MEME 2.03 Feedback

MEME 2.03 Feedback

In MEME 2.03 I asked readers to send comments on:

I see this as the start of an essential and self-defining discussion. I am extremely interested to hear from readers who do not live in the United States, especially those living under laws separate from the traditions of secular democracies. What is your impression of the limits of acceptable behavior in cyberspace? Can we reach a consensus, as a global medium? Do you feel the debate over free-speech in the United States is a universal debate, which speaks to you? Do you think, as a group, Internet users can form a community able to justly govern itself?

My intention is to gather these comments, and make them available to everyone in a future issue of MEME. If you wish to keep your identity confidential, I will do so. Your thoughts matter, because only through dialogue can we reach consensus.

Here are the responses:

Date: Mon, 19 Feb 1996 21:38:41 -0800
To: "David S. Bennahum" <>
From: John Perry Barlow <>
Subject: Re: MEME 2.03


I must say, I am astonished by the ferocity of your attack on me and my "declaration" in MEME 2.03. I'm especially dismayed since, reading previous issues, I have found us in agreement on most basic issues.

But, to hear you tell it, the greatest threat to the Net at the moment is not the Communications Decency Act, nor similar initiatives arising among industrial governments around the world, but me!

Me and my dangerous idea that Cyberspace is not within the obvious sovereignty of any terrestrial government and that it is a very different social space from the physical world, requiring different methods of obtaining order.

Without actually quoting the entire declaration to your readers, you extract bits of it for scathing denunciation, claiming at the outset that it all adds up to this basic question:

>will we >deal with the real world or retreat into our own private delusion -- one >which places cyberspace above and beyond the realities of the physical >world?

Only the most perverse reading of what I wrote could lead one to this meaning. I assure you, and your readers, that I meant no such thing.

The realities of the physical world, whether harsh or mundane or ecstatic, will be with us as long as we have bodies. There will always be bodies starving, bodies in prison, bodies dancing, bodies making love.

Cyberspace is no more separate from the realities of the physical world than the mind is sublimely unrelated to the body. There is always a continuity between mind and body, and the same continuity extends between the physical and virtual worlds.

Indeed, the relationship between the social space that exists on, say, the island of Manhattan and the social space that exists in Cyberspace, is precisely the relationship between mind and body.

But there is also a separation between thought and action. Action is what the body does and over which physical authority may be be exercised. In Cyberspace, I might threaten to kill you. In New York, I can slit your thoat. That's a very important difference.

And this is why I said, in another part of the declaration you didn't see fit to quote, "We must declare our virtual selves immune to your sovereignty, even as we continue to consent to your rule over our bodies." I'm not seeking to evade legal responsibility for our physical actions.

But I've never felt anybody's thoughts should be under the control of governments, even when they could clearly define the thinkers as dwelling within their physical jurisdictions. I favor it even less now than any government on the planet can seek to confine the entire human conversation within its own local cultural norms.

At no point have I said or implied, as you charge, that Government is

>a vestige of >primitive society, will soon become obsolete, replaced by a society of >mind. So who cares what governments think? Why not just wait out these >times of troubles until the new world is unveiled?

Governments of one sort or another will go on being necessary for a long time. Some agency has to keep snow off the streets and police on them. Some collective force of society has to underwrite the physical health, welfare, and safety of the community.

I've spent a lot of time working in local governments of one sort or another to such ends as these, and I will go on doing so.

I did not invite

>people to ignore reality, and sit with their thumbs in their eyes while the >real world passes them by

Nor did I ever state or imply that

>the real world is >always wrong and the cyber world is always right

These are but a few of the many hard, unsupported, ad hominem attacks contained in your document, inspired by an animus the real source of which I can't imagine, since surely we believe and are motivated by most of the same things.

Both of us are grappling with the balancing acts necessary to assure the continued expansion of this great global conversation. Both of us are aware that it is difficult to maintain a civil society in the presence of all the different cultures here and in the absense of any clear collective authority representing them all.

We both agree that government had an important role in planting the seed that grew into the Internet, though I must point out that none of it genetic code - "things like FTP, TCP/IP, HTTP, SMTP" were set by governmental agencies. They were all standands that became generally used and eventually defined by the Internet Engineering Task Force, an entirely unofficial old boys network.

Both of are dedicated to beginning a dialog that will address such questions as:

>What [are} the limits of acceptable >behavior in cyberspace? Can we reach a consensus, as a global medium? Do >you feel the debate over free-speech in the United States is a universal >debate, which speaks to you? Do you think, as a group, Internet users can >form a community able to justly govern itself?

Indeed, I would say that my firing off that document has achieved precisely the purpose you claim for yourself. And that may be the problem.

I have been around idealistic movements most of my life and one of the many ironies I find in such work is the extent their adherents reserve their worst invective, not for their real enemies, but for those who are essentially in agreement save for some ideological coloration or element of rhetorical style.

I was hoping this would be different, but I can see that it isn't. What a pity.


John Perry

**************************************************************** John Perry Barlow, Cognitive Dissident Co-Founder, Electronic Frontier Foundation

Home(stead) Page:

Message Service: 800/634-3542

Barlow in Meatspace Today: Mill Valley, California

Coming soon to: San Jose 2/21, San Francisco 2/21-22, Los Angeles 2/23, Pinedale, Wyoming 2/24-25, Big Sky, Montana 2/25, Pinedale 2/26-27, Laguna Niguel, California 2/29, Denver 2/29, Pinedale 3/1-7, San Rafael. CA

In Memoriam, Dr. Cynthia Horner and Jerry Garcia


Madness is rare in individuals--but in groups, parties, nations, and ages it is the rule. --Nietzche, Beyond Good and Evil To: Subject: Re: MEME 2.03 Date: Sun, 18 Feb 1996 22:41:02 -0500 From: ANONYMOUS

[let's keep my identity anonymous]

My god, David, so well said. I'm so tired of reading rant after rant about how cyberspace should secede and declare itself a soveirgn nation that I think I'm about to vomit all over by copy of the Constitution. I was born into a country with a Bill of Rights, I'll be damned if I'm going to leave it here while I retreat into cyberspace.

Even if you buy that argument, history should show you it doesn't work. It didn't work for ham radio, it won't work for cyberspace. A medium's supporters who believe that by simply retreating into our apartments and ignoring this new law we can overcome Congress has simply smoked too much of the good stuff.

Cyberspace is wonderful because it gives us a tool to perform that which is essentially human more efficiently. Bill Gates talks about "frictionless capitalism". The net enables "frictionless humanity"; it allows us to do that which is human faster, better, and with more people than ever before.

Quicker than ever before, we can connect with others throughout the world, organize more effectively to accomplish our passions, communicate with others in such a way to allow us to overcome our first impressions which are usually dictated by skin color, gender, and fashion. It is a tool by which we can become more human if choose to use it for that end.

I am hopeful that free speech on the net will prevail. Not the speech of those who prey on children, but of those who say what they will in public and leave decisions about what children should see to the people best suited to that: their parents.

Mon, 19 Feb 1996 00:17:17 -0500 (EST) From: nate <> To: "David S. Bennahum" <> Subject: Re: MEME 2.03

dave, thx for ripping apart Barlow's utopian arguments. I'm glad you used a public forum to do it. Things aren't as "cyber-simple" as he would make them out to be. Actually MEME 2.03 is the best thing that has appeared in my inbox all week. I also applaud your view of the internet in an international sense. However, this question puzzles me:

>debate, which speaks to you? Do you think, as a group, Internet users can form a community able to justly govern itself?

Barlow was the guy trying to project monolithic ideas onto cyberspace, how can one really refer to the internet as a group, or a community? With "cyberspace" occurring on so many public and private levels, i find it impossible to make any broad statements about any supposed "community" Those who have the strongest illusions of internet "culture" or "community" are those who need your reality check the most!, what is it then? Well, I think that we've come to the conclusion that it defies standard classifications, that's about it :)

To: Cc:,,,,,, Subject: Re: MEME 2.03 Date: Sun, 18 Feb 1996 22:30:12 -0800 From: Phil Morton <>

As concerned as we need to be about the policing of cyberspace with the CDA, the real harm in the Telecommunications 'Reform' Act of 1996 is the wholesale deregulation. In as far as cyberspace is like geographical territory, the legislation really opens the door for a major 'land grab', i.e. the concentration of what has been a public space into the hands a of small number of people and institutions driven more by greed than by any sense of the public well-being.

So, all in all, I think of CDA more as a distraction than a threat. The question I want to pose is how we can organize to continue the tradition of public discourse that we've seen on the Internet. is the many-to-many communication inherent in the electronic medium - even when Time-Warner/Netscape/Microsoft/Cisco/AT&T own the means of transportation?

Philip Morton, cybertroll

Date: 19 Feb 96 03:18:59 EST From: "Deirdre' Straughan" <> To: "\"David S. Bennahum\"" <> Subject: Re: MEME 2.03

Dear David,

Thanks for a provocative piece. I can't remember (and can't find) your preferences about re-posting, so instead of doing it myself I'll suggest that you might want to send this to Bala Pillai of the Asia Internet Marketing list ( It's a very lively group I joined a few days ago, and I think its members would have valuable contributions to make to this discussion.

As for my own opinion, off the cuff, I'm an American citizen living in Italy, where people find American puritanism funny. (E.g., Here it's considered good, or at worst indifferent, for a politician's image for him to be seen to have "illicit" lovers. But I use the male pronoun advisedly...) On the other hand, something's still working in Italian society which appears not to be in American; here child and sexual abuse still make front-page news for their comparative rarity.

I instinctively dislike anything which threatens freedom of speech, but on the other hand, especially in a society as fragmented and isolating as America's, it may be far too easy to abuse the Internet to prey on the innocent and stupid. It would be nice to think that Netizens could be self-policing, but the Internet is now in wide enough use to be a fair reflection of America's middle and upper classes (the poor are nowhere to be found, but that's another issue), with its share of amoral cheats, liars, scoundrels, and worse.

I've observed that people are alarmingly willing to believe anything they see in "print," which makes the net even more dangerous. Until people learn how to judge what they read (and for most, as badly educated as they are these days, this will happen about when hell freezes over), the Net can be a dangerous place. We've already seen a few cases.

But this is beside the point. Congress may think it's "protecting children" by passing the CDA, but children can easily be preyed on without the work "fuck" ever passing down a wire. And Congress knows it. This is just election-year politicking, and I'll bet the people who passed the law themselves don't expect it to stand up in court. Rather than waste our breath opposing the CDA, maybe we should simply help the ACLU strike it down later.

Best regards, Deirdre' StraughanMime-Version: 1.0

Date: Mon, 19 Feb 1996 11:21:49 +0100 To: From: (Daniel Fisher) Subject: comment to MEME 2.03

You invited comment from MEME readers who live outside the US to the issues discussed in MEME 2.03.

I agree with your position that we cannot expect the larger society to allow the internet to form itself in complete anarchy. The problem of course is whose norms should form the basis of the net.

