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From the fight-censorship mailing list.  First, some info on that list:


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The fight-censorship list is run by Declan McCullagh,,
and is part of the ACLU/EFF lawsuit challenging the Communications Decency
Act. For more information, read the complete list archives, at:


Now, the submission to the list:


From: (Declan McCullagh)
Date: Mon, 17 Jun 1996 11:51:41 -0500
Subject: The Violence of Censorship -- An open letter to AOL

I was forwarded the following message about the latest sex-related speech
suppression incident at AOL. After a visit to the web site in question, I'd
say that Susie Block's ("Dr. Suzie's") web site falls within the compass of
prohibited material that's defined by AOL's notoriously broad terms of
service agreement.

What a surprise. Big news here, folks -- AOL is antsy about sex.

Of course, as with overbroad speech codes at private universities, AOL has
the *power* to restrict this type of speech -- it doesn't mean that the
company's actions are justified.

I spoke with the AOL supervisor, Lexie Haines, earlier today. She told me
she's unwilling to comment "at this point" and might be willing to talk
tomorrow. "I only just got in and read this email myself. I'd like to
discuss the situation with the rest of my staff."

- -Declan

- ---------------------------

>Date: Sat, 15 Jun 1996 03:02:11 -0700 (PDT)
>From: Ben Schlaver 
>Subject: The Violence of Censorship: An open letter to Steve Case of
>  America Online
>A couple of days ago, America On-line shut down the account and website of
>Dr. Susan Block. This web site has been viewed by thousands of people in
>only a few months. Dr. Susan Block is the Director of the Dr. Susan Block
>Institute for the Erotic Arts & Sciences, best-selling author, host of the
>Dr. Susan Block Shows and Radio Sex TV on HBO.
>        The shut-down occurred completely without warning. Suddenly, we got
>a flurry of calls from fans who couldn't get into our website. Then we
>discovered that even we could not enter our own website. AOL would not even
>allow us to read our mail, let alone update our material or let Dr. Block
>answer her clients' inquiries. A total unilateral lock-out. After several
>calls to various AOL employees, Dr. Block reached AOL Supervisor Lexie
>Haines who agreed to look at the Website (which she'd never seen), and find
>out just what was so "offensive" that someone (who still remains anonymous)
>at AOL had decided to shut us down.  Following are notes e-mailed between
>the two of them over this incident of brute censorship on-line...
>Subj:   Home Page
>Date:   96-06-14 19:33:50 EDT
>From:   AMHaines
>To:     DrSuzyB
>Dear Dr. Block,
>I'm very glad that I had a chance to speak with you so that we could work
>out the details of reactivating your account.  I have had a look at your web
>pages and believe that I can now give you a much more clear idea of what
>type of content will need to be removed from your pages.
>There are numerous referrences to masturbation and giving ones self orgasms,
>these should be removed.  Discussion of genitalia will have to be removed,
>as will discussion of specific sexual acts.  I would reccommend that, rather
>than having the "Cyber Sex Toy Catalog" and the Video Catalog appear on the
>page, that you, instead, offer visitors a number or address through which
>they can get copies of the catalogs. Mention of S&M, B&D, swinging,
>threesomes, water sports and the like should also be avoided as should words
>such as "horny".  The photos of the cover of "Love" magazine and the one of
>the Chimpanzees having sex should come down.
>I understand that, as a sex therapist, some of this may seem a bit extreme
>to you but I sure that you also understand that our Terms of Service and
>Rules of the Road have been established with a very broad range of people in
>If you have any further questions you should feel free to E-mail me, I'll be
>happy to assist you in any way that I can.
>Lexie Haines
>Supervisor, Graphics Review
>Community Action Team
>America Online, Inc
>Subject:   Home Page
>Date:       96-06-14   19:40 PST
>From:      DrSuzyB
>To:         AMHaines (Lexie Haines)
>Dear Lexie,
>Your e-mail listing the "parts" of my web pages that you and/or AOL find
>offensive and that must be "removed" gives me no choice but to remove
>virtually all of the information I have on AOL that many thousands of your
>members have been grateful to access.  After all, as a sex therapist and sex
>educator, how can I educate people about human sexuality without references
>to "genitalia," "masturbation," or  "orgasm," or without discussing
>"specific sexual acts"?
>You write that you "understand this may seem a bit extreme" to me, but that
>your "Terms of Service and Rules of the Road have been established with a
>very broad range of people in mind."  What range of people?  The Ralph
>Reed-Pat Robertson-Phyllis Schaffley-Ayatollah Khomeini Koffee Klatch?
>Really, Lexie, I must say that I am horrified and astounded at the "broad
>range" of your squeamishness and the arrogance of your censorship.  As I
>told you over the phone, I am a very reasonable, cooperative professional.
>I am not some sort of salacious, exploitative kook.  I work within FCC
>guidelines and according to community standards for my radio and TV shows.
>I am a Yale graduate, best-selling author and respected lecturer in the
>field of sexuality.  I have spoken on the subject of sex in numerous
>universities, high school, bookstores, even in churches and temples, and I
>have never encountered such an absurd, sex-phobic, body-hating,
>diversity-loathing list of no-no's as you have e-mailed me.
>I hope to God, Lexie, that you and your ilke are not involved in the raising
>of children, because an attitude such as yours makes children grow up
>confused, tormented, and hating their bodies, themselves and the opposite
>sex.  Numerous studies (including those by developmental neuropsychologist
>James Prescott) have shown that this kind of pleasure-loathing,
>genital-fearing, shameful attitude contributes greatly to violence in our
>society, especially male violence against women.
>And yes, Lexie, I consider this attitude to be YOURS.  I won't allow you to
>hide behind the veil of hypocrisy that says "These are AOL's rules, not
>mine.  I'm just following orders."  We all know that the worst crimes of
>this century were committed by people who were just following orders.  Evil
>abounds when good people do not stand up for what's right.
>I think of you as a good person, Lexie.  You sounded so understanding on the
>phone, laughing in agreement when I suggested that censoring nudity and
>language on-line results in censoring some of civilization's finest works of
>art and literature.  Please don't stand by and let the evil of censorship
>thrive under your supervision.  When you start by censoring certain parts of
>the human body because they "offend" a few right-wing nuts, you next find
>yourself censoring great art (as those people following orders did), next
>women will be made to cover themselves head-to-toe as they must in
>fundamentalist countries, next books will be thrown out of libraries and
>burned, next "offensive" people will be locked up, and our society will look
>very much like Orwell's "1984" (which, by then, will have long been burned
>into oblivion).
>And so, Lexie, when everything is "cleaned up" and "pure" enough for the
>Popes and Ayatollahs and AOL Supervisors, we will wait for history and our
>children to judge us.  What will they say about the army of censors that
>charged through our times, excising parts of our bodies, acts of love,
>expressions of consensual pleasures and works of art?  They will say that we
>destroyed a culture.
>E-mail like yours makes me shudder for our future.
>Very sincerely,
>Susan M. Block, Ph.D.
>cc:  SteveCase@AOL
>Let Steve know what you think about this: 703.448.8700 (ask for Steve Case's
>*************Please distribute to all appropriate parties*******************
>Check 'em out:
> ( until next week.)

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