Internet Censorship Essay, Research Paper
Since the introduction of the World Wide Web in 1989 by Tim Burners-Lee, many different debates have arisen over various aspects of the Internet. That is expected since there are so many different types of information available on the Web ranging from poetry to games to news to even pornography. Some argue that not all kinds of data should be accessible to all; that is where censorship comes in. Internet censorship includes restriction of access or publication of any material not thought to be appropriate by the censoring party. This can include pornography, news that a government does not want published, offensive language, ideas or anything.
The Federal Communications Decency Act of 1996 was passed by Congress and signed into law. This controversial act bans the communication of material deemed as ‘obscene or indecent’ via the Internet to anyone under 18 years of age and the publication of any pornographic material of a person under 18 years of age (“Can Congress”). The purpose of this law was to protect children and minors. I will not to argue my viewpoints on how ‘harmful’ this kind of material can be to children, but instead I will argue over whether officials should be able to restrict access to materials or whether this should be totally dependent on parents or legal guardians.
Laws censoring the Internet are not the correct solution to the problem of protecting children from pornography or other harmful data on the Internet. They are also impractical and can cause many conflicts. First off, a law passed in one country does not have to be upheld in another country. This can include any law, be it speeding, anti-trust or Internet. So if the United States passes Internet Censorship laws then only web sites based in the United States must obey them. Web sites in other countries do not. The special feature about the Internet is that anyone with access to it can connect to sites all over the world. So Swedes, Germans, and even Americans in the United States can view a web site in Sweden that does not have to follow United States’ laws (“Censorship and the Internet”). Laws also were not used with the Television or Film industry and should not be started now. In the case of Television it is left totally up to the parent to decide what materials their own children can watch and how to prevent them from watching ‘inappropriate’ shows. Recently a device called the “V-Chip’ was developed to aid parents in that. It monitors a new rating system designed for TV shows and does not allow access to any show that is rated higher than what the parent sets the chip on (Gates). If the nation is confident enough in a parent’s ability to monitor children’s access to TV shows or movies then why are they not confident enough in their ability to safeguard them from the Internet?
Already new software is out to help parents monitor Internet access. It acts very similar to the “V-Chips” for TV’s. All web pages will get rated and the software can be set to allow access only to certain-rated web sites. This is already included in Netscape Communicator and Microsoft Internet Explorer, the two most popular and widely used Web browsers (“Security with Microsoft” and “What features”). They use a rating system by the Platform for Internet Content Selection (PICS). Other software out to aid in the process is called “Censorware.” Several of these programs include NetNanny (www.netnanny.com), Cybersitter (www.solidoak.com/cysitter.htm), X-Stop (www.xstop.com) and Cyber Patrol (www.microsys.com/cyber). They basically do that same thing previously mentioned by effectively screening any activity on the computer and filtering out anything deemed unnecessary by the parent or guardian.
Some might argue that a parent would not be able to always watch a child to prevent them from viewing the ‘harmful’ material on the Internet. My only answer to that is that if it is necessary for governmental involvement on the question of pornography on the Internet, then it must be necessary to have the same involvement for TV and cable. A parent has just as much time to screen TV as they do to screen the Internet.
In 1997 the United States Supreme Court declared that part of the Federal Communications Decency Act of 1996 previously mentioned was unconstitutional (“Can Congress.”) Chief Justice Rehnquist compared the Act to a law “that makes it a crime for a bookstore owner to sell pornographic magazines to anyone once a minor enters his store.” It is believed that by having the First Amendment of free speech held true that rapid growth will continue on the Internet, thus helping the growth of communications, technology and ideas. The Blue Ribbon Campaign for Online Free Speech helps to ensure that “communications carriers do not deny service to network users solely on the basis of the content of their messages.” It also helps to ensure that privacy is upheld on the Internet and all other forms of electronic communications (“About EFF”). In order to continue the United States tradition of free speech and rapid growth, parents, not the law, should ‘protect’ out children from the potential harms of the Internet.