National Forum on the Communications Decency Act

* 8 - 9:30 PM *



Contact: Ben Wyche

Phone: (215) 222-7719

[Square Blue Ribbon icon, black background, text: 
'Supporting Free Speech on the Net' - click here to download]



The 1st NetSpeech Forum is a part of history. You made it happen. I intend to make this forum the first of a precedent-setting series of forums that will presage the destiny of 21st century human society and the telecommunications system it created. With the passage of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, the conflict over the Communications Decency Act, and the gold rush to a state of convergent technologies, the time has come for us to face our creation.

This page will be the integrator of the people, the places, the events, the energy, and the drama of the emerging tele-society of the 21st century. It will bring together the people, companies, organizations, governments, and ideas necessary for a current conception of the good society.

This dream is realized by building on the extant page's features.

The speaker's section will archive the actions in forum of such luminaries as Esther Dyson, Al Gore, and Bill Gates.

The audience section will bring together people from all over the world and the University of Pennsylvania.

The sponsor section will represent the major players of the telecommunications market of the 21st century.

The press section will show the eyes of the world, from Philadelphia to Tokyo, the images and words they need to learn.

"What happened in Philadelphia in Spring 1996?" A Protest, then a Suit, then a Forum, then a Battle, then a Conclusion. Previous CDA Protests

Philadelphia Inquirer Coverage Let's start with the most visible answer: press coverage. Student activism had a fair amount of coverage in the Daily Pennsylvanian student newspaper of the University of Pennsylvania, but not as much as the efforts of people involved with the CDA deserved. The largest print circulation Philadelphia press like Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News supported the CDA. So what was going on? A couple of Daily Pennsylvanian Articles -- On the hot summer day Thursday, July 6, 1995 the first story came out at the University of Pennsylvania aboutInternet Pornography. A high school student named Lauren Roth wrote the article. On Tuesday, February 8th, 1996, days before the CDA was signed, a Philadelphia-based writer named Go Regulate Yourself!. Finally, on Tuesday, February 13, 1996 the DP came out with a DP editorial against the passage of the Act. Then, just one day later, on Wednesday, February 14, 1996, Penn got a little visit from a certain Al Gore. That was a particular spooky day, crawling with Secret Service Agents and an eerie Ghost of ENIAC, which some claimed was really Richard Stallman. A dedicated minority of 100 students arouse from their apathy, without skipping class, and staged a memorable PROTEST. Once again, J. Christopher Robbins and the Weekly Press got into the Provost Chodorowgot the jitters. I was going nuts during this time, being harrassed with requests to comment and even go on a United States national talk show, which aired live from New York City on Thursday, March 21st. One week later, of course, on WEDNESDAY, MARCH 27th we had our infamous Net Speech Forum I

This essay will be submitted to the 24 Hours of Democracy Project. Think of the CDA-related activism as Penn's 15 Minutes of Democracy, at least in the cybersphere. This page will be those images and words that need to be heard and seen 'round the world.

So watch out world...

Let the credit roll for following champions of free speech:

Steven Morgan Friedman - for creating this page, putting up with my shit, and being there all the fucking way through...

Josh Marcus - for being there from the start, putting up with my shit, and indecent amounts of help

Allison Miller - while clawing her way to becoming new chair of the First Amendment Task Force, gave me 9 lives and patently offensive advice

Mike Mirmak - An opportunity presented itself...AND HE SIEZED IT!

Vik Bajaj - "Is this CNN? Yes. I'm calling from the First Amendment Task Force concerning the CDA..."

Sulynn Amrhein and the Penn Society of Women Engineers - for their inspiration and faith in the forum

Keith Blackman and the Daily Pennsylvanian - for covering the forum in a timely matterand classy reporting

Steve Browne and the ENIAC 2000 Committee - for letting us make this a part of the 50th Anniversary of the ENIAC

Thomas Grant Edwards - thanks for coming up from the University of Maryland and setting the precedent with the 1st CDA protest of 1996 in back of the White House - "Tell me more about the forum"; "need some signs?"

Professor David Farber and his class - for bearing with this and being in a class by themselves

Goose - I know him not by any other name. Thanks for coming =)!

Jeremy Kraybill,Jennifer Bilenker, and Phi Sigma Pi for setting the example with their Fall 1995 Panel on Electronic Media and Education

Lori Lovejoy and The Institute for Humane Studies - for the free First Amendment brochures and startling support

Dr. Steven Lubar of the Smithsonian Museum - Back Where It All Began. Consider this my paper for Fall 1994 Class!

