PRESS RELEASE -- For Immediate Release
June 21, 1995
Contact: the Center for Democracy and Technology at +1.202.637.9800


In a move that is a boon for freedom of speech rights for Internet users, Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich has condemned the Exon/Coats "Communications Decency Act" as a "clear violation of free speech and ... a violation of the right of adults to communicate with each other."

"Speaker Gingrich has demonstrated that he understands the unique nature of interactive media such as the Internet," said CDT Executive Director Jerry Berman. "Gingrich's leadship on this issue will assure that new interactive media will be free to grow without unproductive government intrusion, and that the First Amendment rights of users will be protected."

The statement from the Republican leader came on the same day that Rep. Chris Cox (R-CA) and Rep. Ron Wyden (D-OR) announced that they are developing a different approach to the problem of children's access to controversial material on the Internet. Cox and Wyden say that they seek to encourage the development of blocking and filtering technologies that empower parents to screen the material to which their children have access.

At the same time, they hope to keep the growing Internet free from intrusive and ineffective regulation by the Federal Communications Commission.

"Along with the Speaker, Congessmen Cox and Wyden know that federal content censorship such as has existed in radio and television mass media will not be effective at protecting children," said Daniel Weitzner, CDT Deputy Director. "In the decentralized, global Internet environment, we must rely on user control technology to enable users and parents to determine for themselves the information that they and their children receive."

The Exon Internet censorship bill was strongly opposed in the Senate by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Senator Russell Feingold (D-WI). The Exon/Coats bill was approved, however, by the Senate last week and is still awaiting House action.

Gingrich made his remarks (attached below) last night on a national television show, the Progress Report carried on National Empowerment Television during a discussion with Rep. Bob Walker (R-PA) and Progress and Freedom Foundation Chairman Jay Keyworth.

Gingrich said:

"I think that the Amendment you referred to by Senator Exon in the Senate will have no real meaning and have no real impact and in fact I don't think will survive. It is clearly a violation of free speech and it's a violation of the right of adults to communicate with each other. I don't agree with it and I don't think it is a serious way to discuss a serious issue, which is, how do you maintain the right of free speech for adults while also protecting children in a medium which is available to both? That's also frankly a problem with television and radio, and it's something that we have to wrestle with in a calm and mature way as a society. I think by offering a very badly thought out and not very productive amendment, if anything, that put the debate back a step."

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