Masthead CMC Magazine / March 1, 1996
Blue Ribbon Protest

The Dimming of the Web

by John December

All across the Web last month, people cloaked their pages in the color of mourning. In protest, in anger, in exasperation that somehow their world would no longer be the same, people affixed blue ribbons to their hypertext pages, changed the background color to black, and waited.

President Bill Clinton signed the U. S. Telecommunications Act of 1996 on February 8th. Part of this legislation is the Communications Decency Act, which makes it illegal to distribute "indecent" (Title V, Sec 502) material on computer networks. This act effectively criminalizes a wide range of discourse already occurring on computer networks.

The passage of this legislation lead to major protests on the Net. I've supported these protests, because, in my view, there are at least --three major flaws in this legislation and one chilling implication of it.

This leaves us with a large gap between those who understand and live in the online world and those who fear it. And into this gap has fallen this recent legislation--full of holes, ineffective, and uninformed. I've no doubt that our legislators can do better, and education will help people understand the online world more. But exasperated by the ignorance and fear about the nature of the Net that this legislation represents, I too drape my Web pages in black.

John December ( is editor of CMC Magazine.

Copyright © 1996 John December. All Rights Reserved.

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