So that you can evaluate my own biases, a few words about my background might be in order. I am a New York jew (48 years old) who has lived in Denmark for the last 23 years. One of those Vietnam veterans who went into exile in the early 80's. I have university degrees from the US and from Denmark. The net is one of my primary sources of information and I have become increasingly dependent on it. I am therefore very interested in the net remaining functional. I have never visited pornographic, fascists or other hate sites on the net. There existence does not present a problem for me personally. On the other hand I can understand that many people find these sites opjectionable. A reaonable balance must be found.

This said, I am neither in favor of American or traditionalist (Catholic, Muslim etc.) control of the net. The only workable solution would seem to be an international body, possibly organized by the United Nations, to deal with the issues. The body should draw its members from a broad spectrum of world society, both net users and non users in order to have legitimacy. This body should work under the assumption that free speach should be the norm. At the same time it should be part of the bodies mandate to protect "society" against those individuals, and especially groups who are authoritarian (in the fascist sense of the word), repressive or criminal in intent or behavior.

If such a body is not created it is highly likely that national governments will decide for us. As you are well aware it is not just in the USA and goverments are trying to control the net. Germany, China and Singapore have also been active in recent months. My european bias makes me less worried about german rules than chinese ones.

Before concluding I would once again like to thank you for writing MEME. I look forward to reading it each time.

****************************************************************************** Project Consulting Kroghs Kobbel 89, Post Box 252 6100 Haderslev Tel. +4574529923 Denmark Fax +4574522490 ****************************************************************************** Date: Mon, 19 Feb 1996 06:07:25 EST From: ( BONNIE BRITT) To: Subject: RE: MEME 2.03

Good for you, David.

Your analysis of the current debate and the taking apart of Barlow's errors are on target. Listening to the sanctimonious speak as though the Internet were not a public "construction project," bought and paid for by taxpayers, is acid-filled flower children speak.

While the Internet has and is evolving to more than that, to deny its roots is to deny its history. The public does have an interest in regulating the public parts of the Internet and privacy ought to be ensured in the private areas.

Bonnie Britt

To: Date: Mon, 19 Feb 1996 15:12:15 +0000 Subject: Re: MEME 2.03 Reply-to: Priority: normal

David -

Thank you for your incisive and thoughtful commentary on the Internet. It is one of the few recent rational pieces I have come across.

I find it difficult to fathom the irrational and emotional beliefs so many people express on a subject about which they know so little.

John Aucott Vista de la Montana Sonoran Internet User Group Oro Valley, Arizona Home Page -

From: "Stephen Downes" <> Organization: Assiniboine Community College To: Date: Mon, 19 Feb 1996 09:26:01 CST Subject: Re: MEME 2.03

I essentially agree with your dissection of the Cyberspace Declaration of Independence. Comments on your other points follow:

>Lost in the shuffle may be the important fact of why cyberspace is worth nurturing: it is a medium, which for the first time in the history of the world, gives one person the power to reach another person or a million people equally easily. Never before has such power rested in hands of non-elites, such as television companies and governments. Wider access to power is the essence of what is great about the Internet, acting like vaccine for a world where information is consolidating into the hands of a few media-monoliths. But this power is also the source of the Internet's own potential undoing. Greater power for each of us requires greater responsibility. That's the flip side of the equation -- are we up to that challenge?

It would be nice were it true that greater power entails greater responsibility. However a litany of despots and dictators through history have shown this is not the case. To promote the greater good, greater power entails greater responsibility. However, not everyone wants to promote the greater good.

>I see this as the start of an essential and self-defining discussion. I am extremely interested to hear from readers who do not live in the United States, especially those living under laws separate from the traditions of secular democracies. What is your impression of the limits of acceptable behavior in cyberspace? Can we reach a consensus, as a global medium? Do you feel the debate over free-speech in the United States is a universal debate, which speaks to you? Do you think, as a group, Internet users can form a community able to justly govern itself?

Even living in Canada, I feel divorced from the debate over freedom of speech. Freedom of speech exists here, of course (and indeed, I would argue, it exists to a greater degree, if not in law, then certainly in practise). But we do not seem in this country to be compelled to take this freedom to logical extremes. It's not so much that our country is governed by some sort of overwhelming sense of responsibility. It's more like: what's the point? I suppose I COULD offend someone if I tried to exercise my freedom of speech, but where is the civility in that? And how are we supposed to get along after?

Quite frankly, I have no interest in forming a consensus or government of the internet. I like the idea of government by protocol. Recall that a protocol is a set of shared standards used by agreement. There is no need for a wider consensus because, if you don't like a protocol, you don't have to use it. You use a protocol only when you want to communicate with others who use the same protocol.

Etiquette (and derivitely, netiquette) is the same sort of thing. It's a form of politeness, like a protocol. You don't HAVE to be polite, but you are more likely to be listened to if you are.

The internet is not (the mass media notwithstanding) one single community. I spent about five years of my life on a MUD before interactive with the rest of the internet in any great way. A MUD is a community. The internet is a community of communities, if it is anything at all.

The internet is dominated by the United States, but Americans do not handle diversity well. There is no need for a central government on the internet because we don't WANT all to be the same (like, please don't lump me into the same community as those guys on the #teensex forum). Many of the issues bandied about cyberspace are American issues. They don't touch us in the way perhaps American internauts think they do. I like my nice safe Canadian haven on the internet, untouched both by the high-minded moralists who want me to be a god-fearing communist-bashing supporter of truth, justice and the American way (whatever my nationality may be), and by the cyberDahlmers of the world, who make the former necessary.

>My intention is to gather these comments, and make them available to everyone in a future issue of MEME. If you wish to keep your identity confidential, I will do so. Your thoughts matter, because only through dialogue can we reach consensus.

Read your last sentence again. You assume the truth of your own conclusion.

-------------- **** How many lights are there? **** ------------------ Stephen Downes * Distance Education Instructional Design Specialist * Assiniboine Community College * Brandon * Manitoba * Canada * * * ----------------- **** There are four lights **** --------------------

Date: Mon, 19 Feb 1996 11:14:48 -0800 To: From: Mark Stahlman (via RadioMail) <> Subject: Re: MEME 2.03


Great Meme -- perhaps the best one yet. Maybe you can speak for cyberspace. <g>


From: "Eugene Volokh" <> Organization: UCLA School of Law To: "David S. Bennahum" <> Date: Mon, 19 Feb 1996 12:56:24 PST Subject: Re: MEME 2.03

You are, of course, quite right, in your criticisms of Barlow. I've long been puzzled by the assertion that the government should completely stay out of policing Net content (as opposed to largely stay out, which is in my view). If I send Barlow a message "Paying me $100,000 or I'll burn down your house," why shouldn't I be every bit as punishable for extortion as when I give him the same message through phone or snail-mail?

In any case, as a law professor who specializes in free speech law and in law and computer technology -- and who generally has a pretty hawkish view of individual rights generally and free speech rights particularly -- I'm happy to see people like you speaking up for common sense.

-- Eugene Volokh, UCLA Law

Date: Mon, 19 Feb 1996 19:36:36 -0800 To: From: "Warren F. Seltzer" <> Subject: Profanity

By leavening your text with gratuitous profanity, you make it impossible for some people to read your missive and to take your ideas seriously.

A substantial number of my friends would regard such profanity as proof positive that your ideas and thoughts were of no value, and would therefore read no further. I have some sympathy myself to that point of view.

Serious discussions on important topics should be addressed in a mature manner. Profanity leads one to estimate that the writer is more interested in expressing his individuality than in persuading the reader, thereby detracting from the punch and power of logic and fact.

Be well,

Warren F. Seltzer Just east of Seattle

Date: Mon, 19 Feb 1996 23:46:43 -0500 To:,, From: (Keith Dawson) Subject: TBTF for 2/19/96: Aftermath of indecency

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- ||| Fallout from the Communications Decency Act |||

TBTF for 2/10/96, <> TBTF for 2/4/96, <>

On 2/15, a week after President Clinton signed the telecomm reform bill containing the CDA, a Federal judge granted a temporary restraining order against the U.S. government enforcing the vague "indecency" provision of the act. He rejected requests for restraining orders on other provisions of the bill, letting stand bans against "patently offensive" material and against discussion of abortion over a network. (The administration has said that this latter provision will not be enforced, though this asser- tion lacks the force of law.) Tomorrow a three-judge panel will schedule a full review of the case. If the restraining order is later lifted the government could prosecute for violations that occur while the restrain- ing order is in place.

Also on 2/15 John Perry Barlow wrote a Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace -- see <>. In ringing prose he rejects any role for "meatspace" governments on the Net. Today David Sol Bennahum <>, author of the newsletter MEME, offers an opposing perspective, one more likely in my view to show us the way out of this forest. See <>. Bennahum advances the insight that the Net spans a continuum of communi- cations media from the most public (which will eventually need to be regulated) to the most private (which should remain free). As a Net old- timer, and as an American not completely blind to the resonance Barlow evokes of this country's birth struggle, I sympathize with his plaint that government has no business regulating what it does not comprehend. But I stand with Bennahum in his reasonable call to educate the regula- tors so that we might eventually and bloodlessly arrive at some workable compromise, which is the mundane glory of democracy.

In the wake of the CDA an offshore Internet service provider has made the first of what I expect to be a minor flood of service offerings directed at U.S. citizens. Vincent Cate <> from Anguilla offers a $50/month Unix/Web/POP account or an email-only account for $200/year -- see <>. I would think twice if I were a U.S. citizen intent on going offshore to host a Web site that the CDA might class as "indecent." Could I be prosecuted for transmitting indecent content over a network from Boston to Anguilla as I set up the site? I've read the CDA carefully again and again, and I still can't say for sure.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- TBTF alerts you weekly to bellwethers in computer and communications tech- nology, with special attention to commerce on the Internet. See the archive at <>. To subscribe send the message "subscribe" to Commercial use prohibited. For non-commercial purposes please forward and post as you see fit. ______________________________________________________ Keith Dawson Layer of ash separates morning and evening milk.

Date: Mon, 19 Feb 1996 23:01:18 -0700 (MST) From: Evan Ravitz <> To: Subject: re: MEME 2.03 (fwd)

Thank you David for deconstructing Barlow's hollow "declaration", made from the safety of a wealthy man's retreat in Switzerland. His world may not be subject to oppression, but ours is. It never fails to amaze me how the educated as well as ignorant will follow famous icons. Bob Dylan, 1965: "Don't follow leaders."

>What will work?

Letting our politicians pretend to represent us, while selling out to the hyper-rich, won't. The internet community worked for a whole year against the kind of Telecom Bill we got: a petition of 115,000 signatures, 20,000 faxes and phone calls in one day, all ammounted to futile begging for mercy. One phone call from a John Malone (TCI prez.) now can cancel the life work of millions of honest citizens.

>Computer networks and the communications they carry are products of people, and people live by geography, in physical space, under the rule of law. Cyberspace then will be governed by people in the context of their culture.

But which people do the governing? Not "We the People".

>Wider access to >power is the essence of what is great about the Internet, acting like vaccine for a world where information is consolidating into the hands of a few media-monoliths. But this power is also the source of the Internet's own potential undoing. Greater power for each of us requires greater responsibility.

