Critical Path Affidavit in ACLU, et al v. Reno

February 25, 1996

Affidavit in ACLU, et al v. Reno 

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Kiyoshi Kuromiya, being duly sworn, deposes and says: 

1. Since its founding in 1989, I have been Director of Critical Path Project, Inc. and Editor of Critical Path AIDS Project, an AIDS treatment newsletter with a circulation of 10,000 and a suite of electronic services designed to get consistent, accurate and easy-to-understand AIDS prevention and treatment information out to the field in as short a time as possible and to keep it accurate and complete as well as constantly updated. 

2. Critical Path Project, Inc. is incorporated in the state of Pennsylvania. 

3. Since 1989, Critical Path AIDS Project has operated a 24-hour AIDS treatment telephone hotline, designed to answer questions for Persons with AIDS (PWAs) and health care workers with urgent and troubling questions on symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment at any hour of the day or night. We have years of experience in disseminating complex and sometimes technical treatment and prevention information to lay persons. 

4. In addition to the treatment telephone hotline, since 1992, Critical Path AIDS Project has operated a computer bulletin board system (BBS), also available to the public 24 hours a day, free of charge by dialing (215) 463-7160 by modem. The hardware for this BBS is located in Philadelphia. This BBS uses sophisticated hardware and software that permit simulation of multiple, real time discussions on HIV/AIDS treatment and research. 

5. In addition, since May, 1995, Critical Path AIDS Project has been providing a comprehensive AIDS Web page on the World Wide Web. The URL address of this page is http://www.critpath.org. The Web page, either directly or through links to other locations, offers complete information about, among other things, the ways in which AIDS is transmitted. Because most cases of AIDS are transmitted through sexual contact, the information must deal with descriptions of risky sexual activity. In order to ensure that readers understand the materials, it often must be written using street or colloquial language rather than clinical language in order to be understood by most lay persons. Further, because AIDS can be transmitted when men have sex with men as well as when women have sex with men, we frankly discuss the types of sexual activities that might put a person at risk for contracting AIDS and how a person might minimize or eliminate the risk of infection. Thus, our Web page contains or may contain some explicit language and discussion that might be considered "indecent" or "patently offensive" to some individuals. 

6. Critical Path encourages frank discussion on matters of illness and sexuality and drug use. We recognize cultural differences which may require different treatments or information for different communities. We recognize issues particular to certain communities, for example Asian-Pacific Islanders in Philadelphia tend to be recent immigrants for whom English is a second language, men-who-have-sex-with-men, and in their 20s. We presume many of them contracted HIV while still in their teens. Providing complete and accurate prevention and treatment information to diverse communities, diverse age groups, diverse language requirements, and diverse social groupings is a challenge. Out of that challenge grew Critical Path's suite of information services. 

7. Critical Path AIDS Project Web page links directly or indirectly to thousands of databases in all fifty states and many countries. Someone who has accessed the page can look up and retrieve documents from the far reaches of the world, without technically leaving the Critical Path AIDS Project's Web page. Among the unique services we offer our patrons: 1) prevention and treatment information in eight or more Asian languages (under construction); 2) full-text clinical trials protocols from the major AIDS clinical trials networks; 3) research and treatment information for PWAs and health care workers; 4) links with organizations, data, and services world around, and 5) searchable databases of AIDS treatment newsletters and newsgroup discussions. 

8. Critical Path's Web page offers direct access to databases at over 1000 research institutions around the world. At a particular institution, the Page offers a search engine for, for example, a complete e-mail directory for all researchers at the National Institutes of Health. Critical Path maintains data on and links to information on alternative and complementary therapies -- often unknown territory for government agencies and clinicians. Critical Path links to libraries of photographs and microphotographs illustrating HIV and AIDS and its microbiology. 

9. Critical Path also hosts the Web pages of a number of organizations, regional and national: We The People Living with AIDS/HIV of the Delaware Valley, Minority AIDS Project of Philadelphia, Fight-the-Right Network, ACT UP/Philadelphia, Philadelphia Community Health Alternatives, Prevention Point Philadelphia, PhillyPAWS, From All Walks of Life, AIDS Information Network, AIDS Research Information Center, Californians for Compassionate Use, the Buckminster Fuller Institute, Grassroots Queers, AIDS Services in Asian Communities (ASIAC), Gay and Lesbian Latino/a AIDS Education Initiative (GALAEI, outreach to the Spanish-speaking community and to male and female sex workers), Youth Health Education Project, and others. 

