Wednesday, July 23, 1997
Annoy.com Parent Accuses Government of Violating First Amendment - Blasts Investigation
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ANNOY.COM PARENT ACCUSES GOVERNMENT OF VIOLATING FIRST AMENDMENT -
July 23, 1997, San Francisco -- Clinton D. Fein, president of the San Francisco based multimedia firm ApolloMedia Corporation, today accused the government of failing to comprehend and abide by the Supreme Court's ruling in the recently decided ACLU vs. Reno, which struck down key provisions of the Communications Decency Act (CDA), and in which the company filed an amicus curiae brief in February. The company, responding to a set of interrogatories presented to them by the government in June, also filed a supplemental brief regarding ACLU vs. Reno, as the hearing on the company's federal lawsuit approaches.
Filed in January, ApolloMedia's lawsuit challenges the provision that makes it a felony to communicate anything "indecent" online "with intent to annoy" another person. ApolloMedia's "annoy.com" web site makes it possible for visitors to annoy President Clinton, Senator Jesse Helms and other public figures by sending them email and blunt electronic "postcards" on a variety of controversial subjects. ApolloMedia's suit was held by a special three-judge court pending the outcome of the CDA case in the Supreme Court. The government will now have to respond to ApolloMedia's First Amendment contentions.
The Supreme Court in the ACLU case declared the CDA's prohibition of "indecent" speech on the Internet unconstitutional. The Court found that the interest in shielding children from sexual speech and images did not justify an across-the-board criminal prohibition that would deprive adults of materials that are constitutionally protected for them: non-obscene but sexually explicit materials. The Court was critical of the clumsy and heavy-handed approach used by Congress in restricting the free speech of Internet users. The Court specifically rejected the government's argument that online speech should be restricted in the same way that the government can regulate broadcasts on television and radio.
"We are witnessing a lack of a coherent understanding of the medium, which essentially validates our initial claim that these provisions unduly subject content providers, service providers and average citizens to unnecessary intrusion by government goons," said Clinton Fein, ApolloMedia's president and co-founder, of the government's interrogatories. "The tone of their investigation demonstrates that our concern over the free speech violations under the CDA are neither unrealistic nor unfounded."
"The government's nosing around in ApolloMedia's business, demanding to know, for example, how its online speech has been 'chilled' is totally unnecessary," said William Bennett Turner, of Rogers, Joseph, O'Donnell & Quinn, one of the First Amendment experts representing ApolloMedia. "The CDA 'annoy' provision is unconstitutional on its face."
"The Supreme Court instructed the government that the CDA is unconstitutional" said Michael Traynor, of Cooley Godward LLP, another First Amendment expert also representing ApolloMedia. "The government obstinately refuses to learn its simple lesson. Accordingly we are going to advance this case and get another court order to stop the government's continued lawlessness."
"Like the law they are trying to defend, the government's line of questioning is unconstitutionally vague, ambiguous and undefined, requiring ApolloMedia to reveal information that is essentially none of their business." Fein added.
General Objections to the Interrogatories as well as the Supplemental Brief are available on the annoy.com web site (http://www.annoy.com/case.html)
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