Freedom of Expression and America Online

The following thread consists primarily of a series of messages
between Stephen Williamson (, one of the editors
of AfterNoon, and Dwain Kitchel (, a poet who asked
AfterNoon's aid in condemning what he claimed to be unwarranted
censorship of an America Online writer's group. The thread also includes
an exchange on the same subject between Steve and "Tracey"
( of the AOL Writers' Club.

The thread is published here, with Steve's introduction to it, in the form
of a message which he sent to the editors of a number of other online
magazines. Following his initial mailing, we have included a selection of
the correspondence which resulted from it.

Although some of the poems banned by AOL are -- for the purpose of
continuity -- included in the correspondence itself, the rest are located

Archive of Poems Banned by America Online

For the text of the banned poets' press release, click here:

CCA Press Release

For a short history of the AOL controversy, by Dwain Kitchel, click here:

A Personal History of CCA: the Creative Coalition on America On Line

For AOL's Secret Dirty Word List, presented by Jordanne Holyoake, click here:

AOL's Secret Dirty Word List

To read/sign CCA's petition for a free-speech area on AOL, click here:

CCA's AOL Petition

For AfterNoon's own position on freedom of expression and online services,
click here:

AfterNoon's Position

For further discussion on the legal aspects of free expression
in cyberspace, click here:

Free Expression and Cyberspace -- the Legal Question

The Correspondence:

I received the following letter on Friday (1/5/96) from a writer who had
seen our ad for Motley Focus Locus and AfterNoon Magazine in "Poets
and Writers" and had submitted poetry to us, which we had turned

It's an account of an expanding attempt by AOL to tighten control over a
poets' group there, and it charges that an extreme degree of censorship
has developed recently -- that they've even removed a poem because it
included the word "breast."

We have no involvement in this writers' group and like many people on
the Net, we think that trying to do a poets' group on AOL will inevitably
lead to problems. I keep an address on AOL for submissions purposes,
and as an E-mail backup when my service provider is down, but its
"Terms of Service" make publishing there out of the question for us.

Nevertheless, this writer's anguish seems deeply felt and AOL's response
to it completely inadequate.

We wrote a number editors last month about forming an Association of
Electronic Magazines, and here, arriving on our electronic doorstep, is
correspondence which shows one more reason to seriously consider
doing so.

This is not an issue of writing quality, but of freedom of expression. It's
understandable that these writers...don't want to be forced off AOL,
where their group is visible and can attract new members freshly arriving
on the Web. Here they've not only gotten support from one another, but
have been able to accomplish something which we believe is important
for all of us.

The long and the short of it is that we hate to see a few large corporations
gain control over information, and restrict the freedom of expression of
new arrivals to the Internet.

The correspondence follows. I've edited it very slightly to avoid repetition,
and in a couple of spots added in material left out when I chopped off
some not-so-well-written sections of my responses while on line.

If these writers can produce an example of AOL's turning down a poem
for including the word "breast," or even less extreme examples, then I
think they have a case which they should take public. Even if they don't,
the issue of intellectual freedom remains the same. AOL has stopped
responding to my letters -- perhaps with good reason. Maybe a few
letters from you would get them to consider starting up a dialog about
this again.

Thanks for your consideration,

Stephen Williamson
Motley Focus Locus --
AfterNoon Magazine --

** We'll put a copy of this correspondence on a special letters section on
AfterNoon, and include any new material that arrives on this issue.

Subj: CCA Date: Thu, Jan 4, 1996 6:46 PM EDT
From: X-
From: (Dwain Kitchel)

I saw your e-mail address in this months Poets&Writers and I thought I
would contact you. My name is Dwain Kitchel and I am writting you
about an AOL group of poets. If you are unaware there is a poetry section
on AOL under "Writers"(go to word). I was on AOL for over a year, and
must admit I came to enjoy the company of the poets there. Some are
true writers!

But in the last 3 months all this has changed, as the Exon bill has
prodded Steve Case into a new round of censorship. Poetry has been
pulled for no rhyme or reason, and posts with only one questional word,
breast, have been lifted under TOS rules. Now I would agree with the
statement that as members we signed up for these rules but they have
been changing without notice, and posts are pulled that don't really even
contain vulgarity.

My point to this message is that a group of poets have formed a group
called CCA(Creative Coalition on AOL) to fight the powers that be. Our
first goal is the creation of a child proof place to post poetry without
concern for censorship. Such a place is the ACLU section on AOL,
secondly to get some statement of exactly what is a TOSable post(sans
the quasi "list" of bad words that changes daily and is never posted), and
thirdly if possible, to send Steve Case back to Congress with the message
"Free speech must be alowed on-line!"

Sir I recognize you may be to busy to resond to this appeal, or even
unwilling to do so. And by no means do I wish to "hound" you about it. I
myself have given up my AOL account in protest so please do not
misread my message. What I am asking is if you have an intrest in this
matter, please help us by joining free and without responsibility(class 4-
non-active membership)CCA by writing to, and add
your name to the some hundred or so poets listed there already.

We have tried the normal channels of writting Steve Case and THopeB
(Writers Area manager) without result and so we are going to try and
mount a campaign to get free speech returned to poets on line. You are
welcome to check out some of the arguments in WWWIII folder in Poets
Corner, though you had better look fast as they are being pulled quickly
as they don't really represent AOL's ideals.