Andrea MacDonald - for everything. If you had a dime for every time I tried to get in touch with you after I told you I would, you'd be wealthier than Bill Gates! =)

Stanton McCandish and the Electronic Frontier Foundation Homepage - for putting free speech on the map and being my heroes

Sameer Merchant - for his insight and support

James Miller and the Delaware Review - thanx fa comin'up from da UD, knowwhatumsayin', g?

Blake Mills and The Dining Philosophers - for telling Al Gore and the Secret Service about this

Dan Orr - Mr. Orr goes to Cybercourt - "Hey, What are those kids our age doing in court? Are they pornographers?"

Professor James O'Donnell - for a classy, classic last minute stand-in intro

Carter Page and the Philomathean Society - for keeping me up and out of trouble - best of luck to you, my friend

The Philadelphia Inquirer - thanx for coming, Reid

Nick Shummer & the Towne Support Staff - for grace over the pressure I put on them -- INCREDIBLE!

Sandy Smith and Penn's Office of News and Public Affairs - for doing such a terrific job in spreading the word

Verena Streber - for showing me around the web and other "Nice!" things

Eric Tienou and the First Amendment Task Force - for keeping this on course and me in line

Jen Oberstein, Dana Rice, Eric Weil, Brad Taicher, and University Television 13 - for filming history when they could have been filming Dr. Ruth

Meng Weng Wong - for the money, the POBOX.COM, the virtual IRC, but most of all, the food.

Betty Yuan - for framing the entire picture a long, long, long time ago

Alex - for being himself =)

Thomas Kretchmar(Penn Class of 2000)! , Salman Niaz , Roman Gollent , Chris Metcalfe , Richard Harvey Chapman , Ted Rudholm-Alfvin - for being such cybergentlemen and not killing the speakers they disagreed with

To everyone who emailed me..I'll get back to you soon enough :)!


And, of course, all of the Speakers:

Defending CDA

Opposing CDA

Mr. Robert Peters President, Morality in Media
Mr. James Crawford President, American Civil Liberties of Pennsylvania
Mr. Bruce Taylor , President, National Law Center for Children and Families
Mr. Chip Bayers , Managing Editor, WIRED Magazine and HotWired 'zine.

Note: Mr. Bayers was going to appear online, but the IRC operator and I decided that the forum would flow better with an audio component.

An additional thanks to the internal phone in the Towne Building which, as if realizing the urgency of the call, reached to California that evening.

Mr. Bayers heroically stayed on the phone line for 2 hours, unable to hear any comment from the other end except my infrequent and unexpected signals for him to make some profound commentary on the relationship between the First Amendment and Web publishing. He has earned my unconditional support for all his future endeavors. I cannot express my thanks to him on the space allotted to me on the Net.

A brief note before sleep: The forum went radically well. I apologize for confusion surrounding the IRC channel notice. The operator and I decided not to go with it at the last minute. We used a phone line instead -- to keep the action of the forum going. I appreciate all your emails and will post up general FAQ answers here. I'm in the middle of organizing more forums, and don't have as much time to archive as I'd like. Thanks again. I'll keep in touch. Fuck the CDA =)!

The First Amendment Task Force (FATF), held a national forum on the issue of free speech and the Internet at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia on March 27th, 1996. The forum was part of a national celebration of the 50th anniversary of the ENIAC computer. We thank you for coming.

The FATF seeks to bring concerned citizens together to discuss this 21st century issue. Recently, Congress and the President passed a bill called the Communications Decency Act , which aims to regulate indecent material on the Internet. The forum was focused on the events surrounding the CDA and its concurrent United States court trials in Philadelphia , Pennsylvania . Two national lawsuits have been filed against the Justice Department to repeal the CDA. One suit has been filed by a national coalition of organizations and individuals. It augments the complaint filed by the ACLU. Add to this the Amici Curiae filed by the Authors Guild and others. Notes in progress:

We are working to have Mr. Bayers appear via IRC. Channel TBA 3/27/96. The forum will be moderated. Moderator TBA. Speakers appear PRO BONO.

Admission FREE -- with the help of our kind SPONSORS like

The Dining Philosophers

The Penn ENIAC 2000 Committee

The Institute for Humane Studies

The Philomathean Society


The Society of Women Engineers


Every one interested in the implications of the lawsuits surrounding the CDA should attend.

        For further information or suggestions, please contact:
        Ben Wyche
       Impresario & 1995-6 Vice Chair, First Amendment Task Force
        Phone: (215)222-7719 

Last updated April 4th, 1996

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