Improving Cyberspace Essay Research Paper Improving Cyberspace

Improving Cyberspace Essay, Research Paper

Improving Cyberspace

Improving Cyberspace


Jason Crandall

Honors English III

Research Paper

26 February 1996

Thesis: Though governments cannot physically regulate the

Internet, cyberspace needs regulations to prevent

illegal activity, the destruction of morals, and child

access to pornography.

I. Introduction.

II. Illegal activity online costs America millions and hurts

our economy.

A. It is impossible for our government to physically

regulate cyberspace.

1. One government cannot regulate the Internet by


2. The basic design of the Internet prohibits


B. It is possible for America to censor the Internet.

1. All sites in America receive their address from

the government.

2. The government could destroy the address for

inappropriate material.

3. Existing federal laws regulate BBS’s from

inappropriate material.

III. Censoring the Internet would establish moral standards.

A. Pornography online is more harsh than any other


1. The material out there is highly perverse and


2. Some is not only illegal, but focuses on


B. Many industries face problems from illegal activity


1. Floods of copyrighted material are illegally

published online.

2. Innocent fans face problems for being good fans.

IV. Online pornography is easily and illegally accessible

to minors.

A. In Michigan, anyone can access anything in

cyberspace for free.

1. Mich-Net offers most of Michigan access with a

local call.

2. The new Communications Decency Act could

terminate Mich-net.

B. BBS’s offer callers access to adult material


1. Most BBS operators don’t require proof of age.

2. Calls to BBS’s are undetectable to a child’s


V. Conclusion.

“People don’t inadvertently tune into while driving to a

Sunday picnic with Aunt Gwendolyn” (Huber). For some reason, many people

believe this philosophy and therefore think the Internet and other online areas

should not be subject to censorship. The truth is, however, that computerized

networks like the Internet are in desperate need of regulations. People can say,

do, or create anything they wish, and as America has proved in the past, this

type of situation just doesn’t work. Though governments cannot physically

regulate the Internet, cyberspace needs regulations to prevent illegal activity,

the destruction of morals, and child access to pornography.

First, censoring the online community would ease the tension on the computer

software industry. Since the creation of the first computer networks, people

have been exchanging data back and forth, but eventually people stopped

transferring text, and started sending binaries, otherwise known as computer

programs. Users like the idea; why would someone buy two software packages when

they could buy one and trade for a copy of another with a friend? This

philosophy has cost the computer industry millions, and companies like Microsoft

have simply given up. Laws exist against exchanging computer software;

violators face up to a $200,000 fine and/or five years imprisonment, but these

laws are simply unenforced. Most businesses are violators as well. Software

companies require that every computer that uses one of their packages has a

separate license for that software purchased, yet companies rarely purchase

their required minimum. All these illegal copies cost computer companies

millions in profits, hurting the company, and eventually hurting the American


On the other hand, many people believe that the government cannot censor the

Internet. They argue that the Internet is an international network and that one

government should not have the power to censor another nation’s

telecommunications. For example, American censors can block violence on

American television, but they cannot touch Japanese television. The Internet is

open to all nations, and one nation cannot appoint itself police of the Internet.

Others argue that the design of the Internet prohibits censorship. A different

site runs every page on the Internet, and usually the location of the site is

undetectable. If censors cannot find the site, they can’t shut it down. Most

critics believe that America cannot possibly censor the Internet.

Indeed, the American government can censor the Internet. Currently, the National

Science Federation administers all internet addresses, such as web addresses.

The organization could employ censors, who would check every American site

monthly. Any site the censors find with illegal material could immediately lose

their address, thus shutting down the site. Some might complain about cost, but

if the government raised the annual price to hold an address from a modest $50

to say $500, they could easily afford to pay for the censors. This would not

present a problem, because mostly businesses own addresses; it would not effect

use by normal people. For example, is the address for Microsoft,

but addresses like just do not exist.Bulletin Board Systems (BBS’s)

are another computer media in need of censorship. Like the Internet, some spots

contain hard core pornography, yet some have good content. Operators usually

orient their BBS’s for the local community, but some operators open their system

to users across the world. The government can shut down a BBS if it transfers

illegal material across a state border according to federal law. As a postal

worker in Tennessee showed, shutting down a BBS with illegal pornography is an

easy process. When he called a BBS in California and found illegal child

pornography, he called his local police. Two days later the police had closed

the BBS and Robert Thomas was awaiting prosecuting in a Tennessee jail (Elmer-

Dewitt). If the government were to employ censors like that postal worker,

thousands of BBS’s transmitting illegal material across state borders could be

shut down immediately.

Secondly, censoring cyberspace would help establish moral standards. According

to a local survey, 83% of adults online have downloaded pornographic material

from a BBS. 47% of minors online have downloaded pornographic material from a

local BBS (Crandall). In another world wide survey, only 22% of 571 responders

thought the Internet needed regulation to prevent minors from obtaining adult

material (C|Net). Obviously, something is wrong with America’s morals. A child

cannot walk into a video store and walk out with X-rated movies. A minor cannot

walk out of a bookstore with a copy of Playboy. Why can children sit in the

privacy of their home and look at pornographic material and we do nothing about

it? It is time America does something to establish moral standards.

