Censorship



The Internet is a wonderful place of entertainment and education but like all places used by millions of people, it has some murky corners people would prefer children not to explore. In the physical world society as a whole conspires to protect children, but there are no social or physical constraints to Internet surfing.

The Internet Censorship Bill of 1995, also known as the Exon/Coats Communications Decency
Act, has been introduced in the U.S. Congress. 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" ("Stop the Communications ..." n.p.). The goal of this bill as written(though not as stated by its proponents) is to try to make all public discourse on the Internet suitable for young children. The issue of whether is it necessary to have censorship on the Internet is being argued all over the world. There are numerous homepages on the World Wide Web discussing this issue, or asking people to sign the petition to stop government censorship.

The Internet was originally a place for people to freely express their ideas worldwide. It 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 the Usenet newsgroups so other scientists in the same field of study all over the world can know in minutes. Ordinary people use the Net for communication, expressing their opinions in the newsgroups, obtaining up-to-date information from the WWW, acquiring files by using FTP, etc. Censorship would damage the atmosphere of the freedom to express ideas on the Internet; therefore, government should not encourage censorship.

In the Internet community, there is a large volume of technical terms. For this reason, it is first necessary to examine the terminology specific to Internet. The Internet is a world wide computer network. The "Net" is frequently used in place of Internet. In the words of Allison and Baxter, two experts on Internet Censorship at the Monash University, "the Internet is comprised of various digital media subsuming many of the distinct roles of traditional media" (Allison and Baxter 3).

Electronic mail (email), which is one component of the Internet, approximates person to person letters, memoranda, notes and even phone calls. Sound and pictures are sometimes sent along with text. Email is mainly for private communication. Electronic mailing lists are rather like club newsletters and readers have to contract-in or subscribe to a list.

Another term that is often used is electronic news (enews/Usenet), enews is a broadcast, free to the Internet medium. It has some properties of radio or television, particularly talk-back radio or television, in that the destination is indiscriminate.

The term FTP is also frequently used. File transfer protocol (FTP) started as an Internet archival and retrieval medium, somewhat analogous to traditional libraries. Files can be retrieved from distant computers using a traditional text-based interface.

The world-wide web (WWW), which is another component of the Net, can be used to "publish" material that would traditionally appear in journals, magazines, posters, books, television and even on film. The term UNIX, "a widely heard computer term, is a multi-user, multitasking operating system originally developed by Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie, at AT&T Bell Laboratories, in 1969 for use on minicomputers" ("UNIX" n.p.).

To understand the background of the controversy, it is also necessary to give a brief history on the Internet. The Internet was created about twenty years ago in an attempt to connect a U.S. Defense Department network called the ARPAnet and various other radio and satellite networks. The ARPAnet was an experimental network designed to support military research; in particular, research about how to build networks that could withstand partial outages (such as bomb attacks) and still function. At about the same time the Internet was coming into being, Ethernet local area networks ("LANs") were developed. Most of these workstations came with Berkeley UNIX, which included IP (Internet Protocol) networking software. This created a new demand: rather than connecting to a single large timesharing computer per site, organizations wanted to connect the ARPAnet to their entire local network. The demand keeps growing today. Now that most four-year colleges are connected to the Net, people are trying to get secondary and primary