Queer Resources Directory Affidavit in ACLU, et al v. Reno

February 26, 1996

Affidavit in ACLU, et al v. Reno 

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I, David Casti, of Reston, Virginia, do hereby depose and swear:  

1. I am the systems administrator (SysAdmin) for the Queer Resources Directory (QRD), an unincorporated association that provides one of the most comprehensive Internet archives pertaining to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, and transgender issues.  

2. Since its inception in 1991, the QRD has become one of the most widely visited Internet sites, receiving over one million visits every month.  

3. The QRD's home page, an electronic table of contents, is located at http://www.qrd.org/QRD/ and is accessible to anyone. Neither payment nor registration is required before gaining access to the QRD archive. The QRD is a public service to the lesbian and gay community and our supporters. Entirely run by volunteers, the QRD receives no funding aside from individual donations.  

4. As SysAdmin, it is my responsibility to ensure the smooth operation of the QRD archives. Because the hardware for the QRD operates out of computers all over the world, it is impossible for me to physically maintain all the hardware. The primary QRD computer is located in Portland, Oregon. Distribution point computer locations include Beltsville, Maryland; Los Angeles, California; San Francisco, California; Christchurch, New Zealand; and Tel Aviv, Israel; the United Kingdom and Michigan. Ron Buckmire, the QRD Executive Director, and I coordinate as much as possible with local volunteers to ensure the smooth operations of the entire QRD Internet system. Because high long-distance phone rates make coordinating by telephone with volunteers cost prohibitive, communicating with our national and international volunteers is done primarily by computer communications.  

5. The purpose of the QRD is to provide a comprehensive resource of anything on the Internet that pertains to lesbian and gay issues. The variety of topics included in the QRD archive are diverse. The archive includes academic reports and studies, legal documents, professional publications and personal testimonies on topics such as parenting, families, marriage, youth organizations, religion, HIV/AIDS, media, conferences, celebrations, history, business issues, legal information, workplace issues, politics, activism, and directories of lesbian and gay organizations around the world. These main topics are linked to other Internet sites, which are themselves linked to other sites, forming a continuous and virtually endless chain of Internet links. In order to keep the QRD current, we encourage users to link Internet sites dealing with lesbian and gay issues to the QRD. The QRD contains textual, graphical, audio and video material.  

6. Users who wish to add a link or a document to the QRD site submit their links to our archive. These new links and documents are periodically screened by a QRD volunteer to ensure that they are topically relevant and meet our quality standards. While we understand the importance of erotica in the gay and lesbian community, we do not maintain an official archive of erotic works. However, I am concerned that some of the materials may be considered "indecent" or "patently offensive" because they make reference to gay and lesbian sex. For example, our archive contains FaT GiRL, an electronic magazine ("e-zine") about fat lesbians. The magazine contains poetry, community resources, as well as some erotic fiction. I am concerned that, despite the lack of an official QRD archive on erotica and sex, materials like the erotic fiction in FaT GiRL might be considered "indecent" or "patently offensive," thus placing the QRD at risk of possible criminal prosecution or other sanctions.  

7. Some topics in the QRD are necessarily explicit: issues of safer sex pertaining to HIV/AIDS, for example, provide necessarily graphic information on how to perform safer sex. The diversity of the users visiting the safer sex page, from teenagers to adults, make it necessary to provide such information in a clear, non-technical manner in order to reach the largest audience. The public health threat caused by the practice of unsafe sex demands that people understand the information regarding safer sex so that they can properly apply it to their lives.  

