Date: Wed, 7 Feb 1996 08:45:32 -0500 (EST) From: "Shabbir J. Safdar"
To: vtw-announce@VTW.ORG Subject: INFO: Internet users painting the net black on Thursday (2/6/96) Reply-To: vtw-announce@VTW.ORG FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE FEBRUARY 6, 1996 Contact: Steven Cherry (201) 596-2851 firstname.lastname@example.org Shabbir Safdar (718) 596-2851 email@example.com New York, NY INTERNET DAYS OF PROTEST TO BEGIN WHEN PRESIDENT SIGNS TELECOMM BILL INTO LAW When there's a funeral in New Orleans, they don't just stand around looking at a casket, there's a marching band, and when they mourn on the Internet there's lots of noise as well. Virtual noise that is. Inside the casket lies the First Amendment, and the noise is people turning their World Wide Web sites black. The last gasp for the First Amendment will be heard later this week when President Clinton signs the long-awaited Telecommunications Reform Bill. Buried just below its surface, like a bomb waiting to explode, lies the descendant of the Communications Decency Act, legislative language that will ban "indecency" in cyberspace. George Carlin-style indecency, broadcast-media style indecency. An FCC-enforced ban on indecency, as if the government could monitor the millions of Web pages, Usenet postings, email listservers, and chat messages generated across the Internet each day. As if American law could restrict what's available on a global Internet, where pinup photos, cancer support-group advice, and currency exchanges can move at the same speed and in packets that are essentially indistinguishable, and servers can move around the globe in a way that physical goods manufacturers can only look at, black with envy. Black, as in the traditional color of mourning. The Grim Reaper wears black. Judges wear black -- black robes symbolize a lack of favor to one side or the other. The black of the "Day Without Art." The black that people wear at funerals, to underline the loss of something important to them. On the Internet, a network, a networked community, based entirely on speech, nothing is more important the freedom from censorship enjoyed up to the moment when President Clinton's pen puts an asterisk next to the First Amendment, an asterisk that says, "except on-line speech," an asterisk it will probably take the Supreme Court months, if not years to erase. That black can be seen at http://www.surfwatch.com/, a popular site on the Internet, and an especially ironic one to see it in. Surfwatch is devoted to perfecting just the kind of parental controls that work far more effectively than any government regulation could, and which facilitate free speech instead of criminalizing it. That black can be seen at sites large and small, commercial and noncommercial. Christopher L. Barnard, who maintains Illinois Virtual Tourist, says that his black pages are all ready to be loaded as soon as he hears the bill is signed. Turning the pages black, involves changing the backgrounds so that light text appears on a dark background. It may not be aesthetically desirable, as some, who are changing their pages anyway, have pointed out. It can involve proprietary extensions to the formatting language of the Web, complain others. It's been characterized the "Paint it Black" campaign by some, and the "Thousand Points of Darkness" by others. All in all, just the sort of free-wheeling, outspoken, opinionated activity that has characterized the Internet since its inception over twenty years ago. "What can we do?" asks Shabbir Safdar, co-founder of Voter's Telecommunications Watch, one of the many on-line activist organizations organizing the campaign. "It also can't be seen by text-only Web browsers, or by people with net-access that doesn't include the Web. But we couldn't let the day go by unmarked." The campaign asks Web-based information providers to turn their pages to black for forty-eight hours after the President signs the telecomm bill into law. Sometimes it is easy to comply. Josh Quittner of Time-Warner's Pathfinder, says, "Heck, our pages are black half the time anyway. But for those two days they'll be black because of the telecomm bill." Pathfinder is one of the largest and most-used sites on the Internet. Sheryl Stover, marketing director at Internet On-Ramp, Inc., of Austin, Texas, said her personal page is already black. But all non-client pages are being altered from Monday February 5th through the two day period after Clinton's pen adds a black-ink graffiti scrawl across the Bill of Rights. SurfWatch can be contacted at http://www.surfwatch.com/ or 800-458-6600. Christopher L. Barnard and the Illinois Virtual Tourist can be reached at 312-702-8850, firstname.lastname@example.org, and http://www.cs.uchicago.edu/html/external/illinois/index.html. Pathfinder's Netly News can be found at http://pathfinder.com/Netly/nnhome.html Sheryl Stover and the Internet On-Ramp, Inc. are at 509-624-RAMP and http://www.ior.com/ Voters Telecommunications Watch is a volunteer organization, concentrating on legislation as it relates to telecommunications and civil liberties. VTW publishes a weekly BillWatch that tracks relevant legislation as it progresses through Congress. It publishes periodic Alerts to inform the about immediate action it can take to protect its on-line civil liberties and privacy. More information about VTW can be found on-line at gopher -p 1/vtw gopher.panix.com www: http://www.vtw.org or by writing to email@example.com. The press can call (718) 596-2851 or contact: Shabbir Safdar Steven Cherry firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com