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Interviewer: Good evening, everyone. Id like to welcome our speaker, Dr Alan Stark, to our university. Dr Stark, thank
you so much for coming to speak to us tonight.
Dr Stark: My pleasure. Im delighted to be here.
Interviewer: I believe youre a graduate of this university, Dr Stark.
Dr Stark: Thats right. I got my law degree here, and this is where I first became interested in civil rights. Ive been
very involved with different issues relating to civil rights, including civil rights in cyberspace.
Interviewer: I have a feeling that not too many students know about this issue, so perhaps you should first define for us
what civil rights are.
Dr Stark: Yes, of course. Civil rights are the rights of people in a society to be treated equally, and to have equal
opportunities regardless of their race, sex or religion.
Interviewer: So what exactly are civil rights in cyberspace?
Dr Stark: Let me try to explain. I think the simplest thing to do would be to start with an example. Many of you may be
familiar with Craigslist, the online forum for advertising. Among other things, Craigslist runs advertisements
from people who want to rent out their apartments, or share them with other people. These ads sometimes
say that people of a certain race or religion shouldnt apply.
Interviewer: That is outright discrimination
Dr Stark: It certainly is. Imagine what would happen if the same thing appeared in an ad in the New York Times, or
any other newspaper in the USA.
Interviewer: Isnt there a law against this?
Dr Stark: There is indeed. Its called the Fair Housing Act, and it prohibits making housing less accessible to people
because of their race, gender or religion.
Interviewer: So, how can such an ad appear on the Internet?
Dr Stark: Well, the Fair Housing Act Law doesnt apply to the Internet. In fact, online companies arent held
responsible for any discriminatory materials that other people have supplied.
Interviewer: Thats terrible. Has anyone tried to do anything about this?
Dr Stark: A number of people have tried to sue Internet companies, but so far, most courts have rejected such claims.
Internet companies are considered immune from libel suits.
Interviewer: Are you saying that search engines like Yahoo or Google arent responsible for anything thats written on
the billions of web pages they make available?
Dr Stark: Exactly.
Interviewer: Its hard to believe. How is it possible?
Dr Stark: Well, the problem started a decade ago. An agreement was made with online companies at a time when no
one imagined that the Internet would grow so rapidly. Later, the agreement became law.
Interviewer: So, are there no limits at all on online ads?
Dr Stark: Legally, there arent any. However, to be fair, I must point out that many online companies voluntarily delete
discriminatory material or warn their customers against it, but its not enough. The time has come to reexamine the original law that was passed.
Interviewer: That sounds reasonable. Do you think its going to happen in the near future, Dr Stark?
Dr Stark: Its difficult to say. I belong to a group thats fighting hard to change the law and make it more like the laws
governing written material in the press. But of course, theres a lot of opposition to our fight.
Interviewer: What kind of opposition?
Dr Stark: People argue that you cant compare the Internet with newspapers or other forms of the media. They claim
its more like a carrier service, similar to a telephone company. They say you cant sue the telephone
company because someone called up your friends and spread some untrue information about your family.
Interviewer: Are there other arguments against changing the law?
Dr Stark: Yes, another claim is that its important to preserve the unique character of the Internet, which includes
complete freedom of speech and spontaneity. It would spoil its special character if it were treated like
newspapers and other forms of communication. All thats probably true, but in my opinion, changing the law
is still essential for protecting the civil rights of all people.
Interviewer: Lets be honest. Companies like Craigslist would certainly disagree with you. They must have a huge
commercial interest in keeping things as they are.
Dr Stark: Absolutely. Craigslists chief executive says that making the company responsible for what people put in
their ads would ruin the business and he may be right. But the way I see it, in the United States, we live by
rules that protect us, and protect our civil rights. The laws governing our physical space include rules about
discrimination, racism and libel. Now that the Internet plays an integral part in our personal and commercial
lives, there ought to be similar rules governing our lives in cyberspace.
Interviewer: Thank you, Dr Stark. I think youve made the issue very clear. Youve certainly given us all something to
think about. Would you be willing to answer some questions from the audience?
Dr Stark: With pleasure.

1. d

2. c

3. a

4. b

5. a

6. a

7. c

8. d

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