For questions please contact as Isa is our president,
or her paramor Astralan(Stan Crooks). I myself would be more than
happy to respond to your question but you may now only reach me on
the Web at

Again I thank you kindly for your time and consideration and any ideals
pro or con would be greatly needed. I will also soon be checking out your
web site, though sadly I have not been there yet. Your friend and fellow
poet(perhaps a stretch) Dwain Kitchel.

Subject: CCA
Subj: woops
Date: Thu, Jan 4, 1996 6:52 PM EDT

Sorry to be spamming your mailbox but I messed up on Isa's address.
Make that Again thanks for your time!

Dwain Kitchel

Date: Fri, Jan 5, 1996 8:22 PM EDT
From: SAWStephen
Subj: Fwd: CCA
To: THopeB

I only know what this writer has written me, but if you have done what
he suggests -- censoring poetry -- then I wish to protest. This is 1995,
not 1950, poets writing, not some sitcom. I have forwarded his letter to
the EFF, if it's not already gone there. Motley Focus is in the process of
helping establish an association of electronic magazine editors. We will
certainly bring this issue before them at some point as something to
bears investigation and publicizing.

Stephen Williamson
Motley Focus Locus

Forwarded Message: Here I forwarded Dwain Kitchel's first letter to

Date: Fri, Jan 5, 1996 8:39 PM EDT
From: THopeB
Subj: Re: Fwd: CCA
To: SAWStephen
cc: Phylwriter

Hi there Stephen,

As you may know, AOL has Terms of Service. Terms of Service
includes the message boards and covers such things as vulgar/profane
language, multiple postings, copyright problems, personal attacks,

When I delete a posting or move a posting, I do my best to send the
poster e-mail explaining why and include a copy of the posting. If there's
still a question, I'll be glad to tell the poster specifically why the posting
was removed.

And no, postings with the word "breast" only have certainly not been
removed. Except for a *few* words, I take everything on the message
boards into context.

Any time there is a specific question on what is acceptable on the
message boards under Terms of Service, I've always been available to
answer questions.

I strongly suggest that you or anyone contact me first before passing
on erroneous information.

Tracey, Writers Club

Date: Fri, Jan 5, 1996 8:21 PM EDT
From: SAWStephen
Subj: Re:
CCA To: dwaink@iquest.nete

We are in support of free speech. I don't know the details more than
(you've) written me. But you can add me to your list. There are no
restrictions on the Motley Focus Locus or it's magazines. We (are) tired
(of) 'fuck' thrown in every sentence, but....

I forwarded your letter on to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which
you may have heard of.

Although we are not members of the group, you have our support. Keep
up what sounds like a Good fight.

AfterNoon is terribly selective because we leave a writer's work up on the
net at least a year, so have to limit what we take severely. Everyone is
welcome to submit to AfterNoon Magazine, to speak their minds and
hearts and choose their own language.

Stephen Williamson
Motley Focus Locus

Second letter to Dwain Kitchel

Date: Fri, Jan 5, 1996 10:07 PM EDT
From: SAWStephen
Subj: Fwd: Re: Fwd: CCA
cc: THopeB

Can you give the specific instance when "breast" was censored?

Forwarded Message:

Date: Fri, Jan 5, 1996 8:39 PM EDT

From: THopeB
Subj: Re: Fwd: CCA
To: SAWStephen
cc: Phylwriter

Here I forwarded THopeB's letter to me to Dwain Kitchel for his

Date: Sat, Jan 6, 1996 12:08 AM EDT
X-From: (Dwain Kitchel)

I thank you for your excellent effort on CCA's part! If more "real" poets
become involved this censorship will have to cease.

I submited a few bits and pieces to your cyber-mag and I think you will
find no vulgarity in it. We as poets don't wish to have a porno area, just a
place to post freely as we did for over a year. I would be honored to be
considered to place my work on your site, and sir if these works are not
good enough please tell me, I will submit more untill you find something
good enough to place. Though I recognize the possibility that they may
not be good enough.

I will try and get CCA president Isa Sadiq to send you a copy of the
work that was TOS ed for the use of the single word breast. This did
happen! The woman was writing about her mother "the woman that
nursed me at her breast", though that may not be an exact quote.
Thank you again for your effort kudos to you!

Dwain Kitchel

MY second letter to ThopeB:

Date: Fri, Jan 5, 1996 10:07 PM EDT
From: SAWStephen
Subj: Re: Fwd: CCA
To: THopeB

I suggest that the charges should be inquired into. There is no one to
inquire (to) these days so it's (a) theoretical suggestion, whimsical even --
still. If you're running a poetry list and doing as he suggests, then some
general bureaucratic statement (I'm on aol too -- I know exactly where
that statement is tucked away) is not enough, rules should (be) spelled
out to participants explicitly before they participate, not after they do
something and find a poem censored. If you are running a highly
censored forum you should say up front so the individuals can make
their own choice.

I don't know how many poets would put up with such nonsense but
maybe I'm wrong. My point is also if what the writer says is correct -- and
I said *if* -- then the editors of the net's magazines should be aware of
this kind of issue (not you in particular) to take a stand against it in the
name of free speech. If you are doing as he suggest, it should be
published and condemned.

I'm glad to see any group getting together and writing poetry, poetry
provides soul stuff and (the) sense of connection that people hunger for
but are sometimes not aware of the lack (of). It's a serious as well as
playful practice..I wouldn't, had I the power, close it (your group) down
for censoring poets, but still....

Take a look at our literary magazine AfterNoon. It's not filled with "dirty"
words; that's not the point.

