Giving Up Freedom Of Speech — Censorship On Hate Sites Essay, Research Paper
The Internet is the largest and most accessible form of mass media available today. It allows anyone with a few simple tools to consume, and produce, information and ideas to millions of people at a practically non-existent cost; however, with the Internet growing at such a fast pace, controversies are arising because of varied types of speech can be easily distributed to children. And the most debatable issue is the banning of speech, which are often found offensive to minority and women, advocated on the hate sites. The supporters of pro-banning hate sites suggest that the government of the United States should regulate the existence of hate sites, and if necessary, have to completely ban on all hate sites. Yet, numerous factors indicate censorship of this force is not possible, and not the government’s place. It should be left up to the users to decide what is broadcast. Most importantly, censorship of the Internet impairs the expression of ideas and infringes against the First Amendment of the Constitution.
First of all, censoring the Internet as a whole is not possible since the setting standard of hate site is indefinable. Cyberspace is the most decentralized form of communication today making policing the Internet a virtually futile task. Unlike television or radio, “the Internet consists thousands of individual computers and networks, with million of speakers, information providers and information users, and no centralized distribution point”(ACLU vs. Reno Brief, 1). No guards watch to see who goes where and if that place is appropriate. The Internet has grown to be a global network. Just because one country deems something inappropriate does not mean that another will comply with the decision and follow the ruling. If posting anti-communism speech was banned in China, for example, someone in Switzerland could post those speeches and the Chinese would have access to every single word of speech. Another example, this being completely factual, occurred in Ontario concerning the Karla Homolka/Paul Bernado trial. The courts decided that in order not to influence the jurors outside of the courtroom that a gag order would be put on media coverage of the trial. Conventional media complied, but an Internet site appeared. ” This was in turn shut down by the police, but still another appeared”(Censorship and the Internet, 1). There exists today no way of effectively tracking and determining form where a bulletin was posted, especially with the automatic dialing and encryption technology available. Thus even trying to censor the Internet as a whole would be only an exercise in futility.
Nevertheless, some pro-banning activists argue that hate sites are those which distributed believes of hatred toward minority and women and can be easily distinguished morally; however, as Oliver Wendell Holmes, a former Supreme Court justice, suggested, “To curtail free expression strikes twice at intellectual freedom, for whoever deprives another of the right to state unpopular views also deprives others of the right to listen to those view”(Censorship and the U.S. Government, 1). Yes, some views or ideas may not be seen as popular and acceptable in this time just like the woman’s right movement in the 70’s – it was an anti-traditional family value idea to many people in that decade; however, this unpopular view opened many individuals’ windows of mind and is rather be honorable and acceptable in the modern days. If regulation for hate sites is established, it might be seem good in the short run, but in the long run, such regulation maybe used to oppress minority and others. The example of hate-speech laws in Florida was invoked against a black man who called a policeman a “white cracker” tells the potential of such regulation – “not surprisingly the victim was white and the defendant black”(Rauch, 453). In order to give people full access to their right for freedom of speech, in order to give equal protection to everyone, regulation on this fundamental right is not needed.
Banning hate sites would eliminate the right for freedom of speech and would give the government more power-and that is dangerous. Most importantly censorship “refers to the suppression of information, ideas, or artistic expression by anyone whether government officials, church authorities, private pressure groups, or speakers, writers, and artists themselves” (Censorship, 1). In the United States, the most favorable amendment-the First Amendment-guarantees the right to express oneself, essentially the freedom of speech. If the hatred speech is protected in the public under the First Amendment, there should not be an exception in other situation-the Internet-at all. In the early twentieth century, Jewish, a minority in Nazi Germany, had almost come to its extinction because of the Holocaust-a horrible hatred supported by the government. If there were some counter speech allowed in Nazi Germany, would most of the German at that time have been cold-blooded enough to murder six millions innocent Jews? Apparently not in the case if the freedom of speech was guaranteed. As one can conclude, giving up one of the right, even partial of it, would lead to a horrible disaster. Even in the modern world, one can easily see the great distinction – suppression of the freedom of speech, between a democratic country – the United States, and a country with dictatorship – China. In China, the government regulates and controls all the media sources – even the Internet which has “the potential to extend free speech like never before”(http://www.netfreedom.org/racism/index2.html). Any information that will not support the view of the government will be banned and classified as inappropriate speech. The people in China, without the right for freedom of speech, hardly, ever know the true sides of the international news. They are living in a deceptive, filtered world – a world which is only told from the mouth of the government, because of the elimination on the right for freedom of speech. The Americans, proud enough, live in a country that guarantees everyone’s freedom of speech. With the right for freedom of speech, people can hear everyone’s voice and opinion therefore he/she can choose the rightful belief. Hate literature and such has just as much of a right to be posted on the Internet as does the book of Genesis. If Neo-Nazis do not have the right to express themselves, then others have no right to express themselves too. If the Americans lose the First Amendment – the freedom of speech, what will follow?
Banning hate sites will never eliminate one’s hatred toward another; instead, “the appropriate response to speech with which one disagrees in a free society is not censor ship but counter speech – more speech, not less.”(Strossen, 465). Many individuals assume that the supporters of the anti-banning hate sites, also, support hatred toward others-this is not true. Supporting anti-banning of hate sites “does not mean that (people) endorse the views it expresses. It is because (they) believe people are quite capable of making up their own mind about what they read or see on the Net”(http://www.netfreedom.org/racism/index2.html). With the guarantee of the First Amendment, “(it) puts a premium on the decision-making ability of each of (individuals) to weigh up all the arguments and draw (their) own conclusion” (http://www.netfreedom.org/racism/index2.html). Yes, hate literature and hate sites do exist on the Internet, but they are insignificant to the legitimate applications of the Internet. Some material may be offensive to one, but may be quite valuable to another. As Holmes suggested, “Every idea is an incitement”(Strossen, 466). By allowing more varied types of speech advocated on the Internet, at least, people have a chance to hear stories of both sides and therefore realize the fallacy.
As one can see, banning hate sites is driven by the fear of the unknown. The unknown, in question, may or may not be beneficial. Still, people have no right to suppress the expression of such ideas. Foul language and hatred speech do exist on the hate sites which are not popular on the Internet, and yes, people are exposed to this; however, the government forbidding the viewing of this information by anyone is a direct violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution. Censorship on all hate sites on the Internet is not possible and often led to latter disadvantage for minority. In addition, support of anti-banning hate sites is to protect the existence of the First Amendment but not necessary support the belief held in the hate sites. A concerned reader should e-mail his/her Congressperson, expressing his/her views, join Internet discussions on this topic, or become more aware of the danger of Internet censorship faced by the citizen of this country and the world. “Persuasion, not coercion, is the solution”(Strossen, 465) for speech advocated with hatred on the Internet today.
ACLU vs. Reno Brief 2/15/1997 http://www.aclu.org/court/cdacom2.html 2/15/1997
“Censorship.” New Grolier Electronic Encyclopedia 1991; Grolier electronic publishing, Inc. 2/15/1997
Censorship and the Internet http://cmns-web.com.stu.ca/cmns353/96-l/dksershaw. 2/15/1997
Censorship and the U.S. Government http://www.arlut.utexas.edu/ guass/censorship.html 2/15/1997
Internet Freedom http://www.netfreedom.org/racism/index2.html 3/06/2000
Rauch, Jonathan. “In Defense of Prejudice.” Left, Right and Center. New York: St. Martin’s Prese. 1996. 444-455
Strosse, Nadine. “Sexual Speech and the Law.” Left, Right and Center. New York: St. Martin’s Prese. 1996. 462-471