Back in 1994, when he first logged on to America Online, Dave Cassell was a struggling technical writer intoxicated by the potential of Net life. "I was bleary-eyed and buzzed about the future," he says. "I saw all of humanity coming online." Then one day our hero experienced some of that humanity, in an AOL chat room, where a lesbian and a Christian Fundamentalist were bashing each other. Cassell ended up disgusted--not by the name calling but by AOL's Victorian censorship policy, which resulted in a chat-room monitor summarily booting the lesbian for uttering the word bitch.

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