CyberWire Dispatch Affidavit in ACLU, et al v. Reno

February 26, 1996

Affidavit in ACLU, et al v. Reno 

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Brock N. Meeks of Fredericksburg, Virginia, being duly sworn, deposes and says:  

1. I am employed as the Washington, D.C. correspondent for Wired Magazine, a print publication covering cyberspace issues that is based in San Francisco, California. I am also a political columnist for Hotwired, a World Wide Web publication affiliated with Wired. I have 10 years of journalism experience, including working as a reporter at Communications Daily and the San Francisco Chronicle.  

2. Since late 1993, I have published on the World Wide Web the CyberWire Dispatch, which covers cyberspace issues. There are currently 8,000 subscribers to CyberWire Dispatch. In addition, I upload CyberWire Dispatch to other mailing lists which have large numbers of subscribers. I estimate that there is a total readership of 800,000 people worldwide. CyberWire Dispatch is published irregularly, but about once a week. It is sent out via the internet on request from my personal computer in Fredericksburg. Past issues are archived at www.cyberwerks.com on a computer at Liberty Hill Media Works, a computer consulting company in San Francisco, California. Although occasionally I publish a guest correspondent, I write the overwhelming majority of pieces and retain sole editorial control. I receive no payment for publishing CyberWire Dispatch.  

3. I started CyberWire Dispatch to dispel misinformation about cyberspace perpetuated by the media. I apply traditional journalistic techniques to information unique to cyberspace. CyberWire Dispatch runs investigative stories, informational pieces, and commentary. For instance, I investigate claims of people and companies offering services over cyberspace, provide information about the status of legislation affecting cyberspace, and comment on political issues dealing with technology. CyberWire Dispatch has broken a number of stories and been at the forefront of cyberspace journalism. CyberWire Dispatch is cited in the print media every couple of months.  

4. CyberWire Dispatch often includes language that could be considered "indecent" or "patently offensive." The primary reason is that many of my commentaries use a few vulgar words to make or highlight a political or social point. For instance, I once noted that the attitude of a U.S. Senator who wanted to restrict information on explosives on the internet was "Fuck you." CyberWire Dispatch has also reprinted material of a sexual nature. In an article about Marty Rimm, whose study on pornography in cyberspace was the subject of a Time cover story, I discussed the history of his involvement in the pornography industry. Part of my expose included a quotation from a paperback Rimm wrote entitled "Pornographer's Handbook: How to Exploit Women, Dupe Men and Make Lots of Money." The quotation from this book included sexual material that could be considered "indecent" or "patently offensive."  

5. I know that minors read CyberWire Dispatch because I have received responses from them. Although it is technologically possible to stop such access, as a practical matter, it is infeasible. I would have to institute an application system with identification requirements and assign passwords to adults only. It would be virtually impossible for me to process hundreds of thousands of applications. If I hired people to take care of this process, I would not be able to offer CyberWire Dispatch at no charge. Further, no password system is foolproof and I am confident that some minors would still gain access by using adult passwords or forging materials. Even if a perfect system could be instituted, I believe that CyberWire Dispatch should be available to minors with an interest in cyberspace issues. Teenagers have historically been active in computer technology and deserve to take part in the continuing dialogue over cyberspace issues. It would take too much time for me to create both a censored version of CyberWire Dispatch for minors and a regular version for adults. If readers of CyberWire Dispatch choose to employ screening software, I would have no objection. This would be a less burdensome method of restricting access than requiring me to institute a password system.  

6. Besides CyberWire Dispatch, I write a column on national government issues for Hotwired in which I sometimes use profanity to make a point. The column is called "Muckraker" and can be found at www.hotwired.com. I know that minors read this column because of responses from them.  

7. I have no idea how to define "indecent" or "patently offensive." For this reason, if a law prohibiting online dissemination of "indecent" or "patently offensive" material goes into effect, I would have a hard time deciding what is covered. Whether or not such a law goes into effect, I currently intend to continue to use profanity and explicit material when I feel it is appropriate.  

8. If a law prohibiting "indecent" or "patently offensive" material goes into effect, I fear that online services and other access providers will ban communications that they consider potentially "indecent" or "patently offensive." This would deprive CyberWire Dispatch and its readers of the ability to communicate on important issues.  

9. In addition to my cyberspace journalistic activities, I am also involved in electronic conferences, which are discussions in cyberspace. Some of these conferences include material that might be considered "indecent" or "patently offensive." For instance, there are conferences dealing with sexual practices, AIDS, and gay and lesbian issues. I want to be able to continue such discussions and read material in cyberspace that might be considered "indecent" or "patently offensive."  

Brock N. Meeks  

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

Notary Public 

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