Friday, 10 November 2000

Originally written as an op-ed piece when the Communications Decency Act passed in 1996, it still applies today. Just because the Supreme Court declared the CDA unconstitutional doesn’t mean we can grow complacent. Even now, in 1999, our elected officials are trying to regulate free speech on the Internet. (Ever hear of the Child Online Protection Act or COPA? It’s essentially a stripped down version of the CDA.) Our rights are constantly under attack and we must do everything we can to protect them.

8 February, 1996

Dear “Representative”:

Who are you to decide what I can read and what I can say? You have voted in favor of censorship, something I thought I would never see in this country.

Some may say “Oh, it’s just the Internet, where’s the harm in that?” It’s simple…in the name of “protecting the children” you have abridged my right to free speech. For this I am outraged and frightened.

Outraged because you have voted to limit one of the fundamental rights upon which our country was founded. For 220 years America has been a free country. In the past, we could say what we want how we want. Why has that suddenly changed?

Frightened because I wonder what comes next? Will we need to “protect the children” by restricting where they can go, who they can talk to, what they can think? After all, it’s for the good of the children. Where’s the harm in that?

Why is it the government’s job to “protect the children” from the horrors of the world? What is wrong with making parents take responsibility in teaching their children? If we shelter them instead of educating them, how will they grow up to be our future leaders?

I was brought up to read and think for myself. I was not forbidden from reading some things because they might be “bad” for me. Instead, I was taught what the words meant, how they affect others. I’ve grown up to be a free thinking, productive member of society.

It scares me because you made such an important decision apparently without taking the time to understand what you’re working with. I know it’s impossible to be an expert on every subject that comes to your attention, but to not even try…

What gives you the right?

Sincerely,

Michael Armstrong


For more information about the COPA and other on-line privacy issues, check out the Electronic Frontier Foundation Web site.