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

by Dwain Kitchel

Webster's Unabridged Dictionary defines the word censor: cen'sor, v.t. to
examine, review, expurgate, or change (literature, mail, etc.) as a censor;
to subject to censorship.

A little more than a year ago as a newbie to this computer realm I found
one of AOL's free disks in a package deal that came with my modem. As
any good consumer would, I plugged it right in and installed it.

Ten free hours seemed like an eternity, so I decided I would check out
what was there. Having written poetry for over 25 years I found myself on
the poetry boards in the writer's section.

One can access this section by clicking down through the groups or by
simply typing in the keyword "writers" that brings up the writer's group.
Inside the writer's group are various titles, one of which is Poetry Corner.
Clicking on Poetry Corner brings up a group of folders each of which
contain up to 450 posts. Poets or writers can then post their work in a
series of windows that hold up to 100 lines.

It is a little like a string of newsgroup posts only each is in its own
window. I developed a real camaraderie with the poets in several of the
folders there.
Though my work contained little vulgarity I began to notice that
occasionally a poem I had read earlier would disappear and I began to
hear stories of the TOS (terms of service) board.

Suddenly, some 4 months ago, there was a flurry of posts and poetry
being removed at an alarming rate. People were losing their accounts to
multiple TOS's, and we all felt the sting of unfair censorship. It became
clear that posts were disappearing for the single use of a "vulgar" word.
This was all occurring while in the chat rooms these same vulgar words
were prevalent .

Some of the poets began a discussion about what was occurring on "our"
poetry boards. We realized that the Exon Bill was beginning to have an
effect right in our own backyard. Unwilling to allow the continued assault
on our freedoms in such an uneven and ridiculous manner, we hit upon
the idea of forming a group "within the beast" as it was, to fight this

We decided to call it CCA, Creative Coalition on AOL, because we felt we
were a group of "artists" being unfairly persecuted. One of the founding
members of CCA, opened a folder called WWIII and we began an open
discussion of AOL's censorship. We elected officers, drew up bylaws and
went about trying to gain members and to get our story to the press. CCA
has been actively fighting censorship on AOL for 3 months now and we
meet in the infamous AOL chat rooms.

A CCA critic stated that this is a "light case "of censorship, not so severe
as being killed or maimed for ones ideas.

This is America and our Constitution and Bill of Rights grants us the
right of free speech. In my own opinion it is every American's duty to see
that the freedoms our forefathers died for are preserved so that our
children can stay free. There is a line in the Declaration of Independence
that reads "...That when any Form of Government becomes destructive of
these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, ..." The
statement that I must give up my rights so that our children can be
protected is an oxymoron.

Some might add that it is a convoluted path from the Constitution to
AOL. Yet there is much debate at this time on cyber laws and when our
government passes laws that affect our freedoms of speech inside a
service provider the connection is made.

Being a father, I understand the need for parents to protect their children
from harm and predators. Only a parent has any real ability to protect a
child. Removing cigarette commercials from TV does not really stop
children from smoking, just as making pornography hard to get dose not
keep children from getting it.

When the Right makes the broad statement that the loosening of morals
in our "degenerate "times is the blame for all of societies ills, they
completely remove bad parenting from the equation. Clearly there are
many ways available in cyberspace for good parents to block access to
questionable areas.

When extremists take this idea and try to use it to remove rights from us
all, they infringe on the rights that protect us all.

We at CCA decided to try to get a child proof area as a compromise
between our right to post poems freely and AOL's drive to "protect"
children. We received no answer from AOL.

This censorship is the first step down the road toward the severe
penalties for expressing ideas. I mean after all it is "America" On Line!

As I began to post remarks in the WWIII folders I noticed that in hours
they would disappear. One posting I made described an article in an
internet magazine" Net", which discussed the fact that hackers had
broken AOL's sinfully simple code. Hackers then posted credit card
numbers in chat rooms, and tampered with and read Steve Case's (AOL's
owner) mail. This post disappeared in less than an hour.

I am keenly aware that the rest of the net looks down on AOL users. Lets
face it, at some time we were all newbies. AOL provides a needed service
to those who are unaware of how to use, or just not comfortable with the
net. Cyber space is a great big place and it's difficult to comprehend it all.

For those who are able to understand it, it offers a wealth of information
and a freedom that is only speculation at this point.

We at CCA feel that these censorial moves on Government's and AOL's
part will not only curtail that potential, and will stifle creative expression
in ways that are unacceptable in a free society. The last time I checked
we were still free....