I hope they'll be able to find an uncensored forum where the participants
make the decisions. Then perhaps individuals will have a clear choice. I
hope so.

You do not answer most of writers' charges.

Stephen Williamson
Motley Focus Locus.

My last letter to THopeB, in which I forwarded Dwain Kitchel's last
letter to me, explaining the instance of censorship.

Date: Sat, Jan 6, 1996 1:07 PM EDT
From: SAWStephen
Subj: Fwd: Re: re:woops
To: THopeB

Here I forwarded Dwain Kitchel's (cite of) the censorship of the use
of the word breast as he remembers it.

And so?

My Best Wishes,
Stephen Williamson
Motley Focus Locus --

From AOL no response!

My Best Wishes,
Stephen Williamson
Motley Focus Locus --

After Steve mailed the above thread out to the list of other E-Zine
editors, he received a number of responses not only from them, but also
from Isa Sadiq, President of the Creative Coalition on America Online
(CCA), who forwarded examples of poems banned under AOL's "Terms of
Service." Steve also engaged in one last exchange with Tracey from

Date: Mon, 8 Jan 1996 14:10:26 -0400
To: (Doug Lawson)
From: (Stephen A.Williamson)
Subject: Re: Censorship by AOL

Doug I wanted to reply a little more to your letter to help clarify my
thoughts on the issue, which has moved terribly fast.

>Interesting to hear about the censorship thing. To be honest, I'd
>take it with a grain of salt--it sounds very much like something that
>could be one of those Net Myths that gets passed around and around
>and no one has actually heard from the writer who originally posted
>"breast" and got axed. Someone hears the story from someone else
>who *swears* it's true, and so on. It wouldn't be the first time.

If you look at correspondence that follows my letter, I acted as a kind of
"go between." Telling THopeB what Dwain said, telling Dwain what
ThopeB said. I asked in a separate letter whether Dwain had proof or a
specific instance. He responded, and when I forwarded his response to
her, she was silent. She acted like she could walk away from this. I left
the architecture of (the) whole exchange open for anyone to see and make
up their own mind about. I did that deliberately because I don't know the
facts in that sense. We may never know them.

Then there is the way, the *quality* of her response. Her letter did not
reassure me -- did the opposite, a bureaucrat's cover is what (it) sounded
like -- and not just to me. She ignored the fact I said "if" for example.

She (is) running a *writers' group* not a great cooks' group. This is about
writing, about the fact that human beings need to write, to create, to be
human beings. The lack of poetry and other arts in people's lives is
visible every day -- at least I think so. Drive by (the) local mall, the lack of
arts education (is) written all over what was once countryside.

Listen to the dead language all around. When I read Dwain's poetry, I see
someone who is trying to write! And I honor that. I may keep turning
down his poems, to do any less would (be) to dishonor his efforts. If it's
appropriate to be on sides, and it may not be, it's his side I, or we, should
be on. He is trying to write, and the pain he felt at the censorship of this
little group seems genuine.

.................................How much pain does it cause when a poet is told
their work can't be posted because it obscene or has used dirty words?
Just consider it. There's going to be rejection enough from the editors of
little magazines. But then you are told you can't use THAT word, (the
word) that you think expresses your feelings, however immature those
feelings are, is prohibited? This has happened to him -- I think you can
feel that shock in his letter to me. I mean....

Dwain is right up front with his feelings. If the CCA can come up with a
letter from AOL censoring a poem for the word "breast," AOL is in for
some well-deserved bad publicity. And if they have a letter, they are
certainly going to get it. Hard to believe that AOL would be that foolish, if
they had done it. But AOL could use that criticism to balance against the
forces of (the) far right. It will strengthen them, actually, if they have
made such a blatant mistake. You should hear what some of the editors
have to say about AOL. There is no animosity on my part. I'm on AOL,
I've been criticized for it. Besides, in our present reality, nothing ever
seems clearly and unambiguously resolved. I don't expect it to be this

My letter is not dependent on a single charge. I understand about the
heat (of the) exchange and all that, of trying to crystallize things further
than they go. But it is hard to believe they made all this stuff up. The tale
of increasing censorship parallels the political pressures visible in the
press, that we know about. There is pervasive controversy all over net
about similar things AOL has done. We all of us have heard about them.

>I'll drop a note over to THopeB and see if I can get any response. I've
>actually had numerous dealings with her before, and none of them
>were negative -- I was, for a time, a co-moderator of the Fiction
>Workshop there and, in the space of the groups mailing list there
>was no censorship. If I know the moderator, Mesotron, at all now,
>this will continue to be the case in that group.

Good. I do understand AOL's difficult position.

>But, down to brass tacks, AOL does state (that) it reserves the right
>to censor message boards and chat areas that aren't private rooms.
>It also continues to maintain private rooms, something that might
>draw more flack if the net censorship thing takes on more steam.

I think they have to explain up front, explicitly in each group: "this is (a)
family poetry writing area," whatever the phrase is. What I think is "it
needs to (be) a stated, known, clear exception when there is an exception
to free speech." As (I) said in my letter, it's AOL's size that changes the
equation quantitatively. This is a familiar argument.

>What I'd recommend to this poet would be to explore the options of
>connecting to the Internet via a smaller, local service provider. Those
>companies aren't in the censorship business. Likely, they could set
>up their own web page for the sharing of works, too.

Most editors I've heard from think this; I think it too. But that doesn't
affect my support for them doing it there as a principle. They'll hear from
editors who will tell them this. They seem very new to the web.

