will simply hand the keys of our homes to pornographers...."

As if that were the only choice.

Amercians for two centuries have died to protect freedoms that Senator Exon and others in Congress outlawed with the censorship provisions in the Telecommunications bill President Clinton signed on February 8.

In plain truth, Senator Exon's concerns are ill-founded, and the laws he saw passed will not work.

The Internet is a new environment, where a growing community is building an annex to civilization as we know it. It isn't like anything Senator Exon -- or the rest of us -- have ever seen before.

It is up to those now civilizing the Internet to develop tools that let parents limit their children's access to potentially offensive Internet locations. That same community should also make it impossible (or at least unlikely) for children, or anyone, to accidentally find themselves exposed to offensive information.

This does not require more legislation. It does require better information.

The best top-level source of information on the issue of Internet censorship is the Electronic Frontier Foundation site. The EFF originated the Blue Ribbon Campaign

Dave Winer's 24 Hours of Democracy site features a thousand or more essays on the issue of freedom in cyberspace. Bill Gates puts Microsoft squarely on the positive side of the issue. Phillipe Kahn contributes a moving personal account of what freedom meant to him, growing up as a Jewish kid in Paris.

My own contribution is "New Laws of a New Nature," which is part of Reality 2.0.

But my three favorite pieces are these:

  1. an e-letter to Dave from Howard Rheingold;
  2. a piece written by Steve Russell, a retired judge from Texas; and
  3. John Perry Barlow's " A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace."

All three contain strong language, God bless them.

--Doc Searls
February 22, 1996

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