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Internet Censorship Essay Research Paper Internet Censorship

Internet Censorship Essay, Research Paper Internet Censorship For centuries governments have tried to regular materials deemed inappropriate or offensive. The history of western censorship was said to have

Internet Censorship Essay, Research Paper

Internet Censorship

For centuries governments have tried to regular materials deemed

inappropriate or offensive. The history of western censorship was said to have

begun when Socrates was accused “firstly, of denying the gods recognized by the

State and introducing new divinities, and secondly of corrupting the young.” He

was sentenced to death for these crimes. Many modern governments are attempting

to control access to the Internet. They are passing regulations that restrict

the freedom people once took for granted.

The Internet is a world wide network that should not be regulated or

censored by any on country. It is a complex and limitless network which allows

boundless possibilities and would be effected negatively by the regulations and

censorship that some countries are intent on establishing. Laws that are meant

for other types of communication will not necessarily apply in this medium.

There are no physical locations where communications take place, making it

difficult to determine where violations of the law should be prosecuted. There

is anonymity on the Internet and so ages and identities are not known this makes

it hard to determine if illegal activities are taking place in regards to people

under the legal age. As well, it is difficult to completely delete speech once

it has been posted, Meaning that distributing materials that are obscene are

banned becomes easy

The American Library Association (ALA) has a definition that states

censorship is ?the change in the access status of material, made by a governing

authority or its representatives. Such changes include: exclusion, restriction,

remove, or age/grade level changes.? This definition, however, has a flaw in

that it only recognizes one form of censorship-governmental censorship.

Cyberspace, a common name for the Net, has been defined by one author as

being “made up of millions of people who communicate with one another through

computers. It is also “information stored on millions of computers worldwide,

accessible to others through telephone lines and other communication channels

“that” make up what is known as cyberspace.” The same author went on to say ”

term itself is elusive, since it is not so much a physical entity as a

description of an intangible.”

The complexity of the Internet is demonstrated through its many

components. The most readily identifiable part is the World Wide Web (WWW).

This consists of web pages that can be accessed through the use of a web browser.

Web pages are created using a basic programming language. Another easily

identified section of the Internet is e-mail. Once again it is a relatively

user-friendly communication device. Some other less publicized sections of the

Internet include: Internet Relay Chat (IRC), which allows real time chatting to

occur among thousands of people, Gopher, which works similarly to the WWW but

for a more academic purpose, and File Transfer Protocol (FTP), Which allows the

transfer of files from one computer to another. Another service that is not

Internet but is carried along with it in many instances is Usenet or News. In

Usenet there are many newsgroups which center their conversations on varied

topics. For example, rec.music.beatles would focus the discussion on the

Beetles. This would be done through posts or articles, almost like letters sent

into a large pot where everyone can read and reply. Many controversial

newsgroups exist and they are created easily. It is possible to transfer

obscene and pornographic material through these newsgroups. There is no

accurate way to determine how many people are connected to the Internet because

the number grows so rapidly everyday. Figures become obsolete before they can

be published. “[The Internet] started as a military strategy and, over thirty

years later, has evolved into the massive networking of over 3 million computers

worldwide?. One of the most prominent features of the young Internet was it had

freedom. It is ? a rate example of a true, modern, functional anarchy…there

are no official censors, no bosses, no board of directors, no stockholders”. It

is an open forum where the only thing holding anyone back is a conscience. The

Internet has “no central authority” and therefore it makes it difficult to be

censored. As a result of these and more, the Internet offers potential for a

true democracy.

The freedom of speech that was possible on the Internet could now be

subjected to governmental approvals. For example, China is attempting to

restrict political expression, in the name of security and social stability. It

requires users of the Internet and e-mail to register, so that it may monitor

their activities. In the United Kingdom, state secrets and personal attacks are

off limits on the Internet. Laws are strict and the government is extremely

interested in regulating the Internet especially these issues. Laws intended

for other types of communication will not necessarily apply in this medium.

Through all the components of the Internet it becomes easy to transfer material

that particular governments might find objectionable. However, all of these

ways of communicating on the Internet make up a large and vast system. For

inspectors to monitor every E-mail, Webpage, IRC channel, Gopher site,

Newsgroups, and FTP site would be near impossible. This attempt to censor the

Internet would violate the freedom of speech rights that are included in

democratic constitutions and international laws. It would be a violation of the

First Amendment. The Constitution of the United States of America declares that

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,

or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of

speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to

assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”

Therefore it would be unconstitutional for any sort of censorship to occur on

the Internet and affiliated services. Despite the of being illegal restrictions

on Internet access and content are increasing world-wide under all forms of

government. In France, a country where the press generally have a large amount

of freedom, the Internet has recently been in the spotlight.