Certainly, people accepted the fact that pornography exists many years ago. In

addition, however, they set limits as to how far pornography could go, yet

cyberspace somehow snuck past these limits. Just after the vote on the Exon

bill, Senator Exon said “I knew it was bad, but when I got out of there, it made

Playboy and Hustler look like Sunday-School stuff” (Elmer-Dewitt). He was

talking about the folder of images from the Internet he received to show the

Senate just before the vote. An hour later, the vote had passed 84 to 16.

Demand drives the market, it focuses on images people can’t find in a magazine

or video. Images of “pedophilia (nude photos of children), hebephilia (youths)

and what experts call paraphilia — a grab bag of ‘deviant’ material that

includes images of bondage, sadomasochism, urination, defecation, and sex acts

with a barnyard full of animals” (Elmer-Dewitt) floods cyberspace. Some wonder

how much of this is available, a Carnegie Mellon study released last June showed

that the Internet transmitted 917,410 sexually explicit pictures, films, or

short stories over the 18 months of the study. Over 83% of all pictures posted

on USENET, the public message center of the Internet, were pornographic (Elmer-

Dewitt). What happened to our Information Superhighway, is this what we are

fighting to put into our schools?

Furthermore, illegal material other than pornography is making its way online.

When companies such as Paramount and FOX realized they were loosing money

because they were not online, they took action. They realized that people make

money online just like they do on television. Several people make fan pages

with sound and video clips of their favorite television programs. When

companies heard of this, they wanted to do it themselves, and sell advertising

positions on their pages like with television. Now these companies are pushing

for court orders to shut down these fan pages due to copyright infringement

(Heyman 78). If someone censored these pages for copyrighted material in the

first place, neither the company nor the owner of the page would waste time and

money in these legal matters. Now, the company can sue the owner of the page

for copyright infringement. All this because some Star Trek fan wanted to share

some sound clips with other fans.

Most important, online pornography is easily accessible to minors. What are

parents to do, usually it is the child in the family who is computer literate.

If the child was accessing pornographic material with computers, odds are the

parents would never know. Even if the parents are computer literate, children

can find it, even without looking for it. When 10 year old Anders Urmachen of

New York City hangs out with other kids in America On Line’s Treehouse chat room,

he has good clean fun. One day, however, when he received a message in e-mail

with a file and instructions on how to download it, he did. When he opened the

file, 10 clips of couples engaged in heterosexual intercourse appeared on the

screen. He called his mother who said, “I was not aware this stuff was online,

children should not be subject to these images” (Elmer-Dewitt). Poor Anders

Urmachen didn’t go looking for pornography, it snuck up on him, and as long as

America allows it to happen, parents are going to have to accept the chance that

their children may run into that stuff.

In addition, for several years the people of Michigan have enjoyed access to the

Internet through the state funded program called Mich-Net. The program offers

the public free access to the Internet, along with schools throughout the state.

On the other hand, the Mich-Net program has one flaw. The program gives

anonymity, allowing anyone, of any age, to access anything on the Internet.

According to the new Communications Decency Act, which Clinton signed into law

February 8, 1996, the government could terminate the entire Mich-Net program

because a minor can access pornography through it. This would be a huge loss to

the state of Michigan and it’s schools. If we were to censor the Internet,

minors wouldn’t be able to access the material, and the program would have no


Furthermore, BBS’s offer minors adult material at no cost. While some BBS’s that

only offer adult material to adults, others make access very simple. Some

simply say “Type YES if you are over 18.” This is simply unexplainable and

unacceptable. Others require a photo copy of a driver license showing the user

is over 18, and other operators even require meeting their users. If all it

takes to access adult material is hitting three keys, what is stopping children

from it. Most young children do not have the ability to decide where they

should go and where they should not. If it is available, they are going to want

to see what it is. To extend the problem further, these BBS’s are usually

undetectable to a child’s parents. Most BBS’s are local phone calls, and are

free; the parents will never know if the child is accessing it. For example,

the Muskegon area has about 15 BBS’s running 24 hours daily. Of these 15, about

five operators devote their BBS to adult material. Of these five, only one BBS

requires that the user meet the operator before receiving access, while three of

the boards simply ask for a photo copy of a drivers license. But that last one

has no security whatsoever, and anyone can access anything. None of the five

boards charge for access. This is simply unacceptable, we cannot let children

access adult material in this manner.

Every day thousands of children tune into sex in cyberspace. We do not subject

our children to sex on television or other medias, and even if we do, parents

have ways to block it. Yet we allowed computers to slip through the grips of

parents. Censoring the online community will also strengthen the computer

industry and eventually our economy. The longer we wait, the more we hurt

ourselves; let’s regulate cyberspace before it is too late.

Works Cited

C|Net. Survey Internet: 29 July 1995. Crandall, Jason. Survey Muskegon,

Michigan: 29 Jan. 1996. Elmer-Dewitt, Philip. “On a Screen Near You:

Cyberporn.” Time

3 July 1995: Proquest. Heyman, Karen. “War on the Web.” Net Guide Feb. 1996:

76-80. Huber, Peter. “Electronic Smut.” Forbes 31 July 1995: 110.



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