DOWNLOADED AND DIRTY
For once, the federal government has produced a document that Americans actually read. And boy, did they ever. When The Starr Report hit the Internet Sept. 11, a tidal wave of 3 million visitors overwhelmed the servers for Congress’ Thomas website (thomas. loc.gov) as surely as that wall of water swallowed the Eastern Seaboard in Deep Impact. Hordes of would-be readers in search of electronic prurience — we mean a sincere understanding of constitutional issues — were turned away. News and corporate sites stepped in to fill the gap, with CNN experiencing a record 400,000 Web pages downloaded per minute. The irony of the world rushing to republish one of the most sexually explicit documents ever printed by the government was all too apparent to Internet devotees, who haven’t forgotten that in 1996, Congress passed the Communications Decency Act, which would have punished online ”indecency” with two years in prison and a $250,000 fine (the act was struck down by the Supreme Court last year). ”There’s no question in my mind The Starr Report would have violated the CDA,” says Ann Beeson, a lawyer at the ACLU who argued the case. Well, maybe Starr could have sneaked it onto http://www.cigaraficionado.com.