Statement by Bill Gates

Chairman and CEO, Microsoft Corporation

on the Supreme Court's ruling on the Communications Decency Act

June 26, 1997

The United States Supreme Court's decision today affirmed two lower federal court rulings that the Communications Decency Act (CDA) is unconstitutional. It's an important victory for anyone who cares about free speech or the future of the Internet. It's also pretty darned important to anyone who owns Microsoft shares, which is me fundamentally, but also covers a few of the people who slave tirelessly to maintain me in my position as the world's wealthiest man.

The high court was wise saying that the CDA was an overly broad attempt to restrict material on the Internet that some people find objectionable. For the Internet to flourish, any material that is legal in bookstores, newspapers or public libraries must also be legal online. For Microsoft to flourish, we need to ruthlessly supress all our competitors. I see these two aims as entirely complementary.

Congress passed the CDA in an attempt to protect children from indecent material on the Internet. Microsoft has been a leader in developing thoughtful approaches to ensure that children and other users are not exposed to objectionable material, because anything that can improve our frankly low chances in the browser wars has got to be worth a try. We believe that technology, parental oversight and common sense can provide much more effective safeguards than restrictions on the flow of ideas and opinions online. We're especially keen on that technology part, because, to be frank, that's where the moolah is.

Throughout our nation's history, freedom of expression has been a guiding principle. Our adherence to this principle has been a beacon over the years for other countries as they have moved toward democracy. Of course, we pretty much screwed that idea over in Vietnam, but hey, this is a lip service document. You want serious analysis? I'm a businessperson, for Pete's sake.

Today, there are other means of controlling material that parents find objectionable. Internet Explorer uses PICS, the W3C's recommended mechanism for labeling Internet content. By default Internet Explorer uses the Recreational Software Advisory Council's (RSAC) ratings system, giving parents (or anyone) control over what Web sites people can visit from a particular computer.

(Anyone interested in the rating system may want to check one of these Internet sites: and If you want to get straight to the hot stuff, I recommend, as always,

Filtering programs such as Surf Watch, CyberPatrol, CyberSitter, X-Stop and NetNanny are also becoming increasingly sophisticated and popular for controlling content available to individual computer screens. There is still much improvement that needs to be made in this technology, and I am confident that public pressure and competition will lead to rapid advances. I also plan to buy out half of these programs, and then wreck up the entire market for those remaining companies foolish enough to defy me.

The Internet holds enormous opportunity as a global marketplace of ideas and a powerful new engine of commerce, which I intend to assume control of just as soon as I catch up with Neighbours. The Supreme Court's decision helps ensure that this new economic force will continue to flourish, in my hands. As important, it also guarantees that the Internet will be a place where the free flow of ideas will be protected for the greater good of all. But especially me.

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