Black Armbands, Cyberstyle

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: In protest of President Clinton's signing of the telecommunications bill Thursday, the coordinators of the Voters Telecommunications Watch, an online anti-censorship group, have arranged for about 150 groups and individuals to turn the background color of their websites black or hang virtual blue ribbons on the sites. This protest of the bill's anti-smut and anti-abortion provisions will run for 48 hours, starting after Clinton signs the bill Thursday afternoon. Among the parts of the legislation being protested: making it illegal to transmit "indecent" materials to minors, or discuss where or how to get an abortion on the Internet. The ACLU says it will challenge the bill in federal court, contending that the bill's wording is so vague that it would prohibit transmittal of novels like "Catcher in the Rye" and other forms of already-permitted free speech. Acccording to TIME's Joshua Quittner, "The protest shows the solidarity of online providers against a truly Kafkaesque piece of legislation." Quittner is not disappointed by the relative gentleness of the protest. "The online community is not particularly militant. We expect the ACLU will prevail in the courts and the indecency provisions will be struck down."