I also felt (that) what Dwain was asking for from AOL in terms (of) a
space (for an) uncensored writers area where that's spelled out (if I
understand what he means. I don't want to get involved in the details) is
reasonable. It is reasonable, and AOL could provide it.

Thanks for your letter

My Best Wishes,
Stephen Williamson

Mime-Version: 1.0
Date: Mon, 8 Jan 1996 13:38:45 -0500
To: "Stephen A.Williamson" <>
From: (Frank Sikernitsky)
Subject: Re: AOL's Problem with Breasts

I would agree that some sort of organized E-Zine group is warranted --
until now, Internet sites are largely atomistic entities. The groups to
watch out for will be the large telecom comapanies -- AT&T, MCI and
especially Sprint, the carriers of the Internet.

As for AOL, it has always been a more than useless service, one I've
written extensively (and negatively) about in the Journal. Their E-Mail
support is less than minimal; their Web browser is crippled by their
backwards servers; and, they just cost too much. Although AOL recently
removed the word 'breast' from its forbidden word list (under pressure
from the Breast Cancer Recovery Discussion Groups), more exist that do
stifle creativity and truly mature discourse.

It is time for AOL to begin to take a page from the United States
Constitution, from the first Amendment of the Bill of Rights. They may
not agree with what we say, but they are morally and legally bound to
defend our right to say it. Legal definitions of AOL obviate the need to
follow any laws, but statute is flawed in its narrow and limiting view of
the ISP today. It is no longer just a group of geeks; it is a vibrant
extension of society.

Of course, this protection only goes so far; child porn and so forth are
illegal actions that should be tackled. But stifling language (especially
'breast') in order to "stamp out" more viscious and perverted action
reveals three things about AOL :

1) They believe that they have the moral center;
2) By banning words, they send the signal that they believe all users
(or at least a majority) are inherently below this moral standard and
cannot judge morality for themselves;
3) They cave to media zealotry and political rhetoric before they answer
the concerns of their own members.

If you'd like to begin such a association, I would be more than willing to
assist and join. Count the Journal in...

Frank Sikernitsky
TRINCOLL JOURNAL - The First Web Magazine.

X-Sender: kbsadler@ (Unverified)
Mime-Version: 1.0
Date: Mon, 8 Jan 1996 10:42:31 -0800
From: (Ken Sadler)
Subject: Censorship


I'm now rewriting the letter to you that I just finished when the damn
computer crashed and I lost the whole thing.

Thanks for your letter. I've also enjoy my discussions with Bill. I like
discussions with intelligent and informed people. You're right censorship
is an evil thing. However, I have no desrie to get into a fight with AOL
over it. I've been expecting something like this to happen. The online
services are scared to death of what the congress might do and with good
reason. This is a political excersize by the hard right senators and cong
ressmen at the behest of the Christian Coaltion. Pat Robertson and
Ralph Reed think they can grab control of the Internet. They can't and
will never be able to even come close, but it gives them a target to use in
raising money from the self righteous. It's an old trick, use the few to tar
the many.

I have a suggestion. Tell the Poets & Writers group to form a certified
association with officers, by-laws, dues, the works. Then they can get a
site on the Web that will be theirs to do with as they please. This site will
be accessible through any of the online services as well directly on the
Web through whatever server they contract with. They can publish their
own magazine, or even two, one for literary works and on for poetry. They
can have their members as editors, chosen by the members. The site can
be managed by one or more members chosen by the association
operating under rules approved by the association. This is a much more
flexible arrangement than any they could have on AOL or any other
online service. They can arrange links with other magazines and any
other type of site that they think will have people.interested. in what they
are doing (you probably read my thinking on this subject in my letters to
Bill.) They can have Chat sessions among members. They can have a
Q&A page for outsiders and they can solicite new members through the
use of the links. All it takes is a couple of go getters to organize and push
it. The cost is minimal. Far less than on an online service. My son
operates the largest server on Cape Cod and he sells unlimited time on
the Internet for $20 a month.

I think your idea of an Association of Electronic Magazines is a good one
and I'd like to be a charter member. BUT, I don't think it should get into
a censorship fight at this time. The political climate is such that small
organizations should lie low and leave the fight to the people with
political clout like the online services and the big national magazines.
This is really not a fight over censorship, it's a political fight between the
moderates and the far right for power. In such a fight the little guy can
get badly burned to no advantage. Let's not tilt at windmills with wooden
swords. Let the guys with big guns do it for us. They will because they
realize that if the far right can get control of the online services they will
come after the magazines and newspapers.

That about covers my present thinking on the subject. How does it strike


Date: Mon, 8 Jan 1996 18:24:22 -0400
To: (Frank Sikernitsky)
From: (Stephen A.Williamson)
Subject: Re: AOL's Problem with Breasts

Thanks for the letter. Reading it, it occurs to me we could put replies like
yours up with the exchange between THopeB and Dwain -- with me as go

When we are asked directly, I do believe we have to side with those who
are trying to create art against those who are trying to control it for
political reasons. You raise so many issues, this would be a good letter to

I'll get back to you.

We'd talked to other editors about some kind (of) e-zine organization --
we were thinking of "promotion of reading e-zines" not politics, then this
landed in my lap, and there is no list of editors to go to. I think I duped
letters to at least a dozen editors scrambling around trying to do


My Best
Steve Williamson

Date: Mon, 8 Jan 1996 18:02:46 -0500
Subject: Re: (no subject)

Thank you for the informative correspondence concerning AOL's
censorship practices.