Knowledge alone is not power. The internet (like the phone alone) can be not just a source of information, but a medium for each of us to have a legal binding vote, so we are not "misrepresented" as the Telecom Bill exemplifies. I hope people ready to share responsibility for our future find this of interest:

%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%% *Announcing the "Best Direct & Electronic Democracy Solutions" web site* >From the Directors of the US National Science Foundation's 1974 Televote trials and Boulder, Colorado's 1993 Voting by Phone ballot initiative.

* The Swiss experience since 1848: The laws the people made. * Mayans, South Africans, Tibetans; the *world* is dying for real democracy. * Initiatives and Referenda: the legal tools, and how to improve them. * California's Virtual Voting Rights Initiative heading for the ballot! * Televote, Voting by Phone, The Electronic Congress, and other tested tools. * Canadian primaries by telephone. The Democratech Party of British Columbia. * Links to Switzerland, Mexico, Tibet, Germany, South Africa, California and Alabama! * CBS Evening News, Wall St. Journal, Economist and other news stories. * The Jefferson Foundation's report on Direct democracy and Representative government

400+ page reference

And please forward this announcement wherever you think right!

Evan Ravitz, director, VOTING BY PHONE FOUNDATION A FUTURE PASTURES PRESENTATION (303)440-6838 1130 11th St. #3, Boulder CO 80302 "We must put it out of the power of the few to riot on the labors of the many" - Thomas Jefferson

Date: Tue, 20 Feb 96 08:30 EET To: From: (Charl Durand) Subject: MEME 2.03

Dear David, Nice to see someone is thinking rationally about the censorship issue.

Since you invited commentary from outside America --

1. South Africa were under draconian censorship laws for a long time. Since 1990 these laws have either been scrapped or liberalised. For the first time we have sex shops, phone lines, and soft porn mags been sold at street corner shops. All the major mags -- Playboy, Penthouse etc started publising here. Over here, because censorship is such a sensitive issue, government s approach has been a hand-off one, as far as that is concerned anyway.

2. And guess what? The roof didn't cave in! In fact, where there was a glut of porn at first, Hustler's circulation has dropped almost 50% in the last year, mostly because of public pressure on shops. Other mags have closed shop. The debate is continuing, but with a minimum of government intervention. In South Africa, therefore, freedom of speech is a very sensitive issue unlikely to be tampered with by government on the short term.

3. I don't think that South Africa would follow the example set by the American censorhip law or fold under pressure, simply because Internet cleanliness is the last thing on our collective minds right now. I think that goes for most countries in a similar position. We need to use electronic communication for development and upliftment. And fortunately, unlike what seems to be the case with your government, ours does not feel threatened by its populace.

4. Personally I think that the Internet, as an international mendium without traditional boundries, is beyond any form of traditional government, because -- ** It form and content changes so rapidly; ** Governments in general are hopeless at proactivity; ** To a large extent the Internet's success depends on selflessness, personal and organisational responsibility, and creativity. Governments are not good at any of these. ** ALthough I agree with your point that the US government has primarily been responsible for the initiation of what is now the Internet, you must remember what the original impetus behind it was -- military power. They certainly weren't in a benevolent mood.

4. And this is the most important point. Personally I think that the censorship issue is a bit like the flavour of the week, which actually hides much, much more important, related issues. Just beyond the horizon lies the emerging technologies of bio-computing and nano-technology, the implications of which will make censorship laws and its consequences look like a tea party. Arguing about whether one is allowed to say shit online seems like re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic to me.

Blessings and keep up the good work.


From: Harald Skardal <> Subject: Re: Subject: MEME 2.03 Date: Tue, 20 Feb 96 09:34:07 EST

Hi Dave!

I enjoy you thoughful and thought provoking MEME's! I have some comments on the latest issue:

Just to let you know, my thinking (de jour) is probably somewhat influenced by Kevin Kelly's "Out of Control", and by Marvin Minsky's "Society of Minds". Basically a belief in "organisms" rather than "systems". Therefore I must conclude that I think both you and Mr. Barlow are right, at the different levels.

The way I see it: The Internet was definitely funded by the government through various channels. And it will have to continue that way. Because the Internet is like the surface of the Earth. Who knows, depending upon the climate with rain, sun, and other fertilizing sources; what will grow will grow, an it will always be based on reality, because we, mankind, are the raw "genetic material", the seeds it starts from. So here I agree with you.

But I also feel that Mr. Barlow is thinking about "what grows". I will use the analogy of SNA (IBM) vs. The Internet. The Messieurs Clark and Cerf, and lots of others, wisely created the Internet architecture based on *autonomous modules". For instance the Internet is based on routers who themselves decide: which other routers they *think* they are connected to, what is the "best" next hop for a mail message, etc. The Internet is literraly an ocean of organisms that participates in the common good - life, - but based on their own "knowledge". The most important capability of an organizm is scalability, but, the new and larger "growing" organism may take different directions from what you thought.

SNA was designed as a system, therefore it was controllable, but not scalable. I believe a theoretical physicist can prove that Heisenberg is lurking here!

So the danger lies in the pardox that if you want progress, you need to "let it grow on it's own terms", and relinquish control. Burocracies have problems with this, by definition. As have more totaletarian regimes. And unfortunately, most governments develop into burocracies. Even the US Government. Ref "Parkinsons Law of Work".

So I believe that problem lies in the fact that what will "grow" on top of the global plumming infrastructure called the Internet is a new CyberMind, which may take on proportions of a global governments. We have no way of controlling it if we let it grow, we can only prevent it, or I would claim, we may be able to slow it down some. To many kittens are out of the bag to be able to prevent it from happening. Life is too big of a force to be prevented from happening.

But, this must look awfully threatening to people who strive for control. Unfortunately Plato's proposal has not won support: "Let those rule who do NOT strive for it!"

My last point is based on a mail message Vint Cerf sent out some time ago, stating that the only tru way of "control" in the Internet domain is education. Just as "beauty is the mind of the beholder", all selection and interpretation is also. The Internet will grow. There will be many attempts to put "bad" material out there. But the only viable control mechanism is what we select to tap into. Which is controlled by what we have educated ourselves to enjoying.

Thanks for stimulating me to writing this. It may be somewhat rambling for you, but it feels good to me to have written it.


Harald Skardal, <> FTP Software. N. Andover, MA, USA.

"One who has both feet on the ground is not moving forward."

From: Date: Tue, 20 Feb 96 10:38:43 PST To: Subject: Farewell feedback


I am a professional seeking knowledge to keep me informed on the latest in software technology. I was happy with receiving the information that MEME provided. However, when the owner of the information source broadcasts profanity (offensive to a good many people), that's when I look elsewhere for information. I can understand it when a subscriber decides to broadcast offensive material to the list...there's not much you can do. But there is no excuse for the owner of the list to broadcast such material.

I hope you take this as constructive criticism. Your readers would be better served if they did not have to worry about being offended by the very material to which they have subscribed.

Hope MEME has a long and successful future! -- Darrell

From: (John Bonnett) Date: Feb 20, 1996 10:59:01 -0800 PDT X-Reader: UUPlus Lite for DOS 2.00.11 Subject: Re: MEME 2.03 To:

Greetings, David!

>o Call for Comments from Around the World.

>What is your impression of the limits of acceptable behavior in cyberspace?

I don't think "cyberspace" is that much different than a bar, a library, or a meeting room. It is a place where people of common interest gather for conversation in one form or another.

People go to a bar for the company of others and/or for an evening's entertainment. They go to a library for information. They gather in a meeting room to discuss/impalement ideas, or to carry on business of one form or another.

The only thing the Internet provides is a way to do that sitting at a computer, more or less free of the constraints of time and space, as not all the participants need to be at the same place at the same time to take part.

What ever is unacceptable behaviour in a bar should not be tolerated on the equivalent areas of the Internet. The same goes for the "library" and the "meeting room". "Cyberspace" consists only of people, our behaviour in the public places (a bar is a public place) of the Internet should coincide with our behaviour in the equivalent place in our home town. What anyone does in their bedroom (in private) is their own business, so long as it stays in their bedroom and doesn't effect those who didn't willing go into that bedroom.

>Can we reach a consensus, as a global medium?

My opinion is no, the first time that happened was recorded in the book of Genesis, chapter 11. Mankind was thwarted then, and has had trouble getting it together ever since.

>Do you think, as a group, Internet users can form a community able to justly govern itself?

Only if we are able to do so as nations, so the answer is yes and no.

>The contents of Meme are (c) 1995 by David S. Bennahum. Pass on the Meme ^^^^ Change the copyright date in the sig! :)

Take care, and I enjoy your news letter!

John Bonnett

Date: Tue, 20 Feb 1996 15:55:16 -0800 (PST) From: Nathan Amick <> Subject: Re: MEME 2.03 To: "David S. Bennahum" <>

i think that you are giving to much credit to humans for creating cyberspace...

there are greater forces at work here

masslove, -nathan

From: Kyle McHattie <> To: "'Meme Administrator'" <> Subject: My comments on the last issue of Meme Date: Tue, 20 Feb 1996


I would just like to voice my opinion on the last issue of Meme. First, I would like to say that Meme is the only list to which I subscribe. I have only received two issues so far and I am impressed with the intelligent discussions.

I am responding to this issue because I think I have an obligation to do so. The CDA is a sensitive issue and it needs to be brought into public focus. More people need to be aware of what it is and how it affects them. I want to address a few key points that were mentioned in the last issue.

First, I want to be clear about my position on the CDA. I am against it. Not because I'm a flaming antiestablishment type, but because it's just another example of poor legislation. It seems once again that the beurocrats in Washington still have no common sense. It's not their fault really. We as Americans are at fault. We think that because we can get enough people together and talk about the "evil" of something that we're actually doing something to solve the problem. We have become lazy and complacent. We have become a nation of talkers rather than doers.

So what you have are a bunch of legislators that are being influenced by a majority of ignorant people who are afraid and confused about something they know nothing about. And since the legislators have no minds of their own they bow to the polls, to the surveys. Then they decide "hey! the porn on the internet is a big issue, 35% of our constituents think we should abolish it, let's write a bill". I know this is an oversimplification, but to me it seems to fit.

Anyone that actually spends any time on the internet knows that pornography is NOT easy to find. You have to know your way around before you can find it. All of the TV media is scared that people will turn away from the almighty television so they make a point of showing how easy it is to find it on the net. They put 2 minute spots on the evening news that confuse the computer ignorant into thinking that's all there is here. They make movies with big stars that try and terrify people into thinking their lives could be taken away. I know I'm starting to sound like Oliver Stone now, but sometimes a little paranoia is good.

