Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility Affidavit in ACLU, et al v. Reno

February 26, 1996

Affidavit in ACLU, et al v. Reno 

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I, Audrie Krause, of Palo Alto, California, do hereby depose and swear: 

1. I am the Executive Director of Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR), a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation founded in 1981 and incorporated in the state of California since 1983. Our national office is located in Palo Alto, California. CPSR is a national membership organization with 22 chapters located in 14 states. As of February, 1996, we have approximately 1,550 members. I submit this affidavit on behalf of CPSR and its members. 

2. CPSR is a public-interest alliance interested in the impact of computer technology on society. As technical experts, CPSR members provide public and policy makers with realistic assessments of the power, promise, and limitations of computer technology. As concerned citizens, we direct public attention to critical choices concerning the application of computing and how those choices affect society. Membership is open to anyone who uses or is concerned about the role of information technology in our society. 

3. We are a non-partisan organization undertaking projects based on five basic principles. First, we foster support and public discussion of, and meaningful involvement in, decisions critical to society. Second, we work to correct misinformation while providing understandable and factual analyses about the impact of technology on our society. Third, we challenge the assumption that technology alone can solve political and social problems. Fourth, we critically examine social and technical issues within the computer profession, both nationally and internationally. Fifth, we encourage the use of information technology to improve the quality of life. Bearing these five tenets in mind, CPSR focuses on five critical areas: the National Information Infrastructure, civil liberties and privacy, computers in the workplace, technology policy and human needs, and reliability and risk of computer-based systems. 

4. In less than fifteen years, CPSR has quickly become one of the leading critical voices on computer technology's impact on society. In 1983, two weeks following our incorporation, President Reagan announced his Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) defense policy, which became a principal CPSR focus for several years. Following our belief that computers alone are not the answer to certain issues, CPSR has gained national prominence in criticizing United States defense policies that we believe rely too heavily on computer technology. In 1984, the local CPSR chapter in Boston organized a demonstration that drew national media coverage outside a local seminar on "Battlefield/Artificial Intelligence Robotics." That same year Board members Severo Ornstin, Brian Smith, and Lucy Suchman published a critique of the Strategic Computing Program in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. 

5. In 1985, as part of our critical analysis of SDI, CPSR members published articles on the computational problems of SDI in Abacus and Atlantic Monthly magazines. Shortly thereafter, David Parnas resigned from the Eastport panel convened by the Department of Defense to evaluate the feasibility of the command and control software for SDI. Mr. Parnas argued that the task was impossible. 

6. Also in 1985, CPSR established its first National Advisory Board. Currently, this board includes four Turing Award winners and a Nobel Laureate. 

7. In 1987, Rep. Don Edwards invited CPSR to participate in an expert panel on the civil liberties implications of the FBI's National Crime Information Center (NCIC) proposal. That same year, we also held our first research conference on "Directions and Implications of Advanced Computing (DIAC)," now a bi-annual event. 

8. In 1989, in a culmination of over two years' work, CPSR issued its report on the FBI's proposed NCIC computer system. Two CPSR members appeared as witnesses before a Congressional hearing on the issue. CPSR's report and testimony strongly opposed the FBI proposal to track individuals who had not been charged with a crime. Just after the release of our report, the FBI withdrew its tracking proposal. 

9. CPSR has also been on the forefront of the intersection of private industry and civil liberties. In 1991 we initiated a grass-roots campaign against the Lotus Corporation's proposed product "Marketplace:Households," software that included personal data on 120 million Americans. 

10. In the wake of the United States' reliance during the Gulf War on computer technology, in 1992 CPSR's Berkeley chapter placed an advertisement in the New York Times critical of the use of technology in the Gulf War. The headline to that advertisement read, "We've seen smart bombs -- let's see human intelligence." 

11. As part of our campaign critical of government encryption software, our fifth DIAC conference in 1994 focused on the National Information Infrastructure proposed by the Clinton Administration. The White House had sponsored the development of the Clipper Chip, computer encryption software in which the government would permanently hold the decoding "keys." Over 50,000 people signed our petition, circulated electronically, against the Clipper Chip. 

12. An important part of our mission has been CPSR's Internet World Wide Web sites. Our National CPSR Web home page (an electronic table of contents), was established in April, 1994. CPSR uses Internet servers of Sunnyside Computing, located in Palo Alto, California for our Internet services. We make our Web page available to anyone on the Internet who accesses its address at http://www.cpsr.org/home.html. This home page contains official CPSR documents analyzing such important computer issues as government regulations over the Internet, encryption issues, and health issues raised by working in this industry. Currently, documents include reports issued by CPSR and relevant foundations, Op-Ed pieces and information about how to get involved with CPSR and other related computer activist organizations. 

13. The CPSR Web page also contains numerous links to other organizations as well as working groups and projects within the CPSR. Although Marsha Woodbury, a CPSR member voluntarily serves as our Webmaster, she only maintains the National CPSR Web page located at the address noted above. The sheer size of the CPSR Internet site, (which I will detail below) makes it impossible for CPSR to centralize its maintenance and operation. Dr. Woodbury only checks new documents and links to the National CPSR Web page, to better ensure that these links are relevant and topical. CPSR does not currently have nor are we planning to implement an official procedure that attempts to screen whether a link's content might be considered "patently offensive" or "indecent." 

14. CPSR sponsors a number of working groups, comprised of members and other invited people who work together to develop ideas, issues, conversations, actions and projects that relate to CPSR's mission. Working groups provide their members with relative autonomy while allowing for collaboration with the national organization and with other working groups. 