10. Critical Path also hosts electronic mail lists, including one for the Fight-the-Right Network and one for the Penn Consortium (HIV doctors and researchers in the Philadelphia area). 

11. Critical Path offers SLIP (Serial Line Internet Protocol) accounts to users free of charge. These accounts allow users to access the Internet without going through a commercial provider. Critical Path distributes a suite of software to persons who register for these accounts. This free, public domain software includes: Netscape (a Web page browser), Eudora (an e-mail manager), Free Agent (a newsgroup reader), a gopher client, an Archie client, Telnet, and FTP (File Transfer Protocol) to enable our users to avail themselves of the full breadth of information services available on the Internet. 

12. Critical Path has developed software interfaces for the huge data resources it makes available. These include 1) a search engine which searches every word of text posted to sci.med.aids newsgroups since 1992 (500 gigabites); 2) a search engine which searches every word of text in newsletters in Critical Path's extensive AIDS newsletter library; 3) a collection of search engines which search the entire World Wide Web and gopher sites for the search term(s); and 4) a feedback form for our users to describe the most used features of our web page and to offer criticisms. 

13. Critical Path AIDS Project has offered its shell account and/or SLIP account users access to a full-feed of USENET newsgroups. For reasons of lack of disk space we do not subscribe to some newsgroups which are primarily libraries of pictures. 

14. Critical Path AIDS Project has about 1100 registered BBS users and approximately 120 users with SLIP accounts or shell accounts. We will soon upgrade our host system computer and expand the number of phone lines that we operate, which is currently 12. 

15. In October, 1995, Critical Path AIDS Project was getting 10,000 access requests per day from all over the world, including 110 from Finland, for example, and a handful from Estonia, Singapore, and Bolivia. We can provide monthly statistics on this use of all our Internet services by day, by hour, by service, or by page used. 

16. I do not know what "indecent" and "patently offensive" mean. These terms are vague and can be variably interpreted, in English as well as other languages and cultures. Some people would define all AIDS information as "offensive" or "indecent." Safer sex information must be described candidly for it to be meaningful for many, and that very frankness may be considered by some to be "offensive" or "indecent." I know this to be true from years of experience talking frankly and directly to persons at risk of infection on a 24-hour telephone hotline which we operate. The hotline has received an average of 10 to 15 calls per day since 1989. Discussion of some of the sexual acts, including those acts engaged in by persons of differing sexual orientations, and the preventive measures recommended for people engaging in those acts may be considered by some to be "offensive" or "indecent." I am concerned that the law is now written in such a way that I might face possible criminal prosecution. 

17. In my opinion, it is critical that information about AIDS be disseminated as widely as possible, and that it be written in language accessible to all. I believe it is critical that teenagers as well as adults have access to such information. In my view, the information that Critical Path provides saves lives of both teenagers and adults and any attempt to censor or restrict the free flow of this life-saving information would be a critical public health mistake. 

18. I believe information provided by Critical Path is now read by teenagers. In addition, we are currently working with the Youth Health Empowerment Project (YHEP), which provides health counseling, outreach and AIDS information to youths. Thus, additional teenagers will be afforded the same level of safer sex information we currently provide the community at large. We will also be hosting a Web page for YHEP on our system. 

19. Critical Path states on its Home Page a statement alerting readers that some of the information may be upsetting to some readers because it deals with sexually transmitted disease and may be unavoidably sexual or morbid in nature. However, there are many different ways to access the information on our Web site and some of those ways bypass our initial Home Page and thus would bypass the disclaimer. 

20. Critical Path does not intend to attempt to censor the information it provides. In our view, to do so would be to condemn those who need the information to needless illness and death. 

21. Even if we were willing to limit access to our information to adults -- and we are not -- we have neither the time nor the money to permit us to shift our entire system to a system that precludes access to anyone who cannot first provide proof of age. Moreover, to require identification of users would deter some who wish to access the information anonymously, an important group in the AIDS or at-risk community who critically need access to the medical alerts and prevention information which we provide the community. 

_____________________________ Kiyoshi Kuromiya 

Subscribed and sworn to before me this ___ day of February, 1996 

_______________________ Notary Public 

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