The Internet, as was stated in the last issue, was created to decentralize the government. A little later it proved to be a great way for scientists and educators to communicate. Then it evolved into "Cyberspace" the best and least expensive way for people on this earth of all professions to communicate. It is the only place where people are one race, one color, without visible handicaps, without stereotype. Where you can be who you truly are. A place where you can go without fear of physical attack. The means to visit other places and cultures. Looks have no meaning here, because unless you want to, you have no appearance. And it is such a place because we were free to express ourselves. Free to say anything, do anything, BE anything. Moral codes are exchanged between two people or a small group. If there are 10 adults from 10 different cultures who agree among themselves that child pornography is the greatest thing on earth, and they want to exchange pictures, who has the right to deny them that? Personally I see that as a sickness but that is MY view. And as long as no children are being hurt or abused HERE, then their freedom should not be infringed. I am stating this as a worst case scenario, and the worst kind of use of the internet in many peoples opinion. But it is still a consideration. How are people to learn what's right or wrong if they can't be wrong.

I didn't want to get into a philosophical discussion of the Internet but it seems that is what it is. People should be able to decide what is right or wrong for themselves. Instead of crying to the government that someone sent their child a dirty picture in error, or on purpose, they should be paying more attention to what their kids are doing. And if they see something they don't like on the net, then they should complain to the webmaster, or the provider. Or better yet, change web sites, or channels in irc. Or don't go to the porn ftp sites if they offend you. Many people are offended by the religious channels and web sites, but most people don't object because freedom of expression is taken seriously here. It's the self righteous, the ignorant and the hypocritical that are ruining what is and could continue to be the only place left on earth where people are allowed to think without fear of being put in jail. You'd think that as we approach the 21st century we would have learned to be more tolerant. Well in here we were, until the CDA came along and took away our choice to decide for ourselves.

I realize that you probably get many of these letters and don't have time to read half of them. I don't expect you to agree or like what I've said. and I realize I'm not the greatest writer there ever was, but I've said my piece. I wrote it for myself more than anyone else to help with the frustration I feel when I see the government trying to dictate my live.

I hope you enjoyed at least part of it :)

Kyle McHattie

Date: Wed, 21 Feb 96 11:44:00 +1000 From: PETER MACINNIS <> Sender: PETER MACINNIS <> Organization: OzEmail Pty Ltd To: (Davidsol Meme Author) Subject: Re: MEME 2.03

Greetings from Australia.

My background -------------------- Background: biologist, teacher, bureaucrat and number-cruncher, museum educator, fraud investigator, writer of kids' books, freelance journalist, broadcaster, now back in the classroom.

Australia ----------- We are, near enough, a secular democracy, but we are not a clone of the US, even though our founding fathers took close note of the US constitution when they framed ours. We have no explicit right of free speech, and it is only recently that our High Court (equivalent to the US Supreme Court) found an implied right in the text of this hundred-year-old (in force since 1901) document.

One of the major risks in this debate is that you in the US will entirely lose the extra-US population by rabbiting on about the First Amendment, which most of us probably think is the one that brought in Prohibition.

Outside the US, most of us are quite ignorant of the intricacies of advise and consent: we have our own cultural and historical shibboleths to contemplate. We use terms like "rabbiting on" when we mean "going on at great length" -- we understand American, we often choose not to speak it, but we have it all, even down to the usual smattering of Yiddish, Italo-American and Spanish that US readers know.

But we also have our own terms, expressions and mythology. Any Australian would know what I meant if I said "Take a dekko at this galah -- a real mug lair if ever there was". (If anybody ever calls you a galah or a mug lair, give him a bunch of fives.)

Nonetheless, we come of a similar literary tradition -- we even study quite a few US authors in our high schools, we often use US-originated texts in the sciences, and so on. We watch the same movies, but we also have a few other things, like SBS, the Special Broadcasting Service, bringing us many other cultures, and we have a strong commitment to multiculturalism, especially in the existing Australian Internet community.

Summary: ------------- We understand US culture, language, aspirations and assumptions (within reason), but we do not necessarily share them all. We have our own origins and our own goals.

>What is your impression of the limits of acceptable behavior in cyberspace?

Let me answer with a small parable. I teach adolescent boys. If they say "fuck", I reprove them, pointing out that most people my age are severely offended by that sort of language. I also point out that I can see no special magic power in certain words, so I am not offended by what they say. I then add that, should any of them tell me to fuck off, or call me a fucking bastard, I would most certainly take offence at that. The difference is all in the intention, in whether they wanted to be offensive or not.

So when Barlow says "fuck them, I say", I agree with the sentiment, though I'd prefer to cut off whatever part of their anatomy they may happen to need to procreate, rather than act in any way which may encourage the furtherance of the breed. I don't say this in any offensive way, I am simply making a sensible biological observation. If I were annoyed, I might suggest castration or tubal ligation, but I would probably not go beyond that. At 52, I prefer a degree of subtlety which the young either lack, or have yet to develop.

Linguistically speaking, anyhow.

In short, my test comes down to the intention to offend. If something is intended to offend, shock or upset the recipients, without warning, then it is wrong. This should apply on the Internet.

Then there is the need to consider the readiness of the audience. I would not like my younger students having access to material they cannot buy over the counter in magazines. I feel sure that the steamy soft-core stuff they get now causes them to get their hopes aroused more than is reasonable, leading to later disappointment.

Again, as a teacher, I want no problems with hung-up parents charging at me and belly-aching about what their sons have collected from the Internet at school. So as a teacher, I need to have the ability to block sites that can be accessed from the school. For the most part, I do this by having a single computer which is hooked to the modem, and also to a monitor which the rest of the class can see. Then all I need do is watch the rest of the class to know when something is going down (in a manner of speaking).

Note that my students know my reasoning, and are aware of why I want "naughtiness" of that sort banned. They know that I consider it to be a problem for me if it arrives, and that I regard it as demeaning for those who were persuaded to "perform". We also talk about the moral aspects, for we are, after all, a Catholic school. But, boys will be boys, and they will always hanker after the forbidden fruit, so I start with the factual aspects that cannot be so easily ignored in the pursuit of pleasure.

(The only porn problems I have had came from a Year 12 boy who had turned 18, and legally purchased a rather steamy CD-ROM and placed bits on some of the far-flung computers in the music room, away from the computer labs where I operate. That was easy to fix: no GIF files were supposed to be on those computers, so a small batch file was created for the teachers involved, which searched the entire disc for GIF files, and deleted them. I also placed a block on the UNDELETE command. This year, that boy has gone, and I have taught the boys how to convert a GIF file into an EXE file. I am observant: I will know soon enough if I have made a bad move.)

>Can we reach a consensus, as a global medium?

Yes, but only by recognising that there are horses for courses, and you cannot always apply the same standard in every community, or in every part of the same community. As an educator, I must have the right to restrict what my students access at school, but it is up to their parents to control this at home. The parents have no right to determine what I will access at home, nor do they have the right to dictate what I may see or do. Nor does any smutty-minded, salivating and sweaty sexually-repressed preacher, or any equally smutty-minded and depraved self-described libertarian porn-merchant have the right to tell us what we must see, do, or access. And I should certainly not be in a position to dictate what any of them will or will not do.

I have a son aged 21, a daughter 19, and a son aged 13. The older two could access whatever they liked, but I would tend to want to supervise the younger son's access for a couple of years yet. The only difference is that I would do it by sharing the computer: easy for me, since I teach computing, harder for most parents out there.

In the end, these kids will become adults, and they are going to have to take responsibility for themselves somewhere. I just hope that governments will leave us teachers the room to teach kids how to use their free will.

Otherwise, what will the governments of the next generation be like?

It's not a new idea: remember the Roman chap who asked:

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

>Do you feel the debate over free-speech in the United States is a universal debate, which speaks to you?

See my earlier comments. To a great extent, the debate is universal. But the US does not have a monopoly on great thinkers, and I get a bit fed up with seeing (from memory) Washington, Jefferson, Madison and Alexis de Tocqueville as the paragons of liberalism in free speech. There WERE others, and those luminaries include several slave-owners, do they not?

I'd rather like to see Bertrand Russell and Voltaire up on the pedestal for a start.

>Do you think, as a group, Internet users can form a community able to justly govern itself?

I have seen it happen in K12Net, a FidoNet area for schools, where a clown called David Kaufman, operating out of, kept spamming us with poor-quality raves about maths and science education, filled with derivative drivel, and suggesting that everybody ought to pay him money for what he was doing. People kept saying "shut up", then panix was approached to get rid of him, whereupon an intellectual in Florida started threatening each and every one of us with mail-bombing.

You can't mail-bomb in Fido. These people knew nothing of the system they were stuffing up, but they were still prepared to try and do so, in the name of free speech and the American way.

We persisted, and eventually David and his redneck buddies (you see, I DO speak the language) got the message and went away

Over time, people will learn to take the hint, and go away when asked nicely. I have seen people leave lists, perhaps with some bitterness, but they left, when it was suggested to them that they ought to go. In that sense, lists are no different from any other groups: if the pains in the butt don't leave, you all organise to leave and go somewhere else.

This leaves the nastiest problem: what do you do with the real pest, the idiot who sends flames, obscenities and abuse, or the spammer?

Fuck them, I say.

But not in quite the way that Mr Barlow meant that phrase: my answer is a software-based answer.

Make sure there is software available that will filter out any and all messages with certain identifying tags. I don't want to hear from Mr Kaufman, or even talk about Mr Kaufman. Give me the right to place that key word "Kaufman" in my list. Tough on Bert Kaufman, who is unable to get through to me, but that's the risk I take. The list of "nono" words is mine, and there might even be two lists: one might simply wipe the message, the other would bounce it back saying something like "your message has been refused because it mentions the trigger phrase or word "'fuck'".

Now if enough of us do that often enough, that'd fuck 'em, good and proper!

It would also give Bert Kaufman the chance to contact me through a third party, and suggest that I might like to refine my filter to let him through. He just has to make sure that Kaufman comes out as K**fman.

Of course, the clever ones would say "fick" or "f*ck", so I would like a smart-arse bounce button built into my software which says "your message has been refused because you tried to be a smart-arse" (or smart-ass in the USA). Then it follows with the message repeated three times for people to read through to find out what they did.

I reckon we're doing a pretty good job right now, and most of us users are still comparative newbies. Yes, we will get there in the end, but not if we aren't allowed to grow up in our own way.

Experience, a wise old mentor once told me at the start of my teaching career, is the art of never making the same mistake twice. I'm not sure where he got it from, but his point was to observe further that most teachers are very experienced, which allows them to be good safety nets, but does not qualify them to be sieves, separating the students from their mistakes.

_--|\ Peter Macinnis / \ Feral teacher & wordsmith on the right side of Oz \.--._* <-at Manly NSW, the birthplace of Australian surfing

Date: Wed, 21 Feb 1996 01:32:34 -0500 To: From: (Jamie Friddle) Subject: Last MEME

Dear David:

I was surprised at Barlow's rather peurile reaction to the CDA. To me, it was an inevitable passage in Congress, and I don't consider it a finite threat to free speech at all. I think CDA was passed as the beginning of a dialogue about the difference between decency in real space and decency in cyber space, and how the two aren't so different after all. In other words, CDA is more a strategic catalyst to examine perceived threats. I think its language is vague so that it will be refined by the judiciary. And, I assume and hope, it will.

