A Web page offering an obscene gesture to Janet Reno went up today--and that's not the only message the publishers of annoy.com are sending the U.S. attorney general.
In conjunction with tomorrow's official launch of annoy.com--a political fire-starter that will host extremely controversial columns--its founders will file a lawsuit against the Communications Decency Act.
The Justice Department is already assured of getting its day in court March 19, when the Supreme Court reviews its appeal to uphold the CDA. However, annoy.com is fighting the part of the CDA that outlaws "indecent" computer communications "intended to annoy" another person. The suit seeks an injunction by a U.S. District Court in San Francisco to block the provision because annoy.com claims it is unconstitutional.
In what observers may call a political protest or a cunning PR maneuver to gain brand recognition, annoy.com is willing to go all the way with the case. The right to "annoy" should be protected, say the site's creators at ApolloMedia, a multimedia development company in San Francisco.
"It's being represented pro bono by attorneys who believe in the case," said Clinton Fein, president of ApolloMedia, the company named as plaintiff in the case. "We don't consider this a frivolous lawsuit. It's offensive that freedom of speech in this country would be regarded as something frivolous."
Although the suit will be most likely be overshadowed while the nation's highest court grapples over the constitutionality of the CDA, Fein says his case is different.
The "annoy" provision, he said, deals with communication between adults, and has nothing to do with protecting minors from indecent material. He said that if the CDA is ruled constitutional, annoy.com will be waiting in the wings to attack the separate provision.
After it launches, annoy.com plans to flaunt its free speech rights--be its site laced with "indecency" or not. Fein said the site will post opinions about everything from gun control to abortion that are deliberately one-sided and provocative. It will allow visitors to send anonymous postcards to politicians.