Internet Censorship Synopsis

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Internet Censorship

The freedom of speech that was possible on the Internet could now be subjected to
governmental approvals. For example, China is attempting to restrict political expression,
in the name of security and social stability. It requires users of the Internet and
electronic mail (e-mail) to register, so that it may monitor their activities. In the
United Kingdom, state secrets and personal attacks are off limits on the Internet. Laws
are strict and the government is extremely interested in regulating the Intern et with
respect to these issues.10 Laws intended for other types of communication will not
necessarily apply in this medium. Through all the components of the Internet it becomes
easy to transfer material that particular governments might find objectionable. However,
all of these means of communicating on the Internet make up a large and vast system. For
inspectors to monitor every e-mail, every article in every Newsgroup, every Webpage, every
IRC channel, every Gopher site and every FTP site would be near impossible. Besides taking
an ext raordinary amount of money and time, attempts to censor the Internet violate
freedom of speech rights that are included in democratic constitutions and international
laws.11 It would be a breach of the First Amendment. The Constitution of the United Stat
es of America declares that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of
religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or
of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the
Government for a redr ess of grievances 12 Therefore it would be unconstitutional for any
sort of censorship to occur on the Internet and affiliated services. Despite the
illegality, restrictions on Internet access and content are increasing worldwide under all
forms of government. In France, a co untry where the press generally has a large amount of
freedom, the Internet has recently been in the spotlight. A banned book on the health
history of former French president Francois Mitterrand was republished electronically on
the World Wide Web (WWW). Apparently, the electronic reproduction of Le Grand Secret by a
third party wasn't banned by a court that ruled that the printed version of the book
unlawfully violated Mitterrand's privacy. To enforce censorship of the Internet, free
societies find that they become more repressive and closed societies find new ways to
crush political expression and opposition.13 Vice - President Al Gore, while at an
international conference in Brussels about the Internet, in a keynote address said that
[Cyberspace] is about protecting and enlarging freedom of expression for all our citizens
... Ideas should not be checked at the border.14 Another person attending that conference
was Ann Breeson of the Ame rican Civil Liberties Union, an organization dedicated to
preserving many things including free speech. She is quoted as saying, Our big victory at
Brussels was that we pressured them enough so that Al Gore in his keynote address made a
big point of stre ssing the importance of free speech on the Internet.15 Many other
organizations have fought against laws and have succeeded. A prime example of this is the
fight that various groups put on against the recent Communication Decency Act (CDA) of the
U.S. Se nate. The Citizens Internet Empowerment Coalition on 26 February 1996 filed a
historic lawsuit in Philadelphia against the U.S. Department of Justice and Attorney
General Janet Reno to make certain that the First Amendment of the U.S.A. would not be
compr omised by the CDA. The sheer range of plaintiffs alone, including the American
Booksellers Association, the Freedom to Read Foundation, Apple, Microsoft, America Online,
the Society of Professional Journalists, the Commercial Internet eXchange Association ,
Wired, and HotWired, as well as thousands of netizens (citizens of the Internet) shows the
dedication that is felt by many different people and groups to the cause of free speech on
the Internet.16 Words like *censored*, *censored*, piss, and tits. Words of which our
mothers (at least some of them) would no doubt disapprove, but which by no means should be
regulated by the government. But it's not just about dirty words. It's also about words
like AIDS, gay, a nd breasts. It's about sexual content, and politically controversial
topics like drug addiction, euthanasia, and racism.17 Just recently in France, a high
court has struck down a bill that promoted the censorship of the Internet. Other countries
have attempted similar moves. The Internet cannot be regulated in the way of other mediums
simply because it is not the same as anyt hing else that we have. It is a totally new and
unique form of communication and deserves to be given a chance to prove itself. Laws of
one country can not hold jurisdiction in another country and holds true on the Internet
because it has no borders. Although North America (mainly the United States) has the
largest share of servers, the Internet is still a worldwide network. This means that
domestic regulations cannot oversee the rules of foreign countries. It would be just as
easy for an American te en to download (receive) pornographic material from England, as it
would be from down the street. One of the major problems is the lack of physical
boundaries, making it difficult to determine where violations of the law should be
prosecuted. There is no one place through which all information passes through. That was
one of the key points that was stressed during the original days of the Internet, then
called ARPANET. It started out as a defense project that would allow communication in the
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