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

   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

   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.