We at STJ Publications would like to offer an online area for all Writers,
E-Zines, Writers Associations and other related professionals. We are
launching our own Web Server in about two weeks and have already
bounced around the idea of having an area on our server for all
interested individuals in the writing profession.

Our server would be able to provide each Individual, E-Zine or
Association with their very own Home Page site on the World Wide Web
with unlimited e-mail. We would also have all of the software needed to
access our server and ftp sites including Netscape and The Netscape
Internet Guide Book. As a suscriber, you will be able to use our message
boards (just like AOL), private and public chat forums for workshops and
chit-chat. Online, downloadable resource libraries and story
submissions by various participants. We would like to bring the entire
profession together Writers, Agents, Publishers, Editors, you name it!

If you are interested and have other suggestions for the site, let us know.
If the interest is there, we would like to move on this idea soon!

Thank You,

Sam White

From: THopeB
Subj: Re: Fwd: Re: re:woops
To: SAWStephen

As I've already said in my earlier e-mail, I would not remove a posting
simply because it contained the word "breast". And again, I'm available if
anyone has a question about their message board posting.


Date: Mon, 8 Jan 1996 22:32:00 -0500
Subject: Re: Fwd: Re: re:woops

But that's not really the point is it? That's their most extreme example of
(a) growing pattern of censorship and interference, a decline in the
freedom to express themselves that they wrote me was occurring in your
area of aol, a decline that seems to coincide with visible and reported
attacks on aol and other providers by the far right. Together with dozens
of reports of aol giving in to those demands. Take a look on the Internet;
there is a great deal of controversy now, if you haven't noticed.

Did they imagine it all? Did they form their association out of thin air for
no reason? Seems unlikely, possible but unlikely.

Their case doesn't rest on a single instance does it? So what are you
doing? Do you maintain lists of forbidden words? How many posts do you
censor a week? A month? A day? Why? What is (the) basis? Who decides?
Why not send me a list of words you censor? You should be willing to do
that. I mean if you're putting yourself in the position of censoring what
other people say, you should be willing to spell out what you are doing.

Send me poems you've censored or list of poets whose work you've
refused to post because of certain words. I'll write the poets, get the
poems and with their permission, put them up together on our magazine,
AfterNoon, and people can judge your handiwork for themselves. If (the)
expense is (a) problem in compiling a list for us, let me know what it will
cost, we'll raise the money.

Do you warn participants explicitly that their work will be censored when
they enter an area? Do you explain the exact basis and the justification,
because it seems to me that (that is) really what you must do.

Even the issue of the word "breast." It seems to preposterous to believe...
but I've been told that there was controversy on another aol area about
the use of the word "breast." They censored it, you didn't? The reports
are false. Can you state there has never been censorship on aol of this
word? That I won't hear of single incidence?

AOL occupies a powerful position, and has a special responsibility to
keep discourse free, because it is so large. No one demands of the tiny
Bruderhof community magazine on the Internet the right to use "dirty"
words there. This is something else.

Why can't you set up an area along the lines the writers group ask.
Seems a reasonable request, a do-able one. Why not have a "family
writers' group" area or whatever it is and a "not for children" area (the
word "adult" having acquired another meaning these days.) Why can't
aol do this? Doesn't seem hard. I understand they don't want their
proposed area to sound like (a) porno place; if they wanted to do
something like that they could go a hundred places on the Internet.

I remain concerned by Dwain's charges. Concerned by aol's handling of
this issue. I think you and aol are going to find that other writers and
editors of magazines on the net are also concerned. I think you'll find
that organizations concerned with individual rights and liberties across
the political spectrum are concerned. But of course, I've been wrong
before. Maybe nobody cares.

I have certainly done my best the last few days to lay the issue before
them, the way Dwain and his colleagues laid it at my doorstep unsought.

My Best Wishes,

Please do get back to me.

Stephen Williamson

Date: Tue, 9 Jan 1996 00:21:02 -0400
To: (Recipient list suppressed)
From: (Ken Sadler)
Subject: Re: Censorship


The problem that Duain and the CCA face in this situation is that they
are an annoyance, no more, to AOL. Big companies have a tendency to
stomp on annoyances if the situation gets rough. If that happens the
group will be in a bad way because the stomping is likely to take the form
of simply cutting them off as a forum. This leaves them on a limb with no
way to promote the idea of a site on the Web. It will also leave them with
one less access gate if and when they get a Web site going. There is such
a thing as a stratigic retreat and this is a case where I believe that one is
called for. As for counter pressure, the group does not have enough clout
to offer any. The counter pressure will come from the big magazines and
newspapers. Wait a bit and see if I'm not right. This is not a matter that
will be settled in a few days or even weeks. This battle is just beginning
and it's going to last a while and get pretty rough before it's over.

If I were advising them (which I'm not) I would say that the thing to to
right now is to back off and quietly begin to build support for their own
Web site. When they have enough gathered, they should then set up the
site and make the break. No muss, no fuss, no recriminations, part good
friends and then they have access. Also they haven't called attention to
themselves which will keep them out of the line of fire. I don't think the
Internet is going to be involved at this time. It will be just the online
services. Remember, this is an election year and the demagogues need
something about which to make speaches. The internet is not an entity,
it's a nebulous mass sitting out there. It can't be arrested, it can't be
sued, there's nothing to get a handle on. The idea of going after all the
small servers or individual site operators is ludicrous. The services on
the other hand are corporations and they can be sued, they can be ruled
by a law passed by congress. They are similar to magzines and
newspapers and those are the people that will help them fight this battle.
If only for their own sakes.

