ACLU, EPIC Call on Congress and Clinton to "Take the First Amendment Pledge"

June 16, 1997
ACLU, EPIC Call on Congress and Clinton to "Take the First Amendment Pledge"

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

NEW YORK -- As the nation awaits a Supreme Court decision on the future of free speech on the Internet, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Privacy Information Center today launched www.firstamendment.org, a website dedicated to upholding the First Amendment in cyberspace. 

The groups called on President Clinton and members of Congress to be among the first to "Take the First Amendment Pledge" and cease any further attempts to draft legislation to censor the Internet in the event the Supreme Court upholds a lower court decision striking down government regulation of the Internet as unconstitutional. 

"In our view there is no such thing as a 'Constitution-proof' law criminalizing so-called indecency in cyberspace," said Chris Hansen, ACLU Senior Staff Attorney and lead counsel in Reno v. ACLU. 

The launch of the website comes as Clinton Administration officials have begun publicly discussing a shift in policy on Internet regulation, saying that "industry self-regulation" -- not laws criminalizing certain Internet communications -- is the solution to shielding minors from online "indecency." 

Hansen added that if the Administration had indeed adopted such a policy, it is obligated to announce it to the Court before they rule in the case. "If the report in this morning's New York Times is indeed true, it would appear that the Clinton Administration is preparing to take the 'Pledge,'" Hansen said.

Reno v. ACLU challenges censorship provisions of the Communications Decency Act aimed at protecting minors by criminalizing so-called "indecency" on the Internet. The ACLU, along with EPIC and 18 other plaintiffs, filed a challenge to the law the day it was enacted. A ruling on the case could come as soon as Thursday, June 19, the next scheduled day for release of Supreme Court decisions.

"Attempts to censor the Net will not end with the Supreme Court decision ," said David Sobel, legal counsel for EPIC and co-counsel in Reno v. ACLU. "Proponents of Internet content regulation have already indicated their desire to take a 'second bite of the apple' if the Communications Decency Act is struck down."

In anticipation of such new attempts at online censorship, visitors to www.firstamendment.org are invited to "Take the First Amendment Pledge," which reads: "I pledge to support free speech and free expression for all Americans and to urge Congress to uphold the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and pass no law abridging our freedom of speech."

Online users can capture the "First Amendment Pledge" GIF (graphic image file) for placement on their own website. Other features planned for the site include an "action alert" that informs users of legislative threats to the First Amendment and allows them to instantly e-mail or fax their member of Congress, and an online "postcard" that can be e-mailed to friends, relatives and elected officials, urging them to "Take the Pledge." 

The ACLU is a nationwide, non-partisan organization dedicated to defending and preserving the Bill of Rights for all individuals through litigation, legislation and public education. The ACLU can be found online at www.aclu.org and through America Online at keyword: ACLU.

EPIC is a non-profit, education and research organization based in Washington, D.C. EPIC examines civil liberties and privacy issues that arise in new electronic media. It maintains a website at www.epic.org.



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