Ethical Spectacle Affidavit in ACLU, et al v. Reno

February 25, 1996

Affidavit in ACLU, et al v. Reno 

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Jonathan Wallace of New York, New York, being duly sworn, deposes and says: 

1. I am a software business executive and attorney based in New York City. 

2. Under the pen name Jonathan Blumen, I maintain a monthly newsletter on the World Wide Web known as the Ethical Spectacle. The newsletter can be accessed without payment at http://www.spectacle.org. 

3. The Ethical Spectacle began in January 1995. I do all of the preparation for the newsletter from New York City. I rent space to house the newsletter from a computer server in Montclair, New Jersey. Thousands of people visit the Ethical Spectacle each month and the numbers have been growing. 30,000 people visited the December 1995 newsletter. Each issue of the Ethical Spectacle is approximately 20-30 pages. Although other people contribute to the newsletter, I retain sole editorial control of the Ethical Spectacle. I receive no payment for maintaining the newsletter. 

4. The purpose of the Ethical Spectacle is to address issues at the intersection of ethics, law, and politics in American life. The material in the newsletter is meant to provoke thought about these important issues. A typical newsletter includes excerpts from works of others as well as my own thoughts. 

5. In the course of its discussions, the newsletter sometimes provides material that could be considered "indecent" or "patently offensive." For instance, in June 1995, the Ethical Spectacle dealt with the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz. I excerpted from documentary material that included explicit descriptions of human experimentation, some of which dealt with sexual subjects. Also, in November 1995, I excerpted from the writings of Nadine Strossen, Catharine MacKinnon, and Wendy McElroy on pornography. I then discussed the subject of pornography generally, including descriptions of material that could be considered "indecent" or "patently offensive." 

6. I am concerned that future material in the newsletter would be considered "indecent" or "patently offensive." For instance, I am contemplating using the February newsletter to discuss free speech. I would discuss the history of censorship and provide examples of past censorship. I might offer excerpts from the writings of James Joyce, Henry Miller, William Burroughs, and other works that have been challenged for obscenity in the past but are now considered protected under the First Amendment. Some of this free speech material could be considered "indecent" or "patently offensive." 

7. I have received messages that lead me to believe that teenagers read the Ethical Spectacle. Although technology exists that would allow me to prevent minors from accessing the newsletter, I believe that minors should be encouraged to grapple with the issues presented by the Ethical Spectacle. Teenagers, who are developing their values and opinions, should have access to information that helps them in this process. I could not fulfill this mission by creating a "minors only" version of the newsletter because doing so would take too much time. It would also be time consuming, as well as costly, to require the thousands of people who read the Ethical Spectacle to apply for a password and prove their age. I would be unable to institute such a system and still offer the Ethical Spectacle for free. Additionally, I am sure that minors would be able to evade a password system by using the passwords of adults or by forging applications. I do not mind if people who read the Ethical Spectacle use screening software. It would be much easier for readers and parents to employ such software than for me to try to restrict access to the newsletter. 

8. I have no idea what "indecent" or "patently offensive" means. Thus, it would be difficult for me to decide what is and is not lawful under a law prohibiting dissemination of "indecent" or "patently offensive" online material to minors. If such a law goes into effect, I will continue to place explicit material in the Ethical Spectacle in the future despite the risk of criminal prosecution or other sanction. 

9. 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 the Ethical Spectacle and its visitors of the ability to communicate on important issues. 

10. I currently provide links to other relevant online material. For instance, in the pornography issue, I provided links to sexually explicit material on the WEB that I believe has significant scientific, literary, artistic, or political value. Further, the sites to which I am linked are in turn linked to still other sites, creating a virtually endless chain. It would be infeasible for me to screen those sites to which I provide links, let alone the whole chain of linked sites, for material that could be considered "indecent" or "patently offensive." 

11. In addition to maintaining the Ethical Spectacle, I also use other online services that include explicit language. I want to be able to read material on online services other than the Ethical Spectacle that might be considered "indecent" or "patently offensive." 

Jonathan Wallace 

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

Notary Public 

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