February 23, 1996 8:00 AM PST

Gates endorses 24 Hours of Democracy

Microsoft chairman and CEO Bill Gates added his name yesterday to an electronic protest dubbed 24 Hours of Democracy, which is organized by opponents of the Communications Decency Act.

Gates, along with about 500 other Internet users, wrote an essay expressing his opinions on freedom of speech and how it relates to the Internet and posted it to the 24 Hours in Democracy Web site.

HotWired columnist and software developer David Winer is leading the 24 Hours in Democracy movement. "The Telecommunications Act is an attack on free speech," Winer said in a statement. "This demonstration isn't about pornography, it's about censorship. There is so much content on the Web that will be affected by this act, from poetry to sculpture to ballet. The Webmasters who publish this content are standing up for free speech on the Web and elsewhere."

About 200 sites--including Apple Computer, WebCrawler, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Center for Democracy and Technology, and Microsoft--are also participating by posting their own free speech statements of support and providing links to the 24 Hours of Democracy site.

"The Internet can raise the quality of political debate, the quality of education, the quality of life," wrote Gates in his essay. "If it [the bill] is allowed to stand, it will undermine our nation's Bill of Rights--and there is no question that it will interfere with the ability of the Internet to flourish. The Bill of Rights is the foundation on which our nation is built. The Internet is an enormously valuable place in which those rights must continue to thrive. Both the Bill of Rights and the Internet are potentially fragile. Mess with either of them too much, and we might ruin them."

He added that he does support portions of the broader Telecommunications Act passed along with the Communications Decency Act because it will help create a framework to encourage aggressive private investment, result in faster communications connections, and lower the costs of accessing the Internet.


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