Sens. James Exon (D-Neb.) and Slade Gorton (R-Wash.) have introduced the Communications Decency Act of 1995 (S.314), which would establish criminal penalties for anyone who "makes, transmits, or makes available any comment, request, suggestion, proposal, image, or other communication" if that communication is "obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, or indecent." These penalties would apply to the author of the messages as well as telecommunications-service providers, including educational institutions offering network access and independent bulletin board systems.

The act has the noble goal of protecting minors from access to controversial and inappropriate sexually explicit material; however, to accomplish this end, it adopts outmoded, draconian means that are neither constitutional nor effective. For scientists, its passage would have a severe impact on the free flow of scientific information and communications among researchers.

Holding network service providers responsible for the content of all information and communication on their systems is a grave error that...

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