Internet And You Essay, Research Paper
You make the decision
Whenever a new kind of information technology is born, there is always been somebody on hand to try to censor it. Because the Internet is new and wide open, it has become the current central target for politicians over issues of censorship. When our country was born, the first public document over which patriots shed their blood declared the need for our “liberty,” our freedom in our new nation. Later, when our founding fathers decided to specify certain rights in our new Constitution, they gave the very top priority to the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights – the idea of freedom of expression. Those among us who would let senators and preachers decide how much freedom we should have will continue to try to restrict such freedom of expression.
John, a 13 year old bright kid from a religious Christian family was caught ‘red handed’ by his teacher Mrs. Presly viewing adult websites on the internet in the lunch break on one of the lab computers of his school. What should be done to stop the kids from accessing the obscure materials that are freely available on the Internet? Efforts have been continuously made by senators to introduce new technology which involves blocking certain websites; this is know as filtering (a program), which obstructs the viewing of adult websites in schools and libraries. Recently, Senator John McCain proposed the Internet school filtering act, through which, schools will not receive subsidies from the Universal Service Fund (USF) if they do not install filters on Internet-based computers in the school. The cost for round the clock Internet connection for all the computers in a school or library is tremendous. USF brings down this cost by providing concessional rates for web surfing to many of the schools and libraries in US. The need for these subsidized rates compels schools and libraries to install filtering programs on their computers. The irony being if any local library or school in a rich neighborhood can afford the telecom expenses for surfing the net, (not bothering about the subsidies offered by the USF) it can provide unfiltered, free access to the Internet to all it’s patrons. Thus if the government truly wants to fight child pornography and violence on Internet, it should pass stronger laws to outlaw those that now exist (Library Journal 6).
In Virginia’s Congress, Rep. Robert G. Marshall recently introduced a bill that would require minors accessing unfiltered Internet workstations in public libraries to be accompanied by a parent or another “responsible adult”. The bill also stipulates that public libraries must keep unfiltered computers out of areas which juveniles are permitted to use unaccompanied by adults. The bill also suggests that a limited access be provided to children’s-area machines’ offering resources and sites materials harmful to juveniles, which includes child pornography, and violence and stop patrons from accessing objectionable sites in any library area. Staffers who promptly report violations to authorities are assured of immunity from prosecution (American Libraries 17). Filtering devices are currently being touted as a solution to control pornography on the Internet without expressly censoring it. What many consumers don’t realize, however, is that these devices screen more than hard-core sex on Web sites. Some other restricted topics include ‘alternative lifestyles,’ such as gay and lesbian lifestyles, and birth control services (American Journalism Review 56).
A possible practical solution could be a rating of the web sites. Several Internet software vendors now advocate content labeling, which includes a ratings system that may effectively create a kind of in-house corporate Internet censorship similar to the one already used in certifying movies and T.V programs. With content labels (read: ratings), user software can read label data embedded in Web pages and automatically highlight documents labeled parental guidance website or block access to pages labeled adult website. The World Wide Web Consortium has now created a technical specification for content labeling, called PICS (Platform for Internet Content Selection). The PICS system is being used by content providers to offer a set of ratings to parents and other interested users who are looking to block access to “inappropriate” sites. PICS does not institute a specific ratings system; however, it does create a framework that software developers and (possibly) government institutions can use in order to block or verify sites. For example, the Recreational Software Advisory Council has adapted its computer-game rating vocabulary for the Internet. This vocabulary, called RSACi, can be used on Web sites to indicate levels of foul language, violence, nudity and sex. Consequently, software programs, which filter Web sites from user view, may be set up to block certain (user-configured ‘adult’ or ‘violent’) types of inappropriate material (PC Week 157).
We are at an impasse. Christian zealots and other extremists profess to want to “protect” our children and their own by restricting the access of every child to library resources, especially via the Internet. They are so desperate that they are willing to turn the job over to anyone – even to the automatic choices of filtering machines and let the software decide what is “evil” and “good” for our society!
To deny our children that freedom is to deny them the ability to learn how to participate in self-governance. To prevent or “protect” them from discovering even the most evil expressions in our society is to cripple their powers of discrimination, their ability to criticize, their crucial need to find, see, and know good and bad, so as to be able to choose between them. We cannot really protect anyone from every expression. Information and opinion, whether it’s Madonna’s latest paean to her genitals, have always come into public view through the media, which cannot be kept secret, for long, from our children. By stopping children to face the real world all we do is isolate them from the awful fullness of our culture and society, leaving them unprepared to participate in the society and making the choices to govern it. Thus, we must not deprive them of the reality but guide them by helping them decide what is good and what is bad for them.
Berry, John & Lifer, Evan. “Senator McCain’s Phony ‘Protection’.” Library Journal
15 Mar. 1998, v123 n5: 6
Frentzen, Jeff. “Web Site Ratings: Self-Imposed Censorship?” PC Week 25 Aug.
1997, v14 n36: 157
Goldberg, Beverly. “Blocking Legislation.” American Libraries Mar.1998, v29 n3: 17
Goyal, Praveen. “Congress Fumbles With The Internet.” Harvard Journal of Law &
Public Policy Spring 1998, v21 n2: 637