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'Click Houses' Crop Up in Suburbs; Tipper to Launch 'Just Say Internyet' Campaign

WASHINGTON, D.C. ( — Concerned by numerous studies claiming the Internet is addictive, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration yesterday officially classified the Internet as a "controlled substance," a move that will force the nation's 80 million known users to seek a physician's prescription in order to access the Web.

The ruling was quickly condemned by Internet companies, who claim the decision will put them out of business and would likely create a vast black market in illegal Internet usage. African-American groups, meanwhile, said they would lobby Congress for a more statistically accurate name for the illegal Internet trade, such as "white market."

A Philadelphia Click House

No matter the color, the fears seem to be warranted. Already, police across the nation report the sudden appearance of "click houses" in once gentile suburban neighborhoods, illegal dens recognizable by boarded-up windows — to prevent screen glare — and 24/7 traffic.

"These clickheads are coming and going at all hours, using shared passwords and, in some cases, sharing mice," said Howard Roper, the police chief in Blue Bell, Pa. Neighbors, he added, are afraid to speak out because some clickheads, especially those high on auction sites, threaten to sell residents' belongings on eBay if they complain.

While acknowledging the ruling was socially disruptive, the FDA said it had little choice. "Studies have proven that the Internet is addictive, and our mandate is to control the dispensation of addictive substances," said FDA Commissioner Jane E. Henney. The FDA ruling calls for Internet traffic measurement firms to change their terminology from "unique visitors" to "unique addicts," and will require that a safety label be included with each Internet prescription reading: "Warning: This product may cause day trading."

Anti-drug forces generally applauded the decision, although they said it didn't go far enough. "While we agree that the Internet should not be available over the counter, we believe the Internet should first be tested on animals to discern its physiological and psychological impact," said Hallie Minor, director of Citizens Against Drugs. Minor spoke at a press conference organized by Tipper Gore, who plans to launch a nationwide "Just Say Internyet" campaign, which she hopes will convince young people to stay away from the Web.

Not surprisingly, Gore's plan was condemned by San Francisco-based URL-UP, which has started "mice exchange" programs, allowing users to turn in their used, dirty mice and trackballs for clean, new ones. "We are in no way advocating Internet usage," said URL-UP director Mike Barnovic. "But no matter what Mrs. Gore says, the fact is that people are going to do the Internet, so let's make it as safe as possible."

Internet companies, meanwhile, have strenuously objected to the classification of the Internet as a drug, and say they will fight the ruling. "To label the Internet a drug is absurd," said David Wetherell, head of holding company CMGI. "It is, if anything, a cult."

Added RealNetworks CEO Rob Glaser: "No, it's not a drug or a cult. It's a process."

"Oh, like smelting?" Wetherell replied.

"Yes, that's right," said Glaser. "Just like smelting."


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