Truely, this is one to stay out of and watch from the sidelines.


Date: Tue, 9 Jan 1996 09:16:50 -0400
To:,,,,,, au462@cleveland.
Freenet.Edu,,,,, dickson1@,
From: (Stephen A.Williamson)
Subject: AOL Tossed poems

We have begun to receive from the poets who have been censored by aol,
or had their work quietly disappear -- long lists of poems. I don't want to
burden you with (a) huge amount of correspondence, but I do want
everyone to see we're not dealing with a single individual's complaint to
AfterNoon. Included is the poem with the word "breast" they referred to
earlier as having been censored. They don't have a "TOSsed" message
(they call it "TOSsing") but there is no reason to doubt them, I don't

Thanks for your help on this.

It would be helpful if you get what's happened out to other editors and
site designers -- we can draft a protest statement.


Stephen Williamson

Date: Mon, 8 Jan 1996 23:13:25 -0500
Subject: Re: Letter to Ezine editors
Status: RO

Dwain & Stephen,

Here are the some of the worst cases of TOS we have on record. I am
trying to get a hold of Brian, "A 60s Man", he had a poem pulled for the
word "labia".

Unfortunately most people do not save the actual TOS document they
receive, or the notification from THopeB so we have few examples of
that. I will send more to you soon assuming you would both like more
examples of AOL's censorship tactics.

The first poem included here was posted by the head of our Free Speech
Project, Sharon Norris in the Writers Club. She did not receive a TOS or
any kind of formal notification, however the poem was pulled soon after
she posted it. The second one includes the letter from THopeB and the
posting in question. In this case, there were no "vulgar/obscene"
language used, the poet received a TOS for using an "*" symbol in the
middle of a word (recently, THopeB stated that masking "vulgar/obscene"
language can also get you a TOS). The last TOS in this letter, issued to
Dark401, resulted in his leaving AOL.

Thank you for your interest. Please feel free to write to me for more
information. I will submit a poem or two to your zine Stephen, if I can
figure out how to get around the net :) So far, that has proved hopeless.

Yours, isa.

The poem originally in this position was the poem alleged to have
been removed from AOL because it contained the word "breast." The
editors of AfterNoon have a copy of the poem, and the message from
the author to CCA, confirming that it was removed from AOL without a
"TOS" message. It was removed from this thread at the request of the


Subj: TOS blues & other WAR stories
Date: 95-12-19 02:38:42 EST
From: Shlema

HAH!!! I illustration of censorial silliness...

Date: Mon, Dec 18, 1995 4:55 PM EDT
From: THopeB
Subj: posting
To: Shlema

This posting was in the "Idiots Avant2" folder on the Poetry Corner
message board. Please don't use asterisks to mask vulgar/profane
language (in this case, "f*ck"). This is also a TOS violation, to let you

Tracey, Writers Club
Subj: compulsion...
Date:95-11-30 00:47:26 EST
From: Shlema
Posted on: America Online

Compulsion through a thick fog
of every day repeated motions,
as if fire struck my neck and
scarred me, this girl sees hte lumps of flesh and turns her head,
repulsed, then positions herself
until our transparent bodies are juxtaposed.
The light shines through us, on the wall
our blood patterns and bile and cum
become a dance of colors,
united swirls.

We fly off this way,
still connected in our gel of intercourse,
dragon flies in-between reality sheets -

Above this stream of blue,
our frail arms are wings
skies cannot embrace our f*ck--(word in question...what is the mystery
but this is not the sky. word? You decide)
This is something new, different,
something I simply cannot turn
away from.
(c) 11-95
Now, obviously it was assumed (by ThepowersthatB) that * = U
but * in this case, could represent two letters, i.e. L and O
or * = LO

which would make the stanza

Above this stream of blue,
our frail arms are wings
skies cannot embrace our flock,
but this is not the sky.
This is something new, different,
something I simply cannot turn
away from.

which would actually bring the metaphor together a bit more than the
assumed profanity...okay, I left it ambiguous for a reason...not just to
prove a point, but to embrace abmiguity...I am now going to state, for the
sake of TOS adheresion, that f*ck = flock, as in a flock of birds. Any
assumed meanings are, from this point on, only the creation of the



Date: Tue, 9 Jan 1996 09:18:34 -0400
Subject: More TOSsed Poems

Date: Fri, Nov 24, 1995 2:04 PM CST
From: Mariposa J
Subj: WW III
To: Astralan

Hi, I was alerted to the war folder in poetry corner. I have been posting
in one of the cafe' folders in another forum. My posts have all been
removed with warnings from someone named Benedict. I note that you
use words which I was not allowed to use, and everyone in this war folder
seems to know one another?

I am wondering which is a good folder to post poetry in. Any advice
would be helpful.


