PRINT March 1996


Naughty Bytes

IN FEBRUARY 1995, Senator James Exon (D-Nebraska)—whose name shares the ominous “xon” suffix with such other authors of unmitigated disasters as Richard Nixon and the Exxon Valdez—introduced the Communications Decency Act (CDA) as a stealthy remora on the back of a regulation-munching shark, the Telecommunications Reform Bill. The CDA was then defanged and refanged in a series of cheap backroom operations that would affront the dignity of the shoddiest Tijuana dentist. Nevertheless, a version of the law, censoring incisors intact, was passed overwhelmingly by both houses of Congress and signed into law by President Clinton this February 8.

Although the crucial issue of whether the Federal Communications Commission will control cyberspace remains to be settled, the final version of the CDA allows for Iron Curtain–style censorship of the Internet. The bill creates criminal penalties—a two-year

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