As for Barlow and his minions, it is interesting to consider how isolated he has been himself by geography. Wyoming isn't exactly New York City. And when left to such a real semblance of "anything goes" in the middle of nowhere, I suppose it is not unreasonable to see him carry the torch for virtual anarchy.

Now that the cyber elites are up against real legislation, true colors are evident.

I have severe doubt that a cyberitic social contract will ever be formed by the population of the Internet. One need only look at the histrionics of email discussion groups to see how easily we can be misunderstood without "real" energy and chemistry flowing to and fro. I have faith in the ongoing, commercial, private, public, exchange of information. But I do not have any confidence in any kind of social contract formed by consensus by netizens unless it is buttressed by real governing power. It simply goes against human nature, I'm afraid.

Nice column.

Jamie Friddle Date: Wed, 21 Feb 1996 11:14:57 +0000 From: "Lee D. Rothstein" <> To: I-Weigh News Interest Group <> CC: "David S. Bennahum" <> Subject: [Fwd: MEME 2.03] Communications Decency Act Revisited, Yet Again

[~snip~ verbatim transcript of MEME 2.03]

TCP/IP suite -- Everything on the Internet FTP -- file transfer HTTP -- WWW SMTP -- email

Incidently, it's worth some notice that anyone with sufficient interest, skill and knowledge can take part in the standards process of the IETF -- Internet Engineering Task Force -- IETF.

[~snip~ verbatim transcript of MEME 2.03]

Barlow has taken artistic license (AL) -- and in AL are a multitude of sins. Yes, I agree that the Internet is wonderful and we need to build on it. But letting the government off the hook in the way suggested above is, at once, both too complex and simplistic. What the government has done simply is the following:

First, they have mandated a very poor security scheme on communications which gives the government access to all communications.

Second, they have outlawed the use of the best protection for privacy for use in international communications, making our government the laughing stock of the world, and putting our IT and communcations companies at a disadvantage in international commerce. The essence of Internet communications is that distance, borders, and locations are made transparent.

(The only thing that has saved our bacon here, so far, has been the sloth of European and Japanese IT companies to embrace the Internet and TCP/IP suite, and abandon their hopeless dream of the ascendency of OSI.)

Third, they have outlawed the free expression of ideas.

The above are NOT poetically stated, but are reasonable summaries of the facts.

Net, they will drive millions to PGP and other like (secure) schemes) to avoid having the government see communications, at all. So we run the risk of unlawful conduct if we use adequate privacy protection, and we run the same risk if we speak our minds without it.

It's certainly a good thing that there are John Perry Barlows and Philip R. Zimmermann's among us.

We all forgive Thomas Jefferson his artistic license in the Declaration of Independence ("all men are created equal"), yet his acquiescence (at least) in the constitution (slaves were not given the vote, and a fraction of their electoral votes were ceded to their masters) to an inferior definition of "man" (to use a euphemism). (Not to mention, that "man" in the above also does not include women.)

I forgive John Perry Barlow his AL "trespasses".

Moreover, we are past the point of the "twilight of [government] sovereignty." I didn't say that. John Perry Barlow didn't say that. J. Random Cyberkind didn't say that. Walter P. Wriston, retired Chairman of the Board, and CEO of Citicorp, said that. (When was the last time that anybody said that a banker was a visionary? Think about that. If a banker "sees" it, it's a done deal!)

I've avoided using the F-word, here, but I must say that my comments above lack the appropriate emotion, and urgency that the absurd sequence of US Government actions demands.

But what if Senator Exon, Tipper Gore, and the vast majority of congress persons who signed the bill are offended? Good! They should know that I hold many of them and/or their action in utter and complete contempt. I would be sadly disapppointed if they were not offended.

(Wouldn't it be easier and more articulate to use the F-word?)

(Senator Leahy, thank you for your stand.)

I can't think of anything that could offend me more than the above described actions of my government. But I'll get my chance (to reconsider), given the current fervor of presidential candidates to be the first to end this or that civil liberty, or reasonable government program that protects the future of the environment, or of life itself (e.g., DOE programs to clean up nuclear waste problems), or etc.

-- * Lee D. Rothstein, PhD * VeriTech * * +603-424-2900 Merrimack, NH 03054 * Fax: 424-8549

>> Information Technology Verification & Leadership <<

* Strategic Internet Consulting * Due-Diligence Evaluations * IT Development & Marketing * IT Analysis, Planning, Reporting Strategies/Programs * Security, Requirements * Email, Groupware, Multimedia & Architectural Analysis & Network Applications * Custom IT Consulting

Date: Wed, 21 Feb 1996 22:51:58 +1000 To: From: (John Larocque) Subject: re: MEME 2.03 X-UIDL: 824928862.029


First of all, thanks for MEME.

>I see this as the start of an essential and self-defining discussion. I am extremely interested to hear from readers who do not live in the United States, especially those living under laws separate from the traditions of secular democracies.

Australia counts, at least geographically, as outside the United States. We are however more similar than different constitutionally and, of course, we've got surfin' too.

>What is your impression of the limits of acceptable behavior in cyberspace?

I accept the basis for your categorisation of public/private uses of IETF defined technologies. (Check out Usenet however. There may be some authentication arrangements that allow 'private' newsgroups).

The analogy based on the telephone-to-TV spectrum breaks down I think in one respect however. Even when material is available via anonymous FTP, it is still a point-to-point transaction. You have to show a lot more intention to pick up files from an ftp site than you would demonstrate in say channel browsing on a radio or TV set. Same with HTTP and all the other protocols. There is an IETF mbone-something or other which is a form of broadcasting but for normal applications the Internet protocols define point-to-point messaging whether in private or public mode.

There is another slight variation that is pretty well known now. Unless you own a radio or a TV station, radio and TV are passive media. The barriers to becomming an owner of a radio or TV station are enormous. By contrast, all of the IETF-based technologies can be used by individuals, who only need to be able to afford Internet connections, to actively publish. You can't broadcast, but you can send messages over a variety of protocols to every peer machine whose address you know and on which the requisite client software is running.

And you do not have to be invited to do so. All you need is the address and the presence of the requisite client software on the target machine.

I would add to the model that any unsolicited message is a public message.

Given all that, I would expect that it is only the limits to acceptable _public_ behavior that need to be understood as <implied | customary | conventional | agreed | legislated>. The principle here is that any limits are contextually defined.

>Can we reach a consensus, as a global medium?

Not sure I understand the question.

Do you mean: is it possible for everyone in the world to reach consensus on anything, using the Internet as the communications medium through which the negotiations take place? I'd say, good luck. Too big a job. Forget it. Impractical. So it seems an odd question as I thought you were saying that it is unrealistic to expect global anything, no matter how desirable.

Do you mean: what are our chances of comming to some limited transborder positions on acceptable behaviour on the Internet? It will be slow but sort of inevitable. If its a public matter, as defined, then local jurisdictions will have to work together to harmonise legislations as the need for this arises. For illustration, if I attach an image file to an email list posting into a New York based list and the image turns out to be illegal in New York but not in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) where I live, I can expect to be prosecuted in New York. The ACT may not extradite me, in which case no problem. But lets suppose I am extradited. And others like me, from other parts of the world, are also prosecuted and extradited. This will eventually have the effect that people will sign off from the list for fear of prosecution. Over time the people in New York will work to have the New York legislation changed because they start to realise that they have become internationally disadvantaged because nobody will talk to them. Maybe. Of course it would save eveybody a whole lot of throuble if we could all live in equally il/liberal jurisdictions right at the beginning. But that is not the way the real world actually works.

>Do you feel the debate over free-speech in the United States is a universal debate, which speaks to you?

Yes it speaks to me, but I'm not sure its universal. As individuals we can try to negotiate some continuity in our own lives and hope to pass something of that on to our children. This is a belief in the idea that little grains of sand make up the whole beach. There is other stuff on the beach besides sand. The fundamental question is whether one belives that free speech is inalienable or just something that only some political economies have to have as a built-in safeguard against various kinds of corruption and ossification.

>Do you think, as a group, Internet users can form a community able to justly govern itself?

Huh? Its just the Internet for gods sake. Its just a messaging system. If you want to use the Internet to facilitate something real like international communication between saxophone players then I could be interested. But I already pay taxes and municipal rates and I drive on the _left_ side of the road and I will be voting in the federal election on March 2nd etc. Like the French soldier in the Search for the Holy Grail said: "We already got one thanks". But, again, I thought thats what you were saying in your piece.

I'd like to raise something (not that I expect an immediate answer - do you have any idea how long its going to take to read 2500 email messages, some even longer than this one?). Thats not the question. The question is this: to what extent can the CDA legislation signing be attributed to the momentum of 'anti Internet' interests such as Microsoft and other large corporate players who, having misjudged or mistimed the Internet phenomenon last year or even eighteen months ago, inserted their considerable oars into the lobby system a long while back. I admit that this has the flavor of a Dallas model conspiracy theory. But if that is part of the explanation, then don't we also have to reckon that even if some of the big players have now changed their minds and have realised that the Internet is not going to bite them, the CDA legislation may withstand the constitutional tests?


________________________________________________________________________ John Larocque voice/fax: +61 6 290 2526 33 Batchelor St email: Torrens ACT 2601 Janeece Pty Ltd ACN 064 741 073 Canberra, Australia Information Systems Planning & Evaluation ________________________________________________________________________

Date: Wed, 21 Feb 1996 12:37:45 -0500 From: Henry Huang <> X-Mailer: Mail User's Shell (7.2.5 10/14/92) To: CR Co-Leaders <>,,, Subject: Re: confusing the term "public" with "broadcast media" Cc:

On Feb 21, 6:24, Richard K. Moore wrote: >2/21/96, Henry Huang wrote: >>You're confusing the term "public" with "broadcast media" -- and there's a crucial difference. ANY Net service, by definition, is not really equivalent to TV.

>I believe you missed the point of David's argument. He's a net-savvy guy who well understands the difference between "broadcast" and "public".

The question is not whether he understands the difference, but whether it shows in his writing. It seemed to me that he went about the analogy from a theoretical rather than a practical point of view, and more or less ignored the LEGAL and PRACTICAL implications of associating fuzzy categories with concrete -- and very loaded -- examples.

The world does not need another excuse to impose content controls, and we shouldn't be giving them one.

>He first cites the existing precedent, where private media (such as 1st-class letters) suffer less scrutiny than more public media, such as broadcast TV.

>He acknowledges that cyberspace is much too rich to be like any of these media, but endeavors to classify modes of cyber-usage on a scale of mostly private, to mostly public, and I think he did that with some insight. The idea is to build a case for more intelligent legislation, if legislation we must have, by showing how cyberspace practices relate to existing precedents regarding content scrutiny.

I disagree. If the precedents don't exist, then we have to explain that clearly, as well. If the Net IS a truly different beast, then it won't do to shoehorn parts of it into old, limited categories -- which are overloaded with legal and historical landmines.