These poems were deleted (twice)

Susan has large breasts
I didn't realize how perfect their shape
until I saw her nude.
She was trying on a black dress and wanted my opinion.
She removed the dress and sat there, naked
crying about how useless a new dress was
and that it would make no difference to David,
who she had been with for nine years.
David was a successful businessman, he loved Susan
but something was missing.
I sat next to her on the bed, and longed to touch her breasts.
It wasn't so much that I was curious how they felt,
I had touched my own breasts often.
I wanted to make her happy,
please her like David could not.
I imagined my mouth on her breast,
her nipple growing hard as I sucked.
Her face flushed, she trembled, fell on her back
and asked me to take off my clothes too.
I kissed her softly, continued to touch her breasts
and licked my way to her lips,
the ones which smell of earthy musk
her lips, much like mine, now swollen and pink.
I licked her slowly,
like a mother cat tending to a newborn kitten.
She moaned and swayed as I clutched her thighs.
Then, David came into the room,
he was startled at first, then curious, nervous, pleased
and he took off his clothes.
He knelt behind me and watched me please her,
watched her tremble, saw her smile.
He grew hard and slowly entered my cunt from behind
while I sucked her juices.
She burst into orgasm and begged to lick me.
The heat of her breath, the light flicks of her tongue
was new and different,
a gentleness a man had never shown me.
I knew I belonged here, with them.
They knew it too,
because while she drank from my velvet cup,
I sucked her man dry.

c Lily Jacobsen

Susan Two
Every week I visit Susan and David now,
we don't talk much
we just please one another.
Last night he asked me to show him
how to eat her cunt.
Her legs open
I parted the folds of her lips
and touched the spot
where his tongue should be
and lightly licked while she squirmed.
I couldn't stop licking and sucking,
she tasted so good.
David was propped on his elbow next to me,
his hand squeezing my ass
and teasing at my crevices.
He loved to watch Susan and me
please one another.
I sucked her honey milk
and with some of it in my mouth,
I let him taste
with a milky french kiss.
Then, we traded places, he sucked her
and gave some milk to me.
We did this for hours,
sucking and kissing.
Later, Susan fell asleep
and David and I fucked
until dawn.

c Lily Jacobsen


I have asked the poets to send in all TOS's they have received as well as
any poems of theirs that have been pulled without notification. They
should be coming in slowly in the next few days. Here is what I have so


Date: Fri, Feb 9, 1996 11:03 PM EDT
X-From: (Jordanne)
Subj: one pulled poem

Dear Stephen,

This is a poem that was pulled from an area called Afterwards. No
explanation. I do not see any reason for pulling the poem, do you? The
author is Bella K226.


I lost my TOS from Writer's Club. It was in response to Ronaldmums "No
More Mr. Nicey" in the first war folder. sorry. but here is the poem
(not TOSsed) just pulled from Afterwards:

Black to Gray

Black knit, it's the dress
with the slit on the side.
I didn't want to wear shoes
because I like to dance
barefoot; but there are rules
about no service
and I had to make a stop
along the way.

I bought a candy necklace
at the bonbonniere.
Sugar on a string
is just the thing
for a samba queen
like me.

I carry plenty of paper
so I can fill my pockets
with poesies.
I usually write them
just for you...
even tonight
as I watch you
through deep fried air
I am amazed at your face,
mystified, as you gaze
into her blonde-covered blues.

I have some news,
a script, really...

"My, what specious eyes you have."

"The better to deceive you with, my dear."

And, if that's not clear,
I could take the stage
one last time,
slink past your table
and twirl the ends
of my silk pelerine.
I'll throw you a lazy wink
with an edge like a knife;
and as the curtain begins to fall
over your smoke-screen designs....
hold your applause,
don't bother to wave,
just watch me
forever fade
into gray.

Date: Mon, 29 Jan 1996 10:57:45 -0500
Subject: Outta AOL's magic hat...

Hey all...

Ummmmm, about that missing post in Nipple Awareness, it's mine, ALL
MINE I reposted the sonuvabitch there, in WWIII 4, and I will
also put it in the ACLU folder....need to check and see if it's been yanked
from Cuise 29 was posted right after Saige and Carrie's breast

TOS gen hasn't notified me yet...wouldn't have even noticed it was
gone if you all hadn't been diligently paying attention.

Here it is for the records...


Crowded Camaro backseat
bustin ass to make that pass
       "Honey....can you just kinda move
       ahh, yeah...yeah...just like that..."
Fingers fumble nervously along
her spine....release swift shudders...
       First thing I ever noticed 'bout her
       was how her nipples registered her mood...
       pressured up sex barometer...
and she was showing good spirits
at the moment as I felt those
two points of exclamation
stand up and shout through her
straining silk blouse...
       "Cold, baby??" I grinned, turning
       my attentions from her breasts
       just long enough to see her
       roll her eyes in embarrassment.
       "Shut the hell up..."
Somethin' 'bout the way
that silver starlight
raced across her pale skin
as I released her
from near bursting buttons....
revealed perfectly rounded
mounds of motherhood
highlighted by deliciously dusky
caps of crinkled flesh...
brought up the baby urge.
       "How you manage to do this?"
       I chuckle softly, tracing a finger
       along the outer edge of anxious
       "Be the sole support of two dependants."
       "Oh, Christ...shut up!" girlish giggles
       raise ripples across those bountiful breasts...
       "Gladly..." I groan against pliant plushness;
       ma always said to never talk with my mouth full.

Okay, yeah, so it ain't my BEST work, but, unless "ass" is TOSable
(have recieved no word as to that yet) then they've yanked this for no good

Hey...BTW....what about this (name removed) thing? Should I continue
to roast or back off? Lemme know if I went overboard there. (Sorry, but
whoever the hell this person is WILL NOT get away with an unprovoked
flaming on Saige...or any one of you for that matter... I know many of
you have this responsible streak, but I am an amoral wretch who needs
guidance in the form of a good slap every now and then...)




