Transcript of Hillary Clinton's comments on Net-regulation
declan at well.com
Wed Feb 11 14:55:35 PST 1998
---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 11 Feb 1998 14:54:55 -0800 (PST)
From: Declan McCullagh <declan at well.com>
To: politech at vorlon.mit.edu
Subject: Transcript of Mrs. Clinton's comments on Net-regulation
Here's what Hillary Clinton said this afternoon about regulation of the
Internet during an otherwise routine press conference in the Map Room
about the "Millenium Evenings." Tonight at 7 pm EST she and the president
will cybercast the first one from the east room of the White House.
It's hardly surprising that our elected officials don't like the ability
of the Internet to provide everyone with a platform. Even Thomas Jefferson
kvetched about the excesses of the press of his day and in 1783 and 1788
endorsed laws that permitted government prosecutions of the press for
printing "false facts."
Though I somehow suspect that the first lady has recently been more
worried about media reporting facts that may turn out to be true...
Q I just wanted to ask you about something that Gregg said.
He's obviously an Internet enthusiast. But when he talked about some
of the aspects of the system -- the fact that you could say something
and you can't take it back, how it's so available to everyone and
instantaneous, he's raised some issues that have been issues for us
in the last few weeks in our business. And I wonder if you think
that this new media is necessarily an entirely good thing. And also,
as somebody who has been through this crucible, in the next
millennium how would you like to see this new and ever more
interesting -- (laughter) -- handled of things like the issues like
the personal lives of public figures.
MRS. CLINTON: Well, Kathy, I think that's one of these issues
that Dick was referring to, that we're going to have to really think
hard about. And I think that every time technology makes an advance
-- when you move to the railroad, or you move to the cotton gin, or
you move to the automobile, or the airplane, and now certainly as you
move to the computer and increasing accessibility and instantaneous
information on the computer, we are all going to have to rethink how
we deal with this, because there are always competing values.
There's no free decision that I'm aware of anywhere in life, and
certainly with technology that's the case.
As exciting as these new developments are -- and I think Gregg's
enthusiasm is shared broadly by Americans and people around the world
-- there are a number of serious issues without any kind of editing
function or gate-keeping function. What does it mean to have the
right to defend your reputation, or to respond to what someone says?
There used to be this old saying that the lie can be halfway
around the world before the truth gets its boots on. Well, today,
the lie can be twice around the world before the truth gets out of
bed to find its boots. I mean, it is just beyond imagination what
can be disseminated. So I think we're going to have to really worry
about this, because it won't be just public elected officials. We've
seen some cases where somebody who had a grudge against a girl's
mother because the family wouldn't let him date her put out on the
Internet that the family were child abusers. Totally private people,
never stuck their toe in public life. It can be done to anybody, and
it can get an audience, and it can create a falsehood about somebody.
And certainly it's multiplied many times over if you happen to be in
I don't have any clue about what we're going to do legally,
regulatorily, technologically -- I don't have a clue. But I do think
we always have to keep competing interests in balance. I'm a big
pro-balance person. That's why I love the founders -- checks and
balances; accountable power. Anytime an individual or an institution
or an invention leaps so far out ahead of that balance and throws a
system, whatever it might be -- political, economic, technological --
out of balance, you've got a problem, because then it can lead to the
oppression people's rights, it can lead to the manipulation of
information, it can lead to all kinds of bad outcomes which we have
seen historically. So we're going to have to deal with that. And I
hope a lot of smart people are going to --
Q Sounds like you favor regulation.
MRS. CLINTON: Bill, I don't know what -- that's why I said I
don't know what I'm in favor of. And I don't know enough to know
what to be in favor of, because I think it's one of those new issues
we've got to address. We've got to see whether our existing laws
protect people's right of privacy, protect them against defamation.
And if they can, how do you do that when you can press a button and
you can't take it back. So I think we have to tread carefully.
Q -- one of the balances, though, in this new digital age is
that you can have direct communication. You're celebrating that
tonight -- people can log on from anywhere. In that spirit, have you
thought any more about a direct and frank conversation by the
President with the country about these allegations?
MRS. CLINTON: I'm not going to add anything to what the
President has already said. And I think that any of you who think
hard about this issue would have to agree that he's taken the right
position. So I'm not going to add to that.
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