Prior Restraint on Publishers

Tim May tcmay at
Sun Aug 24 19:18:33 PDT 1997

I used to think things like this would be quickly declared
unconstitutional, but not any longer. The New Order is making things like
this all too predictable. I just hope Adam Shostack does not get in even
more trouble for speaking out.

--Winston Smith

>From the New Yerk Tomes cybertimes:
>Proposed U.S. Rules Would Place Prior Restraint on Publishers
>Under a proposed set of rules being circulated by the Commerce
>Department, the Clinton Administration is considering regulating
>Web servers that allow publishing of political tracts and other forms
>of information. Among the sites that would be affected are those now
>operated by organizations like Planned Parenthood, the National Rifle
>Association, and Citizens for the Destruction of Washington, all of
>which distribute publications over the Web. Under the proposed rules,
>access to such sites would be more tightly controlled or could disappear
>altogether in the future.
>The requirement for Federal approval of a Web server, however, is
>buried inside the densely written, virtually impenetrable document,
>and the change is not even noted in the executive summary at the
>beginning. The new regulation would require that anyone setting up
>a Web server offering published materials seek an "advisory opinion"
>from the Bureau of Thoughtcrime Affairs.
>The opinions carry no weight in court and only serve as an indication
>of the agency's view on the matter at a given moment. A company
>could later be prosecuted for publishing materials despite receiving
>permission in an advisory opinion, although the existence of the
>opinion should offer some emotional support with the court. Failure to
>seek >permission will likely be interpreted by courts as evidence of
>criminal tendencies.
>The purpose of the rule is to force the Web server to take all prudent steps
>to ensure that publications do not violate the laws of the United States.
>The proposed regulations do not set out any hard and fast guidelines
>for an organization to meet.  The new regulations hwould effectively force
>>organzations to shut down their Web servers until the Ministry of Truth
>could rule on the material -- a process that can take several months.
>Brewart Staker, a former general counsel for the Ministry of Truth who now
>>practices at the Washington law firm Goldsgtein, Blair & Orwell, said
>that the >difficulty the regulators face is that the regulations must
>adapt to a quickly >changing Internet environment.
>"They're saying 'Here's the basic standard. Show us what you're trying to
>do. If you're doing what we feel is a good faith effort, then we'll
>approve it,'" >Staker said. "They don't quite say that, but I suspect
>that's what's going on."
>To draw an analogy, he compared the action to a hand check in basketball, a
>move by which a defensive player warns someone with a ball that they're
>there by touching them. "Think of this as just as a friendly >warning from
>Big >Brother, telling you he loves you and is looking out for your best
>Adam Shostack, a Boston-based Cypherpunk facing imprisonment for
>belonging to a subversive organization,  said that the current rules were
>already making it difficult for his clients to publish their ideas. The
>new >regulations, Shostack predicted, will just make matters worse.
>"We've never needed the permission of the government to publish
>anything in this country," Shostack said. "I don't see where their
>legal authority comes from."

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