MUST WE DECLARE AN ELECTRONIC : : DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE? : DO YOU WANT TO BE FORCED,

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:-------------------------------: : MUST WE DECLARE AN ELECTRONIC : : DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE? : :-------------------------------: DO YOU WANT TO BE FORCED, BY ACT OF LAW, TO BECOME AN ELECTRONIC STOOL PIGEON? DO YOU WANT TO BE HELD LEGALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT ANYONE WHO DIALS UP YOUR PERSONAL COMPUTER SAYS IN A MESSAGE LEFT UPON IT? DO YOU WANT TO BE SPIED UPON BY COMPUTER-OWNING FRIENDS MADE PARANOIC BY DIAL-UP POLICE? A TERRIBLY IMPORTANT ISSUE IS ABOUT TO BE PRESENTED BY THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY TO A CALIFORNIA COURT. THE CONSEQUENCES COULD BE FELT FOR GENERATIONS TO COME. IT INVOLVES NO LESS THAN WHETHER FREEDOM OF SPEECH WILL SURVIVE INTO THE AGE OF INFORMATION. THE IMMEDIATE CASE INVOLVES THE GRIM, AND FRIGHTENING, DETERMINATION OF A LARGE CORPORATION, PACIFIC TELEPHONE & TELEGRAPH COMPANY, TO PROSECUTE A LOS ANGELES CITIZEN, TOM TCIMPIDIS, FOR THE APPEARANCE IN HIS PERSONAL NON-COMERCIAL COMPUTER "BULLETIN-BOARD" OF A MESSAGE PLACED THERE BY AN UNIDENTIFIED CALLER WHICH CONTAINED THE NUMBER OF A TELEPHONE COMPANY CREDIT CARD. IT DOESN'T SEEM TO MATTER THAT THE EXISTANCE OF THE MESSAGE IN HIS COMPUTER - AMONG HUNDREDS OF MESSAGES LEFT THERE BY OTHER CALLERS - WAS UNKNOWN TO MR. TCIMPIDIS UNTIL BROUGHT TO HIS ATTENTION BY PACTEL GUMSHOES HUNTING FOR CREDIT CARD THIEVES. AND IT HASN'T SEEMED TO BOTHER ANYBODY THAT IF MR. TCIMPIDIS COULD HAVE INTERCEPTED THE MESSAGE BY DILIGENT REVIEW, SO COULD HAVE THE TELEPHONE COMPANY OVER WHOSE LINES IT FIRST TRAVELLED. AND NEVER MIND THAT MR. TCIMPIDIS IS A LAW ABIDING, RESPONSIBLE, 34 YEAR OLD ENGINEER WITH NO HISTORY OF, OR SYMPATHY FOR, ILLEGAL USE OF COMPUTERS. HE ONLY OWNS A FRIENDLY COMPUTER WHICH CAN BE DIALED UP BY THOSE WHO WANT TO SOCIALIZE ELECTRONICALLY. NO, THE TELEPHONE COMPANY - IN ITS HEAVY-HANDED FRUSTRATION AT NOT BEING ABLE TO CATCH, DIRECTLY, ENOUGH CREDIT CARD THIEVES WHO ABUSE COMPUTER COMMUNICATIONS, WANTS TO IMPRESS INNOCENT MR. TCIMPIDIS INTO U#MING FOR THEM AS A COMPUTER SPY AND TO SEARCH FOR, DELETE OR REPORT ILLEGAL MESSAGES ON HIS SYSTEM THAT AFFECTS THEIR BUSINESS, AND THROUGH THE EXAMPLE THEY MAKE OF HIM TO BLACKMAIL ALL OTHER COMPUTER OWNERS INTO BECOMING EITHER COMPUTER VIGILANTES OR ELECTRONIC STOOL PIGEONS. IT IS A BLATANT ASSAULT ON THE SENSE OF RESPONSIBILITY OF ORDINARY CITIZENS AND A CHILLING DISREGARD FOR THE NECESSITY OF FREEDOM OF SPEECH IN THE ERA WHERE PERSONAL COMPUTERS WILL BE USED AS NATURALLY BY INDIVIDUALS FOR COMMUNICATIONS AND FREE ASSEMBLY AS TELEPHONES AND MEETING PLACES ARE USED NOW. THERE IS A SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCE BETWEEN INFORMATION ENTERED INTO A PRIVATE COMPUTER NETWORK AND THAT PRINTED IN BROADCAST MEDIA, SUCH AS A NEWSPAPER, FOR EXAMPLE. EDITORS CAN BE HELD LIABLE FOR WHAT IS PUBLISHED SINCE THEY MUST CONSCIOUSLY APPROVE EVERY WORD PRINTED. ON PERSONAL COMPUTER NETWORKS MOST OF THE WORDS ARE PLACED THERE BY