CMC Magazine / January 1, 1996
by John December
While the U. S. Congress struggled most of last year to produce legislation to regulate speech on the Internet, many people discussed (more fully and intelligently) the issues and underlying assumptions of the online free speech controversy. What you see in this issue of CMC Magazine is part of the process of that debate.
Special issue editor Charles Ess, the authors in this issue, and Kevin Hunt of CMC Magazine have put together a web which I think significantly adds to this debate. At the heart of our coverage is the idea that the issue of free speech need not be reduced to glib oversimplifications and solutions based on political gain. Public policy need not resemble a cartoon where people are drawn as caricatures.
Instead, this is real life. The U. S. Congress, frightened by reports from old media, tried to push its citizens off a cliff of legislation (a proposed Communications Decency Act) that was ill-conceived, perhaps unconstitutional, and no doubt unenforcable. By attempting to regulate discourse on a global collection of networks that has no central administrative or control point, that is designed to withstand multiple node or link interruptions, and over which tens of millions of people have strong social and cultural ties, the U. S. Congress behaved foolishly.
The free speech debate need not be reduced to oversimplifications or a politically-motivated solution. Instead, consider the alternatives this issue of CMC Magazine raises.
I've editorialized before about my view of dealing with objectionable material online. Personal responsibility--each person gaining the knowledge of the Net to choose their own appropriate behavior--is a better solution. Parents and teachers have the obligation to guide students online, using whatever software tools or techniques at their disposal. It is not simple to do this. But the Net, like the fierce world itself, is under no one's control.
On the Net, information sparks through the interstices of a global web without regard to national boundaries or a foolish legislature's mean whims. People can move information servers--wired, wireless--outside political domains and provide content that would be difficult to remove from the reach of a free people.
Perhaps the U. S. Congress was never in this debate.
A New Look, A New Home
This issue of CMC Magazine marks the start of its third volume. There are new navigation cues to help guide you in reading articles. I've re-designed the look and feel of the magazine. Please let me know what you think of this or if you have problems reading the material in your Web browser. The magazine now operates from my web site; and all support materials will be moved to this site. Past issues from Volume 1 (1994) and Volume 2 (1995) will remain archived at SunSITE. I thank the people at SunSITE again for providing us with a place to grow this magazine.
You can now sponsor CMC Magazine. My goal is to create a flow of revenue to pay writers and magazine staff and thereby make it possible to continue to improve the quality of our work.