This is an op-ed piece that appeared in the Chicago Tribune (Dec. 12, 1994) and the San Francisco Chronicle (Jan. 2, 1995).
The author, Martha Siegel, is of the (ex?)law firm Cantor & Siegal, which gained notoriety -- together with the hatred of a great deal of the Internet community -- by using USENET mailing lists for unsolicited advertising. Cantor & Siegel are authors of the book How To Make A Fortune On The Information Superhighway. Interestingly, neither newspaper provided any background information on this in printing Siegel's op-ed piece. You can find find some information on Cantor & Siegel here, in the EFF archives.
****************************** CHICAGO TRIBUNE Copyright Chicago Tribune 1994 COMPUTER ANARCHY A PLEA FOR INTERNET LAWS TO PROTECT THE INNOCENT Elections are over, and for better or worse, recognized leadership is installed and working. Yet, in cyberspace, the electronic world dominated by the much-vaunted Internet, there is not much order. This huge international computer web tying together about 30 million people is governed by no one. What an amazing state of affairs. The most powerful communication medium ever invented is being left to the equivalent of mob rule. This year, has been the "Year of the Internet" in the media. Clearly, it is now mainstream. Nonetheless, the key question of who runs it is not an issue. It is more fun, after all, to contemplate shopping in an electronic mall or order a pizza through a modem. If you scratch the surface of this big, happy party, the need for firm direction is obvious, to address an expanding array of Internet problems. Unregulated broadcasting of sexually explicit material that is readily available to children usually heads the list, but on-line sexual harassment, profanity, defamation, forgery and fraud run close seconds. The secretiveness that computer communications allow readily demonstrates why abuse is easy. National and personal security are serious considerations when anyone can, with complete anonymity, send encrypted information worldwide via the Internet. Nowhere are cyberspace difficulties more evident than in the inevitable swing toward Internet commercialization. The widely reported turf war rages on between academic factions, which controlled the Internet before it went public, and business newcomers who now want access to Internet's huge audience. Electronic attacks on business people by means ranging from computer insults (called flames) to assorted forms of electronic vandalism persist uncontrolled. Worst of all are the "canceller robots," computer programs meant to erase the communications of anyone hackers (who usually launch them) wish to silence. These self-styled vigilantes routinely challenge free speech in cyberspace unabated. Internet access providers, companies that engage in the business of connecting people to the Internet for profit, likewise assume the role of Internet censors, arbitrarily closing accounts of those whom they disapprove. If this is beginning to sound less and less like a great party, there is good reason. There are those who believe cyberspace wrongdoing cannot be controlled because no laws or regulatory body can exercise dominion over the multinational Internet. This begs the question. Something needs to be done. Given its international nature, one obvious way to bring order to the Internet is through diplomacy. The United States should lead in this diplomatic initiative. Diplomacy can also help to establish an international standard of recognizing laws existing at the point of origin as controlling the message sender. When conflicts arise, governmental diplomacy should again be the answer, just as it is with other trade and communications issues. Next, laws already regulating behavior in the real world should be applied across the board for cyberspace. This is already taking place on a case-by-case basis, but the process is too slow. Laws should be on the books which state that crime is crime, even when the criminal instrument is a computer keyboard. In the United States, legislation should be passed making Internet access providers common carriers. This will get them out of the business of censorship and under the guiding hand of the Federal Communications Commission, along with all other major communications vehicles. People need safety and order in cyberspace just as they do in their homes and on the streets. The current state of the Internet makes it abundantly clear that general anarchy isn't working. If recognized governments don't find a way to bring order to the growing and changing Internet, chaos may soon dictate that the party is over.