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Where is Freedom of Speech Going On The Internet?

The States of Utah and Michigan are reigning in Free Speech on the Internet.
From the Blog:

As if the policies at Google [about not advertising links that criticize others] weren't bad enough, now the various states are getting into a very simillar act. Now it looks like censorship policies of places like Indymedia where links to certain sites are prohibited may be enforced by states against completely independent operators, at least if they send any e-mail to people who turn out to be children. Check out this recent spam e-mail that I received:

Dear John,


Be advised that as of July 1, 2005 – all ezine publishers or email broadcasters
need to pay attention to new laws in Utah and Michigan.

“Child Protection Registry? laws are now on the books and the trend may well grow.

In a nutshell, here’s the drill. If you e-broadcast to anyone who is a “child?
(even though they have opted in to your database, or double-opted in) you must
scrub their addresses through the registry database of Utah and Michigan at the
cost of $.005 and $.007 respectively.

Of course, more often than not, you have no idea who is a child under the laws of
Utah or Michigan.

Interestingly enough you don’t have to publish any objectionable content
yourself, you just have to have a tangential link to it someplace or maybe that
link links to another link.

The areas of primary interest (but not all interest) are:

Alcohol & tobacco
Adult or obscene content
Gambling, Lotteries
Drugs, pharmaceuticals, prescription drugs (illegal or not)
Matchmaking services
Finance related services such as mortgage, credit card, banking, etc.
Phishing or other scams

One can only pray that either the feds step in or a court finds this as
objectionable as the authors.

It’s not that anyone wants firearms marketed to kids. It’s that this is a
stupid, cumbersome, and hopefully unlawful way to do it. It obviously creates a
massive and costly burden on email broadcasters. Of course, like most overly
broad laws, the only ones who won’t try to comply are the same folks who didn’t
care about CAN-SPAM and continue to slam us with spam from remote corners of the

But the law is as dangerous as it is stupid because it gives parents of “injured?
children the right to sue in a civil action. That means any of us are potential
targets of greedy scamster parents. Of course, as you would expect, it carries
criminal sanctions, too.

Ideas around this? Talk to your media attorney about his or her read as to
whether web-based delivery is covered. The “link to link to link? aspects of the
legislation may make this play vulnerable, but, if I were advising you after you
told me you couldn’t afford to vet your list with the Do Not Email Registry of
every state, I’d surely tell you not to have much content in the email and then
make sure the hyperlink to your web-broadcast did not contain any objectionable
material. This is not bulletproof, but it’s two steps away from the broadside of
the law. The only other alternative is to actually scrub your lists against the
registry every single time you email.

If any of you have real money, this would be a lovely constitutional test case.
The law is vague, overly broad, and creates a chilling effect on the exercise of
basic first amendment rights.

Where’s the ACLU when we need it?

New Comments are disabled, please visit


Do You Believe Everything You Get in Your Inbox?

" laws in Utah and Michigan."

What new laws?
Show me. Give me a link to an actual, government site. Show me the text of this alleged law.

It doesn't exist, does it? This is just spam... and you fell for it.

Go ahead and post this idiocy to your own website, but don't "share" it with indymedia, OK?

Re: Where is Freedom of Speech Going On The Internet?

Ok I did some googling and came up with a press release or two about the new e-mail laws in Utah and Michigan. And there are even some links to the laws too. Apparently the new laws apply to commercial e-mails only. There does appear to be some confusion about weather some of us "non-commercial" e-mailers could be affected too, as some of us are now promoting a fair trade products store in the signature lines of our e-mails.

We could not under these new laws promote something as vanilla wafer as a Rain Forest Action Network VISA card or something, without scrubbing our e-mail lists for kids that live in Utah or Michigan, because that could fall under the exclusion of marketing banking services to kids.

One press release about the new laws can be found at:,com_content/task,view/id,344/Itemid,2/

The following article
only references a Minor's access to links to
"alcohol, tobacco, gambling, prescription drugs, or adult-rated material" as being restricted under these new laws. There is no mention of banking services. A minor is normally prevented from accessing these things by themselves in the real world, so why not do it that way online.

However this article:
seems to say that these laws prevent ALL commercial e-mail from being sent to minors that are on the do-not-e-mail list. These do-not-e-mail lists cover any e-mail address that a minor may have access to. Plus, a minor may not "opt-in" at least not to receive any e-mail on a prohibited subject. It is still not clear if Minors are prevented from opting in on non prohibited subjects.

The actual text of these laws:
simply establishes a child protection registry in Utah, but doesn't state for what purpose.
outlines that the Utah law prohibits sending ads to kids for things that Minors are ordinarliy outlawed from buying. It doesn't mention links to links, etc, though this could be implied.

The relevant Michigan law is:


It appears that in both states, anyone who sends e-mail soliciting things that Minors are normally prevented from having are banned from sending such e-mails to lists of kids that are submitted to the state databases by parents and schools. There is some concern, expressed even in the texts of the laws, that the databases could themselves be compromised, though in Utah at least it is a felony to steal data from such a database.

Today this may not seem like such a big deal. They are mainly going after the other guy.
But it doesn’t hurt to be just a little aprehensive when measures like these are passed.


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