This is why analogies are so dangerous if not used carefully. This was the second thing the Christian Right learned (or worse, stumbled into by being ignorant) -- broad, loaded, and WRONG generalizations are MUCH more effective at provoking fear (and hence support) than precise, limited ones. Calling everything "pornography" and using the most obvious, objectionable examples of such was EXTREMELY effective -- and if it just happens to kill off speech or ideas that they find objectionable, all the better. After all, who would want to be labeled a "pornographer" for just discussing things? The fact that that's wrong and misleading seems to bother no one -- except us.

>I thought the case was made clearly. Where did the presentation throw you off track?

I'm not arguing with his hypothesis. I AM arguing with the model he presents, because I thought it was really too fuzzy and needed to be clarified.

I realize that David meant well, and I do agree with the assertion that certain types of media are regulated less than others, but I have a real problem with instituting broad categories and drawing direct analogies between the two extremes of regulation (broadcast vs. mail) and the "public" and "private" classifications. Although I sensed that he tried to use those analogies to make a different point (i.e. that you can't generalize about Net media), I felt that he didn't really make it clear enough -- and worse, he used the extremes of both categories to make his point.

It is too late in the game to just throw around theories. You have to have concrete examples. That was the first lesson the Christian Right learned when they entered this fight. The examples he chose for his analogies were just too loaded. Think about the implications of associating mailing lists with broadcast media -- they're not pretty. And even though that's NOT what he was arguing, he didn't make his point clear enough. The examples he used for his categories were MUCH clearer than the definitions he gave. I just think it's all too easy to take "public == broadcast" and "private == postal mail" as the walk-away message.

I think the main thing he needs to do is to define what he means by more or less regulation -- and to NOT use the more extreme examples of each in his definition. The more concrete and specific, the better.


From: Michael Jensen <> Subject: comments on meme To: Date: Wed, 21 Feb 1996 18:15:22 -0200 (GMT-0200)

Hi David, i wish i wasn't so busy and had more time to spend on this topic, which I've been thinking about quite a bit recently. I just got back from a trip to persuade the Zimbabwe PTC (and indirectly Mugabe) that the Internet is ok. So far they are not keen on the idea. Easy access to information is worrying to a state system which has steadily and quietly silenced most political and media opposition, but I am sure they are just an extreme case of what is present elsewhere. They quoted the Compuserve Germany story to legitimise or bolster their concerns. They say they believe the Internet to be a broadcast medium and should be licensed as such at the user level, just like a TV is there.

If it also requires special technology to limit/control access then they will wait till they have the technology before allowing the Internet (there are unofficial service providers but their status is in question). Given how far behind they are with the basic phone system (35 000 on the waiting list in Harare) the prospects are not good that this will be any time soon.


Date: Thu, 22 Feb 1996 10:42:49 -0500 (EST) From: Flavia Alaya <> To: Subject: Re: MEME 2.03


I want to thank you for your consistently interesting, complexly argued, and _useful_ writing in MEME. The thanks are overdue. I first became acquainted with your "voice" on the subject via your "Getting Cybersmart" op-ed, which became a "text" for a new course this past fall on Public Culture. Then I found myself printing out MEME as we got to that section of the course. Well, the course may be behind me, but the sense of urgency about getting a grip on this medium isn't. So now that you've framed the debate with Barlow so neatly and subtly I may work that dialogue into my standard course on the History of Social Thought (if our threatened strike in the real time and space of the New Jersey State College system doesn't wreck the semester!).

I thought you should know how much this public (!?) dialogue is appreciated even in the too-too solid unvirtual world of Paterson NJ USA and related north Jersey environs of public space. I am eager to hear what your respondents have to say from farther parts.

Speaking of which, I have propagated the MEME virus to my son in Ireland (Harry Browne, at the Irish Times), who tells me that their cyber man is now subscribing.


Flavia Alaya

Date: Thu, 22 Feb 1996 13:23:36 -0500 (EST) From: "Thomas W. Keenan" <keenan@phoenix.Princeton.EDU> To: "David S. Bennahum" <> Subject: MEME 2.03


Loved your polemic against JPB. As it happens, I assigned my students this week the project of proposing a constitution for our little course cyberspace ... and then your MEME came along. So we're discussing it tpday, and it struck me that you might be amused by some of their projects. Take a look at:

They will surely be commenting on your text, too.

Cheers, Tom

From: "Robin Whittle" <> To: Date: Fri, 23 Feb 1996 01:48:32 +0000 Subject: Thanks for J.P. Barlow critque

Hi David,

Someone posted your MEME critque of John Perry Barlow's "cyberspace is totally different from everything else, and besides, we will work out our own form of standards (= government)" declaration to a mailing list I am on.

Although I have not read Barlow's piece (just reports of it), I think your critique is really good. He is a great speaker and his enthusaism and dedication cannot be doubted, but in complex human situations the best solution requires more than this.

I don't know how laws can be applied to networked communications (I hate the term "cybersace"), because of the lack of physical trace, the seamlessness of international borders and the existence of cryptography. Even if I could imagine how to apply them, the public vs. private dichotomy is extremely difficult, since previous laws made their distinction based on technology - with a radio station and a telephone providing clear physical cues to which set of regulations would apply.

In Australia, we have had a Senate Select Committee looking at online content regulation - and now we have the Australian Broadcasting Authority working on it. I made submissions to the first inquiry, including a "public vs. private" discussion, an introduction to the basic packet protocol of the Internet and to its various higher level protocols, and finally my "Great Internet Porn Hunt" which ended with a short walk to my local convenience store where it was a lot easier to find sexually explicit material.

Some state governments (we have 7 states) have passed Internet content regualation laws, but it is early days yet. I am involved in quite a few areas including music marketing in the future (broadband Internet allows music delivery) and telecommunications privacy: Calling Number Display and telemarketing. I have not been involved in the censorship debate since I did the Senate submission, but many people are submitting to the new inquiry.

If you want to check what is happening here, there is a link from my site to the Australian Computer Society site which acts as a guide to the various online inquiries here.

Thanks for the critique! I have subscribed to MEME.

- Robin

. Robin Whittle . . . . 11 Miller St. Heidelberg Heights 3081 Melbourne Australia . . Ph +61-3-9459-2889 Fax +61-3-9458-1736 . . Consumer advocacy in telecommunications, especially privacy . . . . First Principles - Research and expression - music, . . music industry, telecommunications . . human factors in technology adoption. . . . Real World Interfaces - Hardware and software, especially . . for music .

From: (Roberto Hernandez M. (UCV)) Subject: Internet and the low of gravity To: Date: Sun, 25 Feb 1996 03:20:28 -0400 (AST)

David S. Bennahum writes:

>I am extremely interested to hear from readers who do not live in the United States [...]

Your legislators' censorship against the Internet evokes in me an ignorant and droll foreman in Brazil. Not many years ago an engineer warned him that a certain dam was impossible to build because it was against the law of gravity.

"It doesn't matter," the boss said raising the authorized finger. "I forbid that law from now on."

I ignore if the dam could be built after that decree.

Free greetings from Venezuela--where, as far as I'm aware, the law of gravity hasn't been abrogated as yet.

Roberto Hernandez-Montoya Universidad Central de Venezuela

Date: Sun, 25 Feb 1996 11:28:13 -0800 (PST) From: Robert Jacobson <> To: "David S. Bennahum" <> Subject: Re: MEME 2.03

Dear David,

As to your commentary on the CDA and self-awareness among the "citizens of the Cyberspace Nation": hoorah. For nearly a decade, from 1981 to 1989, I was the senior analyst and committee director for the legislative committee dealing with telecommunications and information policy in California. We were groundbreakers, but with- out the media clout of the current generation of armchair policy consultants (like Gilder, etc.). There was no Internet to enable our efforts, although I did craft the first legislative BBS, The Capitol Connection, for the purpose, using a state-of-the-art 286 AT and four powerful 2400 baud modems. (We actually signed up 1,000 users from large towns and small.) Our initial publication, "Access Rights in the Electronic Marketplace," first used the concept of the *agoura* as a model for cyberspace. And in 1983, we passed into law the Universal Telephone Service Act, followed by the Cable TV and Telephone Privacy Acts, and several vain efforts to get passed into state constitutional law privacy and free speech provisions for digital communications.

Those aren't just credentials. Those events were milestones on a strategic path that established my boss, Assemblywoman Gwen Moore, as the local authority on telecommunications/information policy. When a bill or proposal came up that dealt with these issues, Gwen was the one everyone turned to for opinion, agree or disagree. It took years, not moments, but something like CDA would never have passed in CA: Gwen would have said, "No," and the Speaker would have deferred to her.

The investment we made to earn that trust was not something acquired in the media or online. It meant day-to-day shoulder-rubbing with lobbyists and opposition political actors, people one might rather not spend time with; losing as many or more initiatives as one won; and generally laboring 12 or 14 hours a day, sometimes more, without a great deal of public acclaim or even acknowledgement. In fact, Gwen, for all her good work on telecom, was smashed in the primaries by a petty bureaucrat who subsequently lost the general election.

Interestingly, my friend Jim Warren, who is a major voice for online democracy, opposed Gwen's candidacy in the best tradition of one-issue politics. So it goes. Politics is a volatile profession; anyone can play.

(By the way, though there was a revolving door, few staff made it over to the other side, to become corporados. Most of us were left to our own devices once our patrons left the Legislature. We did what we did in faith that, for a moment or two, we might open some technological doors into which the public might peak and take back a few rewards.)

Anyway, it is time for self-definition. If we can self-define a community as diverse as our own, online. Of course, the time to do so is now. If we want this to be a learning community -- which is the only model that works for genuine democracy -- we have to make it so now. As the online medium becomes integrated with the tools of dissimulation and deceit, most notably TV, we may lose the opportunity to craft a learning community; this happened with cable TV.

One of the problems is that there is no formal organization to lead the effort. The uniqueness of communications among other social processes as the first and most necessary condition of democracy is too easily lost amid the leveling turmoil of the market, which does such a botch job of shepherding our communications resources -- perhaps deliberately so. It's not necessary to reiterate how the corporations and government distort our ability to communicate with one another and build an understanding of the world in which we live. This has been said often enough. But little has been said of how we might challenge this situation, other than to lose ourselves in our technologies, as John Barlow has proposed.

Thank you for opening this topic on MEME. May I suggest also the newsgroup, telecom.reg, maintained by Barry Orton at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where a good deal of the current policymaking community conducts very moving and meaningful discussions of how to change things. It might buck up the Barlow's and other millenarians, as well as challenge the technoutopians like Gilder, to read this newsgroup. People are trying to be leaders without much training or precedent. At least they're trying.

Bob Jacobson Worldesign Inc. Seattle

Date: 25 Feb 96 20:14:31 EST From: "Bruce A. Coghill" <> To: "\"David S. Bennahum\"" <> Subject: Comments on MEME 2.03

Greetings David.

My comments on cyberspace censorship are that the rules should be loosen. I am a Christian, and I am opposed to pornography and did not shed a tear when someone is arrested - and charged for pedaling child pronography. Nor when CompuServe suspended it's sex newsgroups.