“To enforce censorship of the Internet, free societies find that they

become more repressive and closed societies find new ways to crush political

expression and opposition? Vice-President Al Gore, while at an international

conference in Brussels about the Internet, in a keynote address said that

“[Cyberspace] is about protecting and enlarging freedom of expression for all

our citizens…Ideas should not be checked at the border? Another person

attending that conference was Ann Breeson of the American Civil Liberties Union,

an organization dedicated to preserving many things including free speech. She

is quoted as saying “Our big victory at Brussels was that we pressured them

enough so that Al Gore in his keynote address make a big point of stressing the

importance of free speech on the Internet.” Many other organizations have

fought against laws and have succeeded. A good example of this is the fight

that various groups put on against the recent Communication Decency Act (CDA) of

the U.S. Senate. The Citizens Internet Empowerment Coalition on February

26,1996 filed a historic lawsuit in Philadelphia against the U.S. Department of

Justice and Attorney General Janet Reno to make certain that the First Amendment

of the U.S.A. would not be compromised by the CDA. The plaintiffs alone,

including American Booksellers Association, the Freedom to Read Foundation,

Apple, Microsoft, America Online, the Society of Professional Journalists, the

Commercial Internet eXchange Association, Wired, and HotWired, along with

thousands of netizens (citizens of the Internet) shows the dedication that is

felt by many different people and groups to the cause of free speech on the

Internet.

Just recently in France, a high court has struck down a bill that

promoted the censorship of the Internet. Other countries have attempted similar

moves. The Internet cannot be regulated in the way of other mediums simply

because it is not the same as anything else that we have. It is a totally new

and unique form of communication and deserves to be given a chance to prove

itself. Laws of one country and this is applicable to the Internet because

there are no borders.

Although North American (mainly the U.S.A.) has the largest share of

servers, the Internet is still a world-wide network. This means that domestic

regulations can not oversee the rules of foreign countries. It would be just as

easy for an American teen to download (receive) pornographic material form

England, as it would be from down the street. One of the major problems is the

lack of physical boundaries, making it difficult to determine where violations

of the law should be prosecuted. There is no one place through which all

information passes. That was one of the key points that was stressed during the

original days of the Internet, then called ARPANET. It started out as a defense

project that would allow communication in the event of an emergency such as

nuclear attack. Without a central authority, information would pass around

until it got where it was going. Something like a road system. It is not

necessary to take any specific route, but rather anyone goes. In the same way

the information on the Internet starts out and eventually gets to it’s

destination.

The Internet is full of anonymity. Since text is the standard form of

communication on the Internet it becomes difficult to determine the identity

and/or age of a specific person. Nothing is known for certain about a person

accessing content. There are no signatures or photo-ids on the Internet

therefore it is difficult to certify that illegal activities (regarding minors

accessing restricted data) are taking place. Take for example a conversation on

IRC. Two people could be talking to one another, but all that they see is text.

It would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to know for certain the

gender and/or age just from communication like this. Then if the

conversationalist lies about any points mentioned above it would be extremely

difficult to know or prove otherwise. In this way governments could not

restrict access to certain sites on the basis of ages. A thirteen year old boy

in British Columbia could decide that he wanted to download pornography from an

adult site in the U.S. The sire may have warnings and age restrictions but they

have no way of stopping him from receiving their material if he says he is 19

years old when prompted. The complexity in the way information is passed around

the Internet means that if information has been posted, deleting this material

becomes almost impossible. The millions of people that participate on the

Internet everyday have access to almost all of the data present. As well it

becomes easy to copy something that exists no the Internet with only a click of

a button. The relative ease of copying data means the second information is

posted to the Internet it may be archived somewhere else. There are in fact

many sites on the Internet that are devoted to the archiving of information

including: Walnut Creek’s cdrom.com, which archives an incredible amount of

software among others, The Internet Archive-www.archive.org, which is working

towards archiving as much of the WWW as possible, and The Washington University

Data Archive, Which is dedicated towards archiving software, publications, and

many other types of data. It becomes hard to censor material that might be

duplicated or triplicated within a matter of minutes.

The Internet is much too complex of a network for censorship to

effectively occur. It is a totally new and unique environment in which

communications take place. Existing laws are not applicable to this medium.

The lack of touchable boundaries cause confusion as to where violations of law

take place. The Internet is made up of nameless interaction and anonymous

communication. The complexity of the Internet makes it near impossible to

delete data that has been publicized. No one country should be allowed to, or

could, regulate or Censor the Internet

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