– Policing Cyberspace Essay, Research Paper
INTERNET REGULATION: POLICING CYBERSPACEThe Internet is a method of communication and a sourceof information that is becoming more popular among those whoare interested in, and have the time to surf the informationsuperhighway. The problem with this much information beingaccessible to this many people is that some of it is deemedinappropriate for minors. The government wants censorship,but a segment of the population does not. Legislativeregulation of the Internet would be an appropriate functionof the government. The Communications Decency Act is an amendment whichprevents the information superhighway from becoming acomputer “red light district.” On June 14, 1995, by a voteof 84-16, the United States Senate passed the amendment. Itis now being brought through the House of Representatives.1The Internet is owned and operated by the government,which gives them the obligation to restrict the materialsavailable through it. Though it appears to have sprung upovernight, the inspiration of free-spirited hackers, it infact was born in Defense Department Cold War projects of the1950s.2 The United States Government owns the Internet andhas the responsibility to determine who uses it and how itis used. The government must control what information isaccessible from its agencies. This material is not lawfully available throughthe mail or over the telephone, there is no validreason these perverts should be allowed unimpededon the Internet. Since our initiative, theindustry has commendably advanced some blockingdevices, but they are not a substitute forwell-reasoned law.4Because the Internet has become one of the biggest sourcesof information in this world, legislative safeguards areimperative. The government gives citizens the privilege of usingthe Internet, but it has never given them the right to useit. They seem to rationalize that the framers of theconstitution planned & plotted at great length tomake certain that above all else, the profiteeringpornographer, the pervert and the pedophile mustbe free to practice their pursuits in the presenceof children on a taxpayer created and subsidizedcomputer network.3People like this are the ones in the wrong. Taxpayer’sdollars are being spent bringing obscene text and graphicsinto the homes of people all over the world. The government must take control to preventpornographers from using the Internet however they see fitbecause they are breaking laws that have existed for years. Cyberpunks, those most popularly associated with theInternet, are members of a rebellious society that arepolluting these networks with information containingpornography, racism, and other forms of explicitinformation. When they start rooting around for a crime, newcybercops are entering a pretty unfriendlyenvironment. Cyberspace, especially the Internet,is full of those who embrace a frontier culturethat is hostile to authority and fearful that anyintrusions of police or government will destroytheir self-regulating world.5The self-regulating environment desired by the cyberpunks isan opportunity to do whatever they want. The CommunicationsDecency Act is an attempt on part of the government tocontrol their “free attitude” displayed in homepages such as”Sex, Adult Pictures, X-Rated Porn”, “Hot Sleazy Pictures(Cum again + again)” and “sex, sex, sex. heck, it’s bettereven better than real sex”6. “What we are doing is simplymaking the same laws, held constitutional time and timeagain by the courts with regard to obscenity and indecencythrough the mail and telephones, applicable to theInternet.”7 To keep these kinds of pictures off homecomputers, the government must control information on theInternet, just as it controls obscenity through the mail oron the phone. Legislative regulations must be made to controlinformation on the Internet because the displaying ordistribution of obscene material is illegal. The courts have generally held that obscenity isillegal under all circumstances for all ages,while “indecency” is generally allowable toadults, but that laws protecting children fromthis “lesser” form are acceptable. It’s calledprotecting those among us who are children fromthe vagrancies of adults.8The constitution of the United States has set regulations todetermine what is categorized as obscenity and what is not.
