Several people on Usenet report that CompuServe has killed its National Bulletin Board service as of June 1st, 1990. In its place is a new bulletin board service that charges $1.00 per line. The cost doesn’t seem to be the problem, though. Instead CompuServe has instituted a censorship policy on all ads, judging them for appropriateness, however broad that might be. An exact definition was not forthcoming from CompuServe, but materials of a sexual nature are definitely prohibited. Luckily, this policy seems only to affect the open areas such as the data libraries and advertisements; closed areas are still uncensored.
Despite the irritation that some people will no doubt feel at this new policy, CompuServe is not to blame. They are merely protecting themselves from prosecution. One Usenet member suggests that CompuServe might be subject to local and state laws in areas wherever a CompuServe dial-up number is located. The greater issue is why CompuServe feels it necessary to protect themselves that extent. Interestingly enough, Usenet carries materials that are almost certain to offend those of the stricter morality, but we suspect that it would be almost impossible to force Usenet as a whole to do anything legally, considering the huge and amorphous structure of the net. CompuServe, as a corporate entity, cannot ignore the legal manipulations and dangers of the business world. Pity, since free flow of information requires freedom from persecution, be it legal or not.
CompuServe — 800/848-8990 — 614/457-8650