Most countries have laws to some degree to govern this. You may ask me, why would you say you want censorship loosened? Don't you want to see censorship erase what you feel is bad on the net? Well..., I am afraid of my form of expression, that of the Gospel of Jesus Christ being labelled as "obscene". (I've been told as such in the past). Tools are becoming available (like Cyber Patrol) that allow owners of be responsible and choose what to censer for themselves. I am responsible for what goes on my TV. If a minor uses my phone for a 1-900 sex phone I am responsible. The same should hold through for the Net.


Bruce Coghill writing at 8:04 PM, on Sunday, February 25, 1996

Date: Sun, 25 Feb 1996 23:43:51 -0500 To: From: jonathan@Princeton.EDU (Jonathan Steinberg) Subject: MEME dialogue

I'm in Tom Keenan's Princeton class. One of our short assigments was to respond to MEME 2.03.

Here's mine

You can also check out my home page:

loved your newsletter, -j

---------------------------------------------------------------- Jonathan Steinberg Sony Entertainment Retail- Princeton University- Phone: 609-258-9943 (School) 212-249-8674 (NYC Home/Office)

Date: Mon, 26 Feb 1996 00:04:07 -0500 (EST) From: "Guy I. Austrian" <austrian@phoenix.Princeton.EDU> To: Subject: response to MEME 2.03

The following short essay was composed in response to Meme 2.03 as an assignment for Tom Keenan's course, "The Rhetoric of the New Media" at Princeton University. (I am told you will be coming to speak with us soon.) I am a senior in the English Department. Please excuse the 3rd-person reference to you. I look forward to future issues of Meme (I've subscribed). Here it is. -- Guy Austrian.

While agreeing and sympathizing with David Bennahum's position that the rhetoric of John Perry Barlow is an unproductive, alienating, and delusional way of protecting cyberspace from government regulation, I believe that Bennahum repeats some of Barlow's mistakes in maintaining certain categorical distinctions.

Principally, Bennahum takes Barlow to task for asserting that cyberspace is purely of the mind, a space devoid of the bodies that governments control. In reaction, Bennahum asks, "will we deal with the real world or retreat into our own private delusion," goes on to say that Barlow "invites people to ignore reality, and sit with their thumbs in their eyes while the real world passes them by," and finally asserts that "Cyberspace is part of the real world." While arguing that Barlow invokes too hard a separation of cyberspace from reality and of mind from body, Bennahum maintains that separation by simply insisting on the other side, that everything is real, everything embodied: "Computer networks and the communications they carry are products of people, and people live by geography, in physical space, under the rule of law."

Cyberspace and reality are not congruent, but nor should one be reduced to a subset of the other. The two spaces' identities are so questionable and vague that it seems problematic to describe them in terms of these identities. (See my paper "The Myth of Virtual Reality," In fact, it might not be such a bad idea to press those thumbs to our eyes now and again, to remind ourselves of the visions which exist in a manner easily described as either physical or perceptual, or both.

Moreover, I'm concerned that Bennahum's argument precludes any possibility that something created under a certain regime cannot in any way escape that regime. By this logic, one could never effect change from 'within the system' and any attempts at finding new ways of creating a global community through cyberspace are doomed from the start. As Bennahum himself points out, whose law are we talking about?

This last question introduces some other divisions which Bennahum seems to maintain. While quick to note the broad geographical spread of MEME and the cultures which will be included in the global community, he remains "Ameri-centric," asking how other cultures relate to our debates on free speech. But one might as easily ask, how will American culture deal if exposed over the net to, say, fundamentalist Islamic death sentences by beheading, or propaganda from the Shining Path? How, for that matter, does American culture deal with exposure to itself in all its fractured and varied versions? Should I be protected from seeing the NRA website? It seems to me that the memetics of culture are inevitable, and no one culture is a norm.

Finally, I would quickly point out that the categories of public and private are somewhat problematic in that any private communication can be tapped and subsequently made as public as possible, and that public dissemination still depends on someone flipping to the TV channel, accessing the website, etc. Maybe no one will.

These issues aside, I do feel that Bennahum's project is a laudable one. I also feel, however, that it might be better served by more subtle handling of categories and distinctions.


Date: Mon, 26 Feb 1996 01:03:21 -0500 (EST) From: "Amy N. Kapczynski" <amyk@phoenix.Princeton.EDU> To: Subject: reply to MEME 2.03

Here's an attempt to reply to MEME 2.03:

I agree wholeheartedley with certain aspects of MEME 2.03. Cyberspace does not exist beyond or outside the realms of politics. And we cannot simply leave the space, the "community" to itself, and expect that fairness will reign. Those with the biggest chips, the most time, the most energy and the loudest voices will make the rules, as has always been the case.

But I see innovative potential in cyberspace. The military background of the internet gives one pause; but one can also imagine it in Donna Haraway's terms (never a bad idea when you're trying to talk about technology in a socially responsible manner). Her main trope is that of the cyborg, a hybrid of machine and organism. She says: "The main trouble with cyborgs, of course, is that they are the illigitimate offspring of militarism and patriarchial capitalism, not to mention state socialism. But illigitimate offspring are often exceedingly unfaithful to their origins. Their fathers, after all, are inessential." (from A Cyborg Manifesto). Nothing can be without origins, but perhaps the Internet can still betray its family upbringing.

What does cyberspace make possible? Is its space a crucial gap, a space for reinvention? I can see how it might be, in some ways. Although cyberspace is never beyond bodily realities, it is a space where possibilities reign. The web's potential lies in its capacity to confound boundaries: national boundaries, boundaries between the "real" and the "unreal", the public and private, and so on. But boundaries have many functions, two of which are to protect and constrain. The web's potential is precisely its danger; we like boundaries that let us keep our integrity as units, but we revile boundaries which restrict us. But every boundary must inherently fulfill *both*. functions. The importance of this debate (the debate which seems as of yet a non-debate, but which will become a debate as things like *this* begin to happen), is that it is a space for the meanings and worth of boundaries to be debated.

I think Hannah Arendt has an expression, "thinking without banisters." Cyberspace right now is an excercise in "living without banisters," as it were. And in this sense it could be a valuable testing ground for the viability of our postmodern world. Can we live without boundaries and still respect one anothers theoretical integrity? A lot of what goes on on the net today makes me skeptical. One of the things which makes me most skeptical is that this MEME was the first message I recieved (out of the dozens that refered to the mortal threats to the net) which addressed the possibility that we may actually need to worry about offending others, that there is an extant power-reality which makes cyber-utopias really problematic. But the final word is not yet out: we have been challenged as a group to take seriously the issue of responsibility and power in cyberspace; the ball is now in our court.

Date: Mon, 26 Feb 1996 17:21:15 +0530 (GMT+05:30) From: Arun Mehta <> Subject: Re: cj#474> MEME 2.03: Myth of Digital Nirvana To: cyberjournal@Sunnyside.COM Cc: Mime-Version: 1.0 X-UIDL: 825353070.012

>What might I ask, are the binding values between the nations I mention above -- Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Secular -- Democracy, Monarchy, Theocracy? How do we "form our own Social Contract", as Barlow proposes? Is it realistically possible? Each and every reader of MEME is participating in the creation of Cyberspace. How, cutting through the digital polemic, do we then, as supposed "cyber-citizens" or "netizens" act in consort to form a community with the depth of complexity equivalent to a geographic nation? The last time I checked, some of these countries on my subscription list were in state of near war, yet we are all expected to form some autonomous, self-governing community on-line, bypassing the very real history of Homo Sapiens?

I think we can agree on a minimal agenda, something we all believe in, just as the million strong members and supporters of Amnesty International have done. No matter which culture you come from, it is not hard to agree that torture is a bad thing, and should be abolished.

Likewise, I'm sure that people from all countries will be willing to come together to oppose the taking over of the Internet by any government.

Arun Mehta, B-69 Lajpat Nagar-I, New Delhi-24, India. Phone 6841172,6849103 "I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any."--Gandhi

Date: Mon, 26 Feb 1996 11:21:08 -0800 (PST) To: From: (John Lowry) Subject: Re: MEME 2.03: Myth of Digital Nirvana X-UIDL: 825362579.000

>... ... Do >you feel the debate over free-speech in the United States is a universal debate, which speaks to you?

Free speech does not come about because we make it a law. Free speech is a consequense of having an idea, and the power to express it. Civil "rights" are the great hoax perpetuated on our species. There is only power. Private property was enshrined as the organizing principle of this nation because it bestows power -- the economic security that derives from owning your own means of production is the source of the willingness to speak freely which, in turn, is the fountainhead of democracy.

>Send comments to


>~=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=~=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=~--~=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=~=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=~ >Posted by Richard K. Moore - - Wexford, Ireland >Cyber-Rights: > CyberJournal: (WWW or FTP) --> Materials may be reposted in their _entirety_ for non-commercial use. ~=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=~=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=~--~=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=~=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=~

Date: 27 Feb 96 17:35:27 EST From: Robert Ward <> To: "" <> Subject: Untied Nodes of Internet -- are we forming a digital nation?

Re your posting of Sun, 18 Feb 1996 on MEME 2.03, reproduced in Cyberjournal. You said: >>I am extremely interested to hear from readers who do not live in the United States <<

What is happening with the Internet is that the technology of information is making another quantum leap comparable with the invention of writing, invention of printing, the realisation that literacy is not a privilege for the few but a fundamental right for the many.

The basic rule is that knowledge is power. If you control access to information, you hold the strings of power. In primitive society, knowledge was the prerogative of priests and shamans, transmitted in an oral tradition. The invention of writing broke their monopoly. Ideas could be recorded and transmitted independently between societies, across generations. Once you start writing things down, you invent the concept of the audit trail, the concept of evidence, the means for people to start asking awkward questions ...

Mediaeval recording systems were limited of course by the need to physically, individually write with pen and ink (or their equivalents). The invention of printing introduced mass-production to this information process. It's no coincidence that the development of printing in Europe was succeeded by the Reformation. The relative ready availability of information made possible by printed books meant that ordinary people could start deciding for themselves - provided they could read of course. Books represent a threat to traditional power stuctures - censorship and burning of books is a familiar response of any political system that can't stand up to public examination. (To introduce a topical note, perhaps you've read in the press here in the UK we've had a little kerfuffle with "Public Interest Immunity" certificates - basically a means for the government to bury embarrassing evidence.)

Developing technology through the ninteenth and twentieth centuries requires greater dissemination of skills and knowledge, and hence a requirement for universal literacy. IMO civilisation has now reached a level of complexity where if you want to prosper, even maintain your basic human rights to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness", you have to be able to read and write.

The significance of the Internet is that it has enabled access to far more information, far more easily than was ever dreamed of even a few years ago. It transcends political and geographical boundaries. The technology to use it is (reasonably) easy to obtain and use. Some authorities will try to control it; the Chinese government is an obvious example, US concern over obscene material is echoed in Europe (cf alleged German attempts to censor Compuserve, obscenity on the Net is also something of an obsession in the UK). The Internet is unstoppable though - it's a cheap and prolific publication medium that enables everyone and his wife to put out anything that takes their fancy. Some of it will be wierd, some of it obscene - so what? I could go down to my local newsagent and pick up a variety of more or less explicit material if I wanted to. Some ideas will be worth reading, the vast majority won't - same as talking to someone in the street, in the pub, writing to the press, posting to an Internet list ... What's different about Internet is the reach. It doesn't create an identifiable community though, any more than the readership of the International Herald Tribune represents a community. Internetters are just a random selection of people tossing ideas into a vast electronic library which must amount to quite a few petabytes by now.