In Miller vs. California, 413 U.S. at 24-25, thecourt announced its “Miller Test” and held, at 29,that its three part test constituted “concreteguidelines to isolate ‘hard core’ pornography fromexpression protected by the First Amendment.9By laws previously set by the government, obscenepornography should not be accessible on the Internet. The government must police the Internet because peopleare breaking laws. “Right now, cyberspace is like aneighborhood without a police department.”10 Currentlyanyone can put anything he wants on the Internet with nopenalties. “The Communications Decency Act gives lawenforcement new tools to prosecute those who would use acomputer to make the equivalent of obscene telephone calls,to prosecute ‘electronic stalkers’ who terrorize theirvictims, to clamp down on electronic distributors of obscenematerials, and to enhance the chances of prosecution ofthose who would provide pornography to children via acomputer.”The government must regulate the flow of information onthe Internet because some of the commercial blocking devicesused to filter this information are insufficient.”Cybercops especially worry that outlaws are now able to usepowerful cryptography to send and receive uncrackable secretcommunications and are also aided by anonymousre-mailers.”11 By using features like these it isimpossible to use blocking devices to stop children fromaccessing this information. Devices set up to detectspecified strings of characters will not filter those thatit cannot read. The government has to stop obscene materials from beingtransferred via the Internet because it violates lawsdealing with interstate commerce. It is not a valid argument that “consentingadults” should be allowed to use the computer BBSand “Internet” systems to receive whatever theywant. If the materials are obscene, the law canforbid the use of means and facilities ofinterstate commerce and common carriers to ship ordisseminate the obscenity.12When supplies and information are passed over state ornational boundaries, they are subject to the laws governinginterstate and intrastate commerce. When information ispassed between two computers, it is subjected to the samestandards. The government having the power to regulate theinformation being put on the Internet is a proper extensionof its powers. With an information based system such as theInternet there is bound to be material that is notappropriate for minors to see. In passing of an amendmentlike the Communications Decency Act, the government would begiven the power to regulate that material. BIBLIOGRAPHYBuerger, David. “Freedom of Speech Meets Internet Censors;Cisco Snubs IBM.” Network World. Dialog MagazineDatabase, 040477. 31 Oct. 1994, 82. Diamond, Edwin and Stephen Bates. “…And Then There WasUsenet.” American Heritage. Oct. 1995, 38. Diamond, Edwin and Stephen Bates. “The Ancient History ofthe Internet.” American Heritage. Oct. 1995, 34-45. Dyson, Esther. “Deluge of Opinions On The InformationHighway.” Computerworld. Dialog Magazine Database,035733. 28 Feb. 1994, 35. Exon, James J. “Defending Decency on the Internet.”Lincoln Journal. 31 July 1995, 6. Exon, James J. “Exon Decency Amendment Approved by Senate.”Jim Exon News. 14 June 1995. Exon, James J., and Dan Coats. Letter to United StatesSenators. 27 July 1995. Gaffin, Adam. “Are Firms Liable For Employee Net Postings?”Network World. Dialog Magazine Database, 042574. 20Feb. 1995, 8. Gibbs, Mark. “Congress ‘Crazies’ Want To Carve Up Telecom.”Network World. Dialog Magazine Database, 039436. 12Sept. 1994, 37. Horowitz, Mark. “Finding History On The Net.” AmericanHeritage. Oct. 1995, 38. Laberis, Bill. “The Price of Freedom.” Computerworld.Dialog Magazine Database, 036777. 25 Apr. 1994, 34. Messmer, Ellen. “Fighting for Justice On The New Frontier.”Network World. Dialog Magazine Database, 028048. 11Jan. 1993, S19.”Policing Cyberspace.” U.S. News & WorldReport. 23 Jan. 1995, 55-60. Messmer, Ellen. “Sen. Dole Backs New Internet AntipornBill.” Network World. Dialog Magazine Database,044829. 12 June 1995, 12. “Shifting Into The Fast Lane.” U.S. News & World Report.23 Jan. 1995, 52-53. Taylor, Bruce A. “Memorandum of Opinion In Support Of TheCommunications Decency Amendment.” National Law Centerfor Children & Families. 29 June 1995, 1-7. Turner, Bob. The Internet Filter. N.p.: TurnerInvestigations, Research and Communication, 1995. “WebCrawler Search Results.” Webcrawler. With the querywords magazines and sex. 13 Sept. 1995.