PROCESSED THOUGHTS By John C. Dvorak PARANOIA RUNS RAMPANT THROUGH COMPUTER COMMUNITY As I

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**** PROCESSED THOUGHTS **** By John C. Dvorak PARANOIA RUNS RAMPANT THROUGH COMPUTER COMMUNITY As I was perusing the various information services I ran into a notice that the State of California is working on legislation to intimidate operators of on-line bulletin board systems. As usual the BBS systems operators (SYSOPS) are panicking over this effort. In the end they will somehow blow it for themselves and all of us. The case is Senate bill SB 1012 introduced by some guy from Citrus Heights named John Doolittle, a Republican. I don't know and I don't care whether this guy knows anything about computers. If he knew anything, he would be the only one in the legislature who did. This is a plus, and few of the computer users realize this. Not only because (when it comes to technology) these guys promote dumb legislation, but because the legislation is so dumb that it hampers any possible enforcement. SB 1012 is a perfect example. People should not panic, they should applaud. Listen to the way the law is written. Here's the parts that computer users are moaning and groaning about: "Section (e) (1). Any person who knowingly places a telephone number or address not listed, personal identification number (PIN), computer password or access code, credit card number, debit card number, bank account number, or other personal or private information of another on a computer bulletin board or otherwise makes the information available electronically to the public without the prior written authorization by the owner of the information is guilty of a public offense. (2) Any owner or operator of a computer bulletin board who knowingly permits the maintenance of a telephone number or address not listed, personal identification number (PIN), computer password or access code, credit card number, debit card number, bank account number, or other personal or private information of another on a computer bulletin board or otherwise makes the information available electronically to the public once having been notified that it is private or personal information is guilty of a public offense." The key word here is "knowing". It is nearly impossible to prove a "knowingly" offense unless the guy proclaims it on the bulletin board. Ask a lawyer. This is a creampuff law, but the antsy SYSOPS and paranoids in the audience are going to moan and groan and the result will be a change from "knowingly" to "negligently." The negligence concept is more open to debate and enforcement abuse. Then they'll moan and groan because of the dubious definition of negligence and they end up with a law that leaves out both words. That means if something gets posted then you're guilty, period. The BBS SYSOPS simply have not been able to self- police. Meanwhile the BBS movement is big-time. Anyone with half a brain knows that this means legislation of some sort to regulate these guys. It's a simple fact of life in this country that we are governed by lots of laws designed by lots of lawyers. Let's work from that premise. Let's just resign ourselves to the fact that legislation of one form or another is coming. There is simply no way that it won't. If you think it can be prevented, then you're an idealist doomed to bitter disappointment. The key to success is to get the legislation in early and with no teeth. SB 1012 is perfect and it can be later pointed to as "just fine" if someone really wants to crack down. "Hey, since SB 1012, the problems have disappeared. Everything is hunky- dory." The longer we wait the worse it will be -- just like going to the dentist. And specious arguments like, "Golly, supermarket bulletin boards aren't regulated!" will just make things worse. For one thing only an idiot would compare the two. Show me how to download a Safeway bulletin board in San Francisco from my office in Kansas City! I know my position on this issue is unpopular, but it is far more realistic than the crybaby complaining I keep hearing and reading from panicky BBS operators who are unlikely to ever be affected by any of these laws. ------------------------------------------------- Reprinted with the kind permission of the author and publisher from Computer Currents 5/7/85 pg.6. This and other information related to SB1012 is available at Etcetera!, fido 423 in San Jose, CA at 408-978-3282 300/1200.

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