CASUAL CALLERS, JUST AS MESSAGES ARE LEFT ON TELEPHONE TAPE ANSWERING MACHINES. TO HOLD THE OWNER OF SUCH A SYSTEM RESPONSIBLE FOR THE UTTERANCES OF ALL KNOWN AND UNKNOWN CALLERS IS LIKE PROSECUTING A HOME OWNER FOR WHAT GUESTS IN THE LIVING ROOM MAY SAY THAT IS ILLEGAL WHILE THE HOST IS IN THE KITCHEN. THESE LARGER ISSUES OF ELECTRONIC FREEDOM SHOULD CONCERN EVERY AMERICAN. WE MILLIONS OF AMERICANS WHO ARE RESPONSIBLE OWNERS OF SMALL COMPUTERS - WHICH TODAY INCLUDES DOCTORS, LAWYERS, BANKERS, CONGRESSMEN, EDUCATORS, CLERGY, JOURNALISTS, THE YOUNG AND OLD, AND WHICH ALSO COUNTS HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF THE SAME PEOPLE WHO HAVE CHOSEN TO HOOK THEIR COMPUTER TO THEIR TELEPHONE TO CREATE BETTER WAYS TO COMMUNICATE WITH OTHERS, WANT TO ALERT THE NON-TELECOMPUTING PUBLIC TO THE FRIGHTENING POSSIBILITIES OF THE ABRIDGMENT OF FREEDOM OF SPEECH BY THOSE WHO WOULD - AND ALWAYS HAVE IN THE PAST - BEEN WILLING TO USE CRIMINAL LAWS TO INTIMIDATE THE INNOCENT IN PURSUIT OF THE GUILTY. ONLY TOTALITARIAN SOCIETIES CONDONE THE USE OF SUCH TECHNIQUES. TELEPHONE COMPANIES CERTAINLY HAVE A PROBLEM IN STOLEN CREDIT CARDS. WE SHOULD HELP THEM SOLVE THAT PROBLEM IN THE WAY CITIZENS HAVE ALWAYS DEALT WITH PUBLIC CRIME IN FREE SOCIETIES - BY VOLUNTARILY REPORTING IT, OR DISUADING OTHERS FROM ENGAGING IN IT WHEN WE ENCOUNTER IT. BUT WE SHOULD RISE UP AND RESIST ANY EFFORT OF POWERFUL COMPANIES PRESSURING GOVERNMENT BODIES INTO COMPELLING US UNDER LEGAL THREAT OF PUNISHMENT TO SPY ON ELECTRONIC ACQUAINTANCES, SUSPECT ALL COMPUTER CONVERSATIONS, OR BE HELD RESPONSIBLE FOR THE ACTS OF KEYBOARD VAGRANTS PASSING THROUGH OUR ELECTRONIC NEIGHBORHOODS. THAT WOULD TRUELY USHER IN THE ORWELLIAN NIGHTMARE. COMPUTER LITERACY CAN NO LONGER BE LIMITED TO DISCUSSIONS OF PROGRAMMING, PERFORMANCE, AND PRICES. IT NOW MUST INVOLVE THE UNDERSTANDING BY DISTRICT ATTORNEYS, JUDGES, JURIES, LAWMAKERS AND ORDINARY CITIZENS EVERYWHERE OF THE IMPLICATIONS FOR OUR MOST PRECIOUS CIVIL LIBERTIES OF CASES INVOLVING THESE UBIQUITOUS SILICON INSTRUMENTS. THESE TOOLS OF THE MIND HOLD A GREATER PROMISE OF BRINGING US CLOSER TO THE IDEALS OF INDIVIDUAL LIFE, LIBERTY, AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS, SOUGHT BY THE FOUNDERS OF THIS REPUBLIC THAN ANY TOOL INVENTED BEFORE OR SINCE. BENJAMIN FRANKLIN WOULD HAVE BEEN THE FIRST OWNER OF A MICROCOMPUTER. THOMAS JEFFERSON WOULD HAVE WRITTEN THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE ON A WORD PROCESSOR. TOM PAINE WOULD HAVE FIRST PUBLISHED HIS 'COMMON SENSE' ON A LOCAL COMPUTER BULLETIN-BOARD. ELECTRONIC DEMOCRACY IS BOUND TO BE BOISTEROUS AND UNTIDY, AND ATTRACT COMMON CROOKS IN ITS EXCITING INFANCY. BUT I DON'T WANT ANY LEGAL RED COATS CARRYING OUT THE SPEECH-SUPRESSING WISHES OF CORPORATE KINGS GEORGE IN THE NAME OF LAW AND ORDER AGAINST WE CITIZENS OF THE COMPUTER AGE SO LONG AS I HAVE A CURSOR WITH WHICH TO OPPOSE THEM. PASS THE WORD, MODEM MINUTEMEN! AMERICANS MUST HAVE FREEDOM OF ELECTRONIC SPEECH! DAVID R HUGHES SYSOP THE OLD COLORADO CITY ELECTRONIC COTTAGE =======================================

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