15. The various CPSR working groups and projects maintain their pages autonomously; any documents or links from these autonomous Web pages are included at the discretion of each group's members. At the present time, CPSR Web page links, documents, and archives are checked for relevancy to the issue at hand; neither the National Office of CPSR nor any of our working groups or projects plan to eliminate any material that might be considered "patently offensive" or "indecent." Like the main CPSR Web page, these independent CPSR Web pages are heavily linked, indirectly, to issues the group or project decides are relevant. For example, our gender issues Web page links to issues such as abortion, women's health, and women's sexuality. 

16. In addition, most of these Web pages contain archives on previous newsgroup or listserv discussions. I believe that any material on CPSR Internet sites that might be considered "patently offensive" or "indecent" are not gratuitous, but are meant to contribute to the discussion or topic at hand. I am concerned that some of the contents of CPSR Web pages, especially those regarding sexuality, abortion, and certain discussions on censorship, might be considered "patently offensive" or "indecent," thus placing CPSR at risk of criminal prosecution or other sanctions. 

17. CPSR sponsors nearly 20 listservs open to anyone in the international computer community. Listservs are electronic mailing lists in which any subscriber messages are posted to all other members of the mailing list. Subscription to the listservs are entirely automatic, requiring no human intervention. A number of the listservs are moderated, with moderators simply screening messages for relevancy to the topic and discussion of the listserv. Moderators do not screen for "decency," nor is CPSR currently planning to have its moderators screen out materials that might be considered "indecent" or "patently offensive." CPSR also does not currently intend to implement a subscription procedure that would prohibit minors from joining any of our listservs. 

18. The Campaign for Cyber-Rights working group, established in the beginning of 1995, seeks to raise awareness of the forces involved in the commercial development of "cyberspace" and to promote global support for the Declaration of Rights in Cyberspace. The basic rights the working group espouses are the right to assemble in on-line communities, the right to speak freely, the right to on-line privacy, and the right to reasonable network pricing. The Cyber-Rights working group sponsors a Cyberjournal, a moderated listserv and a general discussion list on global political trends that are relevant to cyberspace. Like most CPSR working groups and projects, Cyber-rights maintains an extensive archive, located at http://www.cpsr.org/cpsr/nii/cyber-rights/. 

19. One of the main topics of the Cyber-rights listserv is censorship. Several postings include explicit references to racial or ethnic slurs, graphic depictions of body parts and functions, as well as obscene language. Most of these postings use explicit language not gratuitously, but rather as a method in exploring the powerful ways such language affects our society. However, if a subscriber were to post gratuitous slurs to this listserv or any other listserv, CPSR prefers that other subscribers chastise (called "flaming") the user. CPSR does not revoke a user's membership to the listserv for posting hateful speech because doing so would be antithetical to our belief in the importance of free speech, no matter how abhorrent, on computer communications. I am concerned that the occasional use of such explicit language that may be considered "patently offensive" or "indecent" would place CPSR at risk of criminal prosecution or other sanctions. 

20. I do not understand what "patently offensive" or "indecent" means under this statute. As I stated before, I am concerned that some links to the various CPSR Web pages, especially those regarding abortion, sex, sexuality, and discussions on obscene or hateful speech, may be considered "indecent" or "patently offensive," thus placing CPSR at risk of criminal prosecution or other sanctions. 

21. I understand that one course of action CPSR could institute to minimize our risk of criminal prosecution or sanctions, would be to require a fee to access our on-line services. CPSR wishes to continue our extensive on-line services as a free public service to the growing on-line community. Requiring payment would not only prevent most minors from accessing our on-line services, it would also prevent those adults without credit from entering our on-line services. In addition to harming potential users, CPSR volunteers such as Dr. Woodbury would be forced to spend a significant amount of their time processing payments rather than maintaining the quality of our on-line services. 

22. I understand that the second course of action CPSR could implement would be to attempt to screen out minors from accessing sites containing material that might be considered "indecent" or "patently offensive." Although we cannot know for certain how many minors access our on-line services, some minors have identified themselves as such. These youth have found our vast archive of articles, discussions, and Internet links helpful with their school projects. The screening process needed to prevent minors from accessing certain materials would be time-consuming for CPSR volunteers whose time is better spent maintaining our on-line services. Moreover, we believe that anyone should be able to access any portions of the CPSR Internet sites without revealing their identity. 

23. A third possible course of action CPSR could institute would be maintaining two sites, one for adults and one for minors. Because of the vastness of the CPSR Internet sites, I believe this option would be technologically and economically infeasible. The cost of maintaining two sites would be prohibitive for a non-profit like CPSR. Additionally, the amount of time our volunteers would spend screening thousands of documents, archives and links, would be enormous. Likewise, such a system would by necessity force us to register all users, a plan I reject for reasons stated above. 

24. The CPSR Web pages are heavily linked to other relevant Internet sites. Because of the number of links attached to the CPSR Web pages, it is infeasible to screen the contents of each Internet site linked to CPSR Web pages. These links are in turn linked to other sites on the Internet. Even if CPSR volunteers were able to prevent all potentially "indecent" or "patently offensive" material from being posted to our Web pages, it would be impossible to screen the materials located on the virtually endless chain of links connected to CPSR Web pages. 

25. CPSR currently has no plans to change either the content or access procedures of our various on-line services. We would like to continue our Internet sites as a free public service anonymously accessible to all users. 

I swear that the foregoing statements are true to the best of my knowledge and belief. 

Audrie Krause 

Subscribed and sworn before me on this ____ Day of February, 1996. 

Notary Public 

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