A few random apposite quotes from "CULTURE IN CYBERSPACE" mailist which happened to arrive at the same time ... >>The Chinese authorities claim to be protecting people by shielding them from subversive ideas; one official is quoted as saying that it is "better to kill 1,000 [ideas, presumably] in error than let even one slip through."<<

>>"AN IMMENSE TERRITORY WITHOUT RULES AND LAWS" So Federico Mayor, director general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, says of cyberspace, according the New York Times. <<


Robert Ward

Date: Wed, 28 Feb 1996 01:18:03 -0500 (EST) From: "Christina M. Cragholm" <cragholm@phoenix.Princeton.EDU> X-To: Subject: RESPONSE TO MEME 2.03

Hello; I received a "copy" of MEME 2.03 from my Princeton Professor Thomas Keenan. I look forward to your (David Bennahum's) visit to our class, "The Rhetoric of New Media." As our first class started with a discussion of Barlow's "Declaration," I really enjoyed your critique. I wanted to share with you some of my thoughts.


David Bennahum writes:

"There is a precedent for seeing media this way (in the United States). The content of telephone conversations is seen as private, and moving through the spectrum of media the other extreme is broadcast television. Broadcast television is the ultimate public medium (and hence faces the most public restrictions on content). In between the telephone and television you get a series of media, moving from private to public, with print, videocassettes and film falling in the middle. The tricky thing with cyberspace is that it is all these mediums rolled into one. When Yahoo!, a popular Web site, gets 14 million hits a day, that starts to look a lot like television. This newsletter, sent to several thousand people who subscribe, looks a lot like print -- bit more regulated than a phone call, but a lot less regulated than a television show. Yet the technology behind MEME and Yahoo! is the same."

What are the "limits of acceptable behavior," an issue raised in the conclusion of the essay, in light of this public and private spectrum Bennahum has created?

If we take an over-cited example, but relevant given the recent legislature regarding "indecent" material on computer networks, such as pornography, it is easily seen in both the public and private spheres.

Every medium he mentions (television, phone, print,videocassettes, film) has its corresponding form of pornography: "Skin-a-max"/Playboy channel, 976 numbers, Penthouse, over-18 rooms in video stores, XXX flicks. With "all these mediums rolled into one" in cyberspace, how can we suppose that any regulations on this public/private space--even in moderation between the two extremes--will be effective? As far as I can tell, the restrictions on the better-defined media are not effective now.

One vocalist's song on the radio right now includes the words "chicken shit" and "fuck"--and you know that is what she says despite the split second of silence which is supposed to "white-out" the obscene material. Another example: movies which have been "edited for television" can not hide the shape of an actor's lips, nor the preceding heated non-offensive words like, "you son of a." Gun, right!? This attempt to regulate these very public mediums is nothing but a mockery of government censorship. Censorship is not about protecting virgin ears but assauging advertisers' desires for responsible sponsorship; their reputation is somehow associated with the airtime they support. But that is a digression.

In terms of our "self-defining discussion," I am not sure how or if we can create a balance between power and responsibility. Can we regulate ourselves on the Internet if it is both a "virus" (as Bennahum metaphorically describes his MEME) and a "vaccine" for a "world where information is consolidating into the hands of a few media-monoliths"? If cyberspace is both the interfacing "disease" and the power-disseminating "cure," how do we determine what is the illness and what is the medicine without violating whatever distinction we can make between public and private?

For example, email is considered among most college students a gift from above. But the choice of four males at Cornell University this fall to use email as a way to circulate among their friends a list of "75 reasons women should not be allowed to have freedom of speech" turned the friendly communication tool into a offensive forum passed around the network. The most oft-cited line from the message read something to the effect of: "If she can't talk, she can't scream 'rape'." Needless to say, they lost their priveleges, but not before offending hundreds of emailers around the country.

A minor event occured on Princeton's campus as well. Sometime in 1995, a few students decided to "crash the voicemail system" on campus, starting a tag-team of forwarded "hellos" around the campus phone circuits. The event forced the telephone office to send out a system-wide message asserting that any attempt to "crash the voicemail" system would be considered a violation of University rules and the perpetrators would be subject to severe punishment (i.e. not just losing phone priveleges for a month).

Technology is cool, but it is also dangerous. Riding the line between joke and lawsuit-potential (as in the case of the Cornell email boys), entertainment and destruction (as in the case of voicemail), or protection and mockery (as in the radio and tv bleeps) is very difficult to do effectively.

So, in the end, I do not know where to begin to "set limits of acceptable behavior" because inevitably, someone always tries to stretch them, corrupt them, or eliminate them. "Can we reach a consensus, as a global medium?" I doubt it.

Christina M. Cragholm '97

P.S. In light of your mention of defining a constitution for the Internet, you may want to peak at our class' attempt to establish a governmental document describing rules and regs for our class homepage. You can access everyone's ideas (Assignment #2) from the student project homepage:

You will also be able to access all our responses from that page (Assignment #3).

Thanks for providing us with "food for thought."

From: (Bill Richardson) Subject: Comments To: Date: Thu, 29 Feb 1996 15:50:22 +1100 (EST)

Hi, It appears to me that the internet is no longer the internet, and two describe the past and present/future as such is really a comparison of fruit, but not apples and apples, or oranges and oranges. Those who were close to the heart of the internet in it's early days are now probably fewer in number, and the peripheral people who had some cultural influence have now been pushed to the outer by commercial enterprises. The media, which was initially a check on the Governments of the day, is now ungovernable, and there is no reason to believe that the internet is going to take a different track. Those with a desire to possess it will surely combat all but the most educated of those desiring to 'defend its innocence'. All that self governing will do is ensure that those who still wish to use the internet for 'noble' purposes (eg research, social history, defence) will still have some ability to do so. They cannot hope to save it from commercial rape. This, however, is not the final frontier. Almost certainly an alternate net will begin to develop, based on current BBSs', and similar in concept to Cable TV in Australia; ie basically free from advertising and the like, and plenty of content on topics of interest. The initial difficulty will be convincing people who are just getting used to the idea of the usenet that an independent net has more to offer. The poor/underprivileged will not benefit from anything commercially available on the net any more than they will from a 'super savings sale' at any department store. Newsgroups dedicated to correspondence training programs would be far more useful. Yet all the advertising points to the battle between Compuserve, AOL and MSN to gain membership, rather than provide a servive to what conceptually is an audience that was given them as the result of work done by others in the past, who profited little by it. Self governing would redress that imbalance. Alas I fear it is too late. Not too late for the net to provide benefits to the community at large, but too late to keep its intentions honorable.


I may regret, disagree with, or deny having said, any of the above :)

Kind Regards

Bill R

-- Bill Richardson, Bain & Co, Sydney, Aust. (Usual disclaimers apply) //\\ Phone (02) 258-1512, (0414) 232-987 // || You will never be the same, when your eyes meet mine - Radio Birdman. **

Date: Fri, 1 Mar 1996 00:10:24 +0100 To: From: (Patrizio Di Nicola) Subject: Cyberspace

Dear David,

I read your article in MEME 2.03. You asked for comments. Here mine:

Cyberspace navigators (I preferr to avoid the words "cyberspace citiziens", too much related to a concept of phisical space, while the Internet ia a "no space place") belong to different geografic Countries. They have different laws, different cultures, different rights in their Nations. It is quite clear, therefore, that no national laws can became the "Internet laws". The CDA is offensive to me because behind it there is the assumption that US regulations must have effect everywhere over the net. But more or less all the Countries try to forbidd phornografy. This is a reality. But people are free. When they connect to an newsgroup they deliberately do this. They do the same when entering in a sex shop in NYC or Reno or Rome or Munich. They use their freedom when purchasing an erotic magazine or movie. In Italy you can find, every month, as much as 30 different new erotic (hard core) movies in a newspaper kiosk. The local law admits they be selled and exposed. The only requirement is that the front cover must be "castigated". The Internet people were able to create technical standards. They developped a "netiquette". But people on the Internet did not try to create new social norms. In absence of accepted social norms the Internet is not a community (in Reihngold's terms), but only a sum of consistent, large, but individual interactions. Therefore, the norms will be imposed by people who only marginally knows what the Internet is. This is the real risk. At that point the laws will turn the net from a place "where to stay" to a "place where to buy".

Patrizio Di Nicola Sociologist, Rome, Italy ------------------------------------------------ Patrizio Di Nicola Work & Technology Cultural Association Via Yambo 8, 00159 Rome (Italy)

Ph. +39 360 895850 Fax & Phone +39 6 4391066 E-mail -------------------------------------------------

Date: Fri, 1 Mar 1996 18:35:24 +0100 From: Graham Katz <> To: Subject: Re: meme 2.03 X-UIDL: 825705819.000

For a longtime Internet user recently ex-patriated, it has been fun to watch the uproar from outside the country. In Germany, of course, the great evil with which the Internet (and computer BBS) is associated is neo-fascism not pornography (something probably more dangerous).

There was something I wanted to comment on in your article, however. Your comments about the relationship between the net and the government struck me as somewhat disingenuous. It is certainly the case that the money that created the Darpa/Arpa/Internet was, by and large, government money. But, at least as I understand the history, it wasn't government money (or even directed research) that created the Usenet system, and later the HTTP/WWW system which people think of when they think of "the Net." Both of these were invented by people with an interest in communicating, for particular "communities". While it may be true that the money for the Net came from "the Government" (as if the funding agencies were the same thing as the Congressional censors), but what has made an interesting "place to be" is something altogether different. And then there is the world of computer BBSs, which has almost nothing to do with the packet-switched, government-funded Internet, but has much the same Cyberspace character. Nothing about Cyberspace, as such, is fundamentally Internet-based, or government funded. Even email can be accomplished along the old UUCP system, which is just phone calls. Sure, the Net is the biggest, the best, and the fastest. But it isn't IT. Cyberspace is not an act of nature, but it is not an act of government either. It is the creation of some imaginative individuals. (I don't know the details of this, but attributing the successes of the standards bodies to Governmental organization seems to be something of a distortion as well. My perception was that these bodies basically were organized by the users to tend to their own garden, the users being scientists and engineers.) There is an old Internet that is passing. And it was a a lot like a place full of interesting people. Some neat places, some nasty ones. A community of sorts, with customs and standards. I get the sense that what makes Net veterans worried is not the Net becoming more like the real world, but it becoming less so. The fear is that this "place", which in the past has pulsed with some of the same (albeit mostly ASCII) passions as the real world, will be legislated into some TV-like fantasy. g

Meme 2.03 and its contents copyright 1996 by David S. Bennahum. First spawned by Into The Matrix at Pass me along all you want, just include this signature file at the end.

Direct comments, bugs and so on to me at