The following document is out of date, as of February 13, 1996, because CompuServe lifted their ban on hundreds of Usenet newsgroups. The document below is retained for historical interest only.

January 3, 1996

Electronic Frontier Canada Opposes ...

Compu$erve Censorship
[cis]
The slogan, ``If it's online, it's on CompuServe'', hardly rings true.

Electronic Frontier Canada is concerned about CompuServe's recent decision to block access to hundreds of Usenet newsgroups. We're also disappointed that their (apparently) primitive software doesn't allow them to comply with the concerns of German officials without affecting Canadian customers. CompuServe's rather clumsy list of censored newsgroups includes some clearly legitimate newsgroups (such as `clari.news.crime.sex' which carries AP and Reuters wire stories), but at the same time missed newsgroups that may really be illegal in Germany (such as `alt.revisionism' which often carries messages claiming the Holocaust never happened).

Electronic Frontier Canada is encouraging Canadian customers of CompuServe to express their opposition to CompuServe's censorship, either by cancelling their CompuServe account, or by writing or calling CompuServe with their concerns. We're also urging CompuServe to find a technical solution as soon as possible that will allow them to do whatever they deem appropriate in Germany while not unreasonably restricting access to information for Canadians.


What happened: CompuServe censors Usenet News

On December 22, 1995, hundreds of Usenet newsgroups just disappeared for 4-million CompuServe customers worldwide. It wasn't until a week later that CompuServe issued a press release explaining their choice to block access to Usenet newsgroups having the words `sex', `erotic', or `gay' in their name.

Although CompuServe claims they were ordered to eliminate specific newsgroups, a more recent AP wire story quotes German officials as claiming they merely expressed a general concern about the issue of sexually explicit material on computer networks. Although German police have been investigating the issue for some time now, no charges have been laid.

And besides, what's any of this got to do with Canada?

(More information, as it becomes available, will appear in EFC's Gopher Archives.

Some example newsgroups that are now off limits

alt.sexy.bald.captains
Last time I looked, this was a fan club for Star Trek's Captain Jean-Luc Piccard and the Love Boat's Captain Stubing.
`clari.news.sex', `clari.news.gay', `clari.news.crime.sex'
These are AP and Reuters wire stories published by ClariNet Communications and are not even carried by CompuServe. Why these newsgroups appear on the list is certainly a puzzle, especially to ClariNet's President and CEO, Brad Templeton.
`alt.sex.safe'
Since when did advocating safe sex become illegal?
`alt.religion.sexuality'
Does this mean the Vatican's views on birth control are silenced?
`alt.support.disabled.sexuality'
A support group for the disabled is banned?
`alt.politics.sex', `gay-net.coming-out', `alt.homosexual', `alt.motss.bisexua-l', `shamash.gayjews', `soc.support.youth.gay-lesbian-bi'
One start to wonder whether CompuServe's decision to block discussions on certain topics amounts to discrimination against some of its customers on the basis of their sexual preference, some gay rights organizations certainly think so. I wonder if Canada's outspoken member of Parliament, Svend Robinson, knows about this.

What you can do

Cancel your CompuServe Account
In typical Canadian fashion, some CompuServe customers are `voting with their feet' by cancelling their CompuServe accounts and moving to a new information service provider. If you do this, please let us know so we can update our list.

Send a complaint to CompuServe
We understand some CompuServe customers won't want to cancel their accounts since it may be provided free by their employer, or because they still find some of CompuServe's remaining services valuable. It's still important to express your opinion on their decision to censor hundreds of newsgroups. You can reach CompuServe in a number of ways:
on CompuServe itself
type ``GO FEEDBACK''
by telephone (toll free)
1 800 554-4079, or
1 800 848-8990 for customer service.
by e-mail
Robert Massey (CompuServe President and CEO), 70003.1371@compuserve.com
John Latham (CompuServe Feedback), 70006.101@compuserve.com
and finally, through the post office
Compuserve Feedback
5000 Arlington Centre Blvd.
P.O. Box 20212
Columbus, OH 43220
USA
If you send in a complaint, please let us know so we can update our list.


See Also ... EFC's Gopher Archive with a few collected Canadian newspaper articles on this issue.

Canadians Speak Out Against CompuServe Censorship

``For those of us sincerely concerned about what our children may be exposed to on the Internet, the use of parental control software rather than blanket government imposed censorship would be the responsible choice in a free and democratic society.''

James Crawley, assembly@surfsup.net
Acting Moderator of the anabaptist oriented Assembly of Good Christians
Member, Christian Legal Fellowship of Canada, Evangelical Fellowship of Canada.


(last updated 05jan96 by efc-web@efc.ca)