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Drunk driving on the info highway?
Ä  ANEWS (1:375/48) ÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄ ANEWS Ä
Msg : #4458 
From : Randy Edwards 1:325/806 Wed 06 Apr 94 06:32
To : All
Subj : Drunk Info-Surfing
[Is this an April Fool's article, or what?! --Randy]
* Original From: Don Dawson, 1:141/730@fidonet
PC Week (April 1994)
TRUST CONGRESS? NOT WITH THIS UNBELIEVABLE LAIR OF SLOP
John C. Dvorak
When Vice President Gore began talking about the Information Highway, we all
knew the bureaucrats would get involved more than we might like. In fact, it
may already be too late to stop a horrible Senate bill from becoming law.
The moniker--Information Highway--itself seems to responsible for SB #040194.
Introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy, it's designed to prohibit anyone from using
a public computer network (Information Highway) while the computer user is
intoxicated. I know how silly this sounds, but Congress apparently thinks that
being drunk on a highway is bad no matter what kind of highway it is. The bill
is expected to pass this month.
There already are rampant arguments as to how this proposed law can possibly be
enforced. The FBI hopes to use it as an excuse to do routine wiretaps on any
computer if there is any evidence that the owner "uses or abuses alcohol and
has access to a modem." Note how it slips in the word *uses*. This means if
you've been seen drinking one lone beer, you can have your line tapped.
Because this law would be so difficult to enforce, police officials are drooling
over the prospect of easily obtaining permits to do wiretaps. Ask enforcement
officials in Washington and they'll tell you the proposed law is idiotic, but
none will oppose it. Check the classified ads in the Washington Post and you'll
find the FBI, National Security Agency, and something called the Online
Enforcement Agency (when did they set that up?) all soliciting experts in phone
technology, specifically wiretapping.
It gets worse. The Congressional Record of February 19, 1994, has a report that
outlines the use of conputerized BBSs, Internet Inter-Relay Chat, and CompuServe
CB as "propogating illicit sexual encounters and meetings between couples--any
of whom are underage...Even people purporting to routinely have sex with animals
are present on these systems to foster their odd beliefs on the
public-at-large." A rider on SB #040194 makes it a felony to discuss sexual
matters on any public-access network, including the Internet, Americal Online,
I wondered how private companies such as America Online could be considered
public-access networks, so I called Senator Barbara Boxer's office and talked to
an aide, a woman named Felicia. She said the use of promotional cards that give
away a free hour or two of service consitiutes public access. You know, like
the ones found in the back of books or in modem boxes. She also told me most
BBS systems fall under this proposed statute. When asked how they propose to
enforce this law, she said it's not Congress's problem. "Enforcement works
itself out over time," she said.
The man fighting this moronic law is led by Jerome Bernstein of the Washington
law firm of Bernstein, Bernstein and Knowles (the firm that first took on Ollie
North as a client). I couldn't get in touch with any of the co-sponsors of the
bill (including Senator Ed Kennedy, if you can believe it!), but Bernstein was
glad to talk. "These people have no clue about the Information Highway or what
it does. The whole thing got started last Christmas during an antidrinking
campaign in the Washington, D.C.,metro area," Bernstein said. "I'm convinced
someone jokingly told Leahy's office about drunk driving on the Information
Highway and the idea snowballed. These senators actually think there is a
physical highway. Seriously, Senator Pat Moynihan asked me if you needed a
driving permit to 'drive' a modem on the information Highway! He has no clue
what a modem is, and neither does the rest of Congress."
According to Bernstein, the antisexual wording in the bill was attributed to
Kennedy's office. "Kennedy though that technology was leaving him behind, and
he wanted to be perceived as more up-to-date technologically. He also thought
this would make amends for his alleged philandering."
Unfortuanately, the public is not much better informed than the Senate. The
Gallup Organization, at the behest of Congress, is polling the public regarding
intoxication while using a computer and online "hot chatting." The results are
chilling. More than half of the public thinks that using a computer while
intoxicated should be illegal! The results of the sexuality poll are not
available. But one question, "Should a teenage boy be encouraged to pretend he
is a girl while chatting with another person online?" has civil rights
activists alarmed. According to Kevin Avril of the ACLU, "This activity doesn't
even qualify as virtual cross-dressing. Who cares about this stuff? What are we
going to do? Legislate an anti-boys-will-be-boys law? It sets a bad
I could go on and on with quotes and complaints from people regarding this bill.
But most of the complaints are getting nowhere. Pressure groups,such as one led
by Baptist ministers from De Kalb County, Georgia, are supporting the law with
such vehemence that they've managed to derail an effort by modem manufacturers
(the biggest being Georgia-based Hayes) to lobby against the law. "Who wants to
come out and support drunkenness and computer sex?" asked a congressman who
So, except for Bernstein, Berstein and Knowles, and a few members of the ACLU,
there is nothing to stop this bill from becoming law. You can register you
protests with your congressperson or Ms. Lirpa Sloof in the Senate Legislative
Analysts Office. Her name spelled backward says it all.
--- Msgedsq/2 2.2e
* Origin: SOL, home of ANEWS, the Alternative NEWS conference! (1:325/806)
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