Internet Censorship Is Unfair Essay

This essay has a total of 2313 words and 9 pages.

Internet Censorship Is Unfair

Everyone has heard of the Internet and how it is going to help set the world free. The
Internet is the fastest growing form of communication and is becoming more and more
commonplace in the average American home. Companies these days do big business over the
Internet, and online shopping has grown tremendously in the last few years. For instance,
the online auction site eBay sells millions of items every year online. Many companies are
making even more plans to expand their business to the Internet. Wireless, borderless
communication and the uninterrupted flow of information have been promised to bring
democracy, education, and culture to every corner of the world with a phone line.
Unfortunately, there have been numerous attempts lately to censor the Internet in the name
of "decency." If the Net is controlled, regulated, restricted, or censored in order to
keep it "clean," it will have severe effects on its capabilities and potential.

In recent years, America and other leading countries' economies have become increasingly
dependent on the need to instantly move large amounts of information across long
distances. Computerization has changed everyone's life in ways that were never before
imagined. The global network of interconnected computers allows people to send electronic
mail messages across the world in the blink of an eye and stay updated on world events as
they happen; the world has become a much smaller place as a result of this global
communication and exchange of ideas. There have also become thousands of online
"communities" of people who share common interests through message boards, chat rooms, and
electronic mailing lists (Wilmott 106).

At present, the Internet is the ultimate demonstration of the first amendment: free
speech. Here is a place where people can speak their mind without being punished for what
they say or how they choose to say it. The Internet owes its incredible worldwide success
to its protection of free speech, not only in America, but also in countries where freedom
of speech is not guaranteed. For some, it is the only place where they can speak their
mind without fear of political or religious persecution ("Cyberchaos").

The Net is also one of America's most valuable types of technology; scientists use email
for quick and easy communication. They post their current scientific discoveries on online
newsgroups so other scientists in the same field of study all over the world can know in
minutes. Ordinary people use the Internet for communication, expressing their opinions in
the newsgroups, obtaining up-to-date information from the WWW, downloading all types of
media files, or just "surfing" for their own personal enjoyment.

The Internet can also be compared to a church. In many ways the Internet is like a church:
it has its council of leaders, every member has an opinion about how things should work,
and they can either take part if they choose to or sit back and watch everyone else. It's
the choice of the user. The Internet has no president, chief operating officer, or Pope.
Single networks or local Internet service providers (ISPs) may have presidents and CEO's,
but that is different; there is no single authority figure for the Internet in general. As
stated by Frances Hentoff in the article "Indecent Proposal," "on an info superhighway
driven by individuals, there are no cops preventing users from downloading" (Hentoff 1).
Users of the Internet have the freedom to express anything they believe. The fact that the
Net has no single authority figure creates a problem about what kind of materials should
be available on the Net.

The largest controversy that surrounds regulating the Net deals with what type of
broadcasting medium it should be considered. The Internet can be viewed in many different
ways. It can be considered a carrier of common data, similar to a phone company, which
must ignore what is broadcast for privacy reasons. Or, it can be considered a distributor
and broadcaster of information, much like a television or radio station, which is solely
responsible for what it broadcasts and has to conform to federal standards and FCC
regulations for obscenity. This debate is at the core of the censorship matter. Obviously,
the Internet is a carrier of information, and not a broadcaster, since it only provides
the basic structure for information transfer and sharing. But this frustrates lawmakers.
The current body of laws existing today in America does not apply well to the Internet. Is
the Internet like a bookstore, where servers cannot be expected to review every title? Is
it like a phone company who must ignore what it carries for privacy reasons and is not
responsible for what is carried through its service? Or is the Net a form of broadcasting,
like a radio or television station, in which the government can monitor, control, and
regulate what is broadcast? The trouble is that the Internet can be all or none of these
things depending on how it's used. The Internet cannot be viewed as one type of transfer
medium under current broadcast definitions ("Muzzling the Internet"). One large difference
that sets the Internet apart from a broadcasting media is the fact that one can't stumble
across a vulgar or obscene site without first entering a complicated address or following
a link from another source. There are exceptions, of course, but for the most part, if one
wants to find "dirty" material on the Internet, one has to go out and look for it to find
it. The Internet is much more like going into a bookstore and choosing to look at adult
magazines than it is like channel surfing on television (Miller 75).

The Internet is a great place of entertainment and education, but like all places used by
millions of people, it has some dark corners people would rather not have their children
explore. Society as a whole generally tries to protect children, but there are no social
or physical constraints to Internet surfing. For this reason, there have been numerous
attempts at censoring the Net in the name of protecting children. One example is the
Communications Decency Act of 1995.

The Communications Decency Act, also known as the Internet Censorship Act, was introduced
in the U.S. Congress in 1995. It would make it a criminal offense to make

available to children anything that is indecent, or to send anything indecent with "intent
to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass." The goal of this bill as written (though not as
stated by its proponents), was to try to make all public material on the Internet suitable
for young children. The bill would have made certain commercial servers that carry
pictures of nudity, like those run by Penthouse or Playboy, be shut down immediately or
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