Subj: as promised....
Date: 96-02-12 17:29:20 EST
From: OneWldChld
To: SaigeFawn

Here ya go Jordie...


I recieved my first TOS in November 1995 for a poem called "The
War", a short piece describing the depression that sometimes comes about
as a person reflects on things they haven't done and the occasional
futilistic feeling of aging. The poem was TOSsed for the line "Fucked
up, fucked with...", the words herein were used not in the context of
fornication but as an expletive.

The poem was ripped off the bulletin board and I recieved my
citation in my E-mail. There were several feelings that I felt as I read
that cold form letter. I was angry at the sense of violation that I feelings, wrapped in the context of my writing, were basically
disregarded. I was furious as the condescending treatment, of being "spoken
down to", as it were. I was concerned over the possibility of other
outstanding writers being yanked, and my own more suggestive postings as
well (though they rarely contain "vulgar" language...the possiblity of
censoring due to content really made me nervous). I was also afraid, for
awhile, to post any more of my more mature matter for fear that it would be
given the same treatment.

Slowly I came around, at first masking the words with asteriks, then
found that also was TOSsable...finally I began to substitute words that I
normally would not have chosen, thus (in my feelings) lessening some of the
impact that I originally intended. My original self-published hard copy
works still contain my writing in pure form.

I am, first and foremost, an erotic lesbian writer. As the TOS net
grows tighter, more restrictive, I'm beginning to feel a sense of the
possibility that I may no longer be able to post works that are reflective of
an entire sub-culture of Americans....that an entire range of powerful,
instinctive feelings are being vicariously overlooked and disregarded. This
is frightening...humanity....humanness....the entire range of the sensual
human being is being sterilized. There is more to being a person than a
smile, a Pollyanna view of the world...we are not simply black and white, but
muted throughout with shades of grey, flecks of color of all hues. It is
this complex tinting that makes the human spirit beautiful and interesting,
intriguing and captivating.

I guess, most of all...I am saddened.


Sherri Mangan / OneWldChld

Date: Wed, 31 Jan 1996 10:22:19 -0500
Subject: Re: dirty word

Hi Jordanne,

I thought I covered that one (but did not put in the press release for
obvious reasons).

To be specific... everything they had listed. Fuck as a noun, fuck as a verb
and fuck up and fuck off. posted the definition and cited the dictionary and
said exactly why I was posting it. Basically, the string of entries looked

"f**k up
verb intransitive
First appeared 1951
: to act foolishly or stupidly : BLUNDER -- usu. considered vulgar
verb transitive
: to ruin or spoil esp. through stupidity or carelessness : BUNGLE -- usu.
considered vulgar
-- f**k*up (noun)"

However, the dictionary entry was not masked and I mentioned that.

Hope this helps,


Date: Tue, 9 Jan 1996 17:12:51 -0400
From: (Anthony Boyd)
Subject: Re: (no subject)
Status: RO

>I received the following letter...

Thanks for the email about AOL censorship. In fact, I've already covered
some stories about this.

Tracey (THopeB) is unfortunately lying or mistaken when she says that
no poem was removed for having the word "breast" in it. The fact of the
matter is that Steve Case -- who owns AOL -- recently added the word
"breast" to the "banned" list. All documents containing that word were
automatically removed from AOL -- THopeB had no control over this.
Imagine AOL's surprise as the ENTIRE Breast Cancer Forum was deleted.

A number of large magazines used that as an excuse to humiliate AOL,
and so Steve Case has no rescinded his ban on the word "breast".

A full list of "banned" words is available at the "Worst Online Service"
Web site. I don't have the address on me, but issue #2 or #3 of my
magazine WEBsurf reviewed the site and offers a link to it. Good luck
with this matter.

My advice to those unhappy with AOL is to get a new account with a real
Internet provider. No one is forcing anyone to use AOL, and there are
thousands of cheaper, faster, and more tolerant alternates available.

 __________________Anthony Boyd, whisper@zoom.com_________________
|           WEBsurf AMERICA     |    WEBsurf EUROPE               |
| |     | (cd pub/Zines/Whisper)---------------

Date: Tue, 9 Jan 1996 17:13:04 -0400
From: au462@cleveland.Freenet.Edu (Robert Drake)
Subject: Re: More and moreTOSsed Poems
Status: RO


thanx for all the info on the AOL situation--i'm still reading
thru it. i am sypathetic to the situation, and of course think
that AOL is completely misguided in their policy & their
implementation, no excuses for 'em. yet, i honestly have to
question the use of the word "censorship." i've known folks
who have been censored--taken to court and fined/imprisoned/
abused for speech & writing... and then there's folks like
Ken Saro Wiwa in Africa, who was murdered for speaking out
about the ecological disaster caused by Dutch Shell Petroleum.
this is serious business; i it's not clear to me that AOLs
actions, tho idiotic, fall into the same category. they're
a business, offering to sell you a service--if it's a shoddy
service, don't buy it. they don't have a monopoly on that
service... this would be in contrast to governmental efforts
to control content of _all_ online communications. if i've
missed an important point (& like sed, i haven't finished
reading all you sent, but i will...), please let me know; &
i encourage you to continue to spread the word about the
flawed policies at AOL, so that others won't be taken by
surprize. but i think it's worthwhile, in such important
issues, to be a stickler fr precise use of words such as
censorship. let me know what you think.

luigi-bob drake