8. While I cannot accurately predict the number of minors who access the QRD Internet site, I believe the law's prohibition against materials that might be considered obscene or indecent to minors would be devestating for lesbian and gay youth in particular. Gay youth often experience a greater sense of confusion and isolation than their straight counterparts. Many lesbian and gay youth do not feel confident revealing their sexual identities to their friends and families, especially if these youth have no supportive local lesbian and gay community on which they can rely. The relative anonymity of the Internet, coupled with the vast resources found on the QRD, allow these youth the opportunity to peruse some of the many lesbian and gay "spaces" on the Internet. I believe that far from being damaged from the materials found on the QRD, these youth may safely explore a helpful resource that can diminish the frustrations, fears and anxieties they may experience as gay youth in today's society. In addition, straight youth who wish to support a lesbian or gay friend or who simply want to access information about the lesbian and gay community without fear that others will perceive them to be gay, find the QRD a helpful and anonymous resource. For the above reasons, it would be detrimental to prohibit these gay, lesbian and straight youth from having access to the QRD archive.  

9. I am concerned that the information on the QRD that refers to lesbian and gay sex and erotica will be considered "patently offensive" or "indecent" regardless of the materials' literary, artistic, or educational content. In addition to being of interest to the casual Internet user, the QRD functions as a research tool for students, academics, journalists, publishers and scientists. The QRD has numerous local magazines from around the world that are especially useful for people living in communities that cannot support a lesbian and gay periodical. Some of these publications contained in the QRD archive, such as Hothead Paisan (a satiric comic book about the adventures of a homicidal lesbian terrorist) and Cuir Underground, (a magazine covering events and people in the Northern California leather and fetish community) contain sexual or erotic material that might be considered "indecent" or "patently offensive." The loss of these resources diminishes the richness of the lesbian and gay community and denies the important diversity of our community.  

10. I understand that one possible course of action to minimize the risk of possible criminal prosecution or other sanctions would be to screen out all minors from gaining access to the QRD. With over one million visitors every month, screening all users would unnecessarily burden the work of our volunteers and intrude on our visitors. Any screening process would force users to reveal their identity; any verification process we institute would be an additional and unnecessary intrusion on those using the QRD. It is nearly impossible to detect the age of users on the Internet. One viable way to attempt this would be to request payment via credit card or check. The QRD is a free service and we wish to make it available to all users, regardless of income. Requiring payment not only shuts out minors and reveals users' identities, but would also prevent those without credit from accessing the QRD. Additionally, processing the payments would unnecessarily burden our volunteers, who must spend their time ensuring the QRD system is working at all times.  

11. I understand that a second possible option to protect the QRD from possible criminal prosecution or other sanctions would be to screen all materials that might be considered "patently offensive" or "indecent." The main problem with this strategy is that I do not know how to determine what might be considered "patently offensive" or "indecent." Beyond simply checking that new links and documents are topical and relevant to a subject on our archive, we do not have standards regarding "decency." We do not currently plan to screen submissions to the QRD and eliminate any that might be considered "patently offensive" or "indecent."  

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

13. The QRD will not institute a registration process in an effort to screen out minors. We believe that access to our Internet site must remain anonymous. While it is impossible to know accurately, it is likely that many gay and lesbian visitors to our site, especially minors, have not told their family or friends about their sexual orientation. A registration process may dissuade these individuals from entering the QRD site, thus preventing them from gaining one of the most valuable Internet sites for gay and lesbian issues. The QRD is a helpful resource for many people, but for those visitors who do not have access to a supportive local gay and lesbian community, resources available on the QRD Internet site provides much needed safety, support and camaraderie.  

14. In addition to serving as the SysAdmin to the QRD, I also use other on-line services that pertain to the lesbian and gay community. I subscribe to online mailing lists and would like to continue doing so. As a user I may be subject to criminal prosecution or sanctions by discussing certain lesbian and gay issues on-line, such as sex and erotica. I do not want to have to censor my own submissions to various on-line forums in order to avoid criminal prosecution or sanctions.  

15. QRD has not made a decision on what procedures to institute, if any, should this statute not be enjoined. We are aware that some Internet users may not wish to access our archive. Voluntary Internet blocking software may block our archive and the QRD wishes to cooperate with such ventures as an alternative to government regulation.  

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

David Casti  

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

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