Censoring Internet Essay Research Paper

Censoring Internet Essay, Research Paper

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 they can monitor

their activities (Gates). 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 with respect to these issues

(Gates). Laws intended for other types of communication will not necessarily

apply in this group. Through all the components of the Internet it becomes easy

to transfer material that particular governments might find objectionably.

However, all of these ways of communicating on the Internet make up a large and

vast system. For inspectors to monitor every e-mail, every article in every

Newsgroup, every webpage, every IRC channel, every Gopher site, and every FTP

site would be near impossible. Besides taking as extraordinary amount of time

and money, attempts to censor the Internet violate freedom of speech, a right

that is included in democratic constitutions and international laws (Silencing

the Net?). It would be a breach 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 asse3mble, and to petition the government for a redress

of grievances" (Constitution). Therefore it would be unconstitutional for

any sort of censorship to occur on the Internet. Even though it is illegal,

restrictions on Internet access and content are increasing worldwide under all

forms of government. In France, a country where the press generally has a large

amount of freedom, the Internet has been in the spotlight. A banned book on the

health History of former French president Francois Mitterrand was republished

electronically on the World Wide Web (www). To enforce censorship of the

Internet, free societies find that they are becoming more closed, and closed

societies find new ways to crush political expression and opposition (Silencing

the Net?). Vice President Al Gore, while at an international conference in

Brussels about the Internet, said that "Cyberspace is about protecting and

enlarging freedom of expression for all our citizens? Ideas should not be

checked at the border."(McCullagh) Another person attending that conference

was Ann Breeson of the American Civil Liberties Union. She is quoted as saying,

"Our big victory at Brussels was that we pressured them enough so that Al

Gore in his keynote address made a big point of stressing the importance of free

speech on the Internet."(McCullagh) Many other organizations have fought

against laws and have succeeded. A prime 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 no be compromised by the CDA. Just the range of plantiffs alone

shows the dedication that is felt by many different people and groups to the

cause of tree speech on the Internet (Silberman). "Words like *censored*,

*censored*, piss, and tits. Words of which our mothers (at least some of them)

would no doubt disapprove, but which by no means would be regulated by the

government. Bet it’s not just about dirty words. It’s also it’s also about words

like AIDS, gay, and breasts. It’s about sexual content, and politically

controversial topics like drug addiction, euthanasia, and racism" (Irwin).

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 like other things can 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 cannot be

enforced in another country and this is true with the Internet because the

Internet has no borders. Although North America has the largest share of

servers, the Internet is still a worldwide network. This means that domestic

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

easy for an American teenager to download pornographic material from 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 call 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 (Sterling). This was intended to be similar to the 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 its 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

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 determine the sex and/or age just from the

communication of this type. Then if the person 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 age. A

thirteen-year-old boy in Slovakia could decide that he wants to download

pornography from an adult site in the U.S. The site may have warnings and age

restrictions but they have no way of stopping him form receiving their material

if he says he is nineteen years old when asked. The complexity in the way

information is passed around the Internet means that if it has been posted,

deleting this material becomes almost impossible. A good example of this is the

junk mail that people refer to as spam. These include e-mails advertising

products or usenet articles that are open for flames. Flames are heated letters

that many times have no meaning behind them. These seem to float around for ages

before dying out because they are perfect material for flamewars. Flamewars are

long, drawn out and highly heated discussions consisting of lames, which often

time are obscene, slander one’s reputation. Mostly these are immature arguments

that are totally pointless except to those involved The millions of people that

participate on the Internet everyday have access to almost all of the data

present. Also, it becomes easy to copy something that exists on the Internet

with just a mere click of a button. The relative ease of copying stuff means

that 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 ftp.cdrom.com, www.archive.org, and

wuarchive.wustl.edu. It becomes hard to censor material that might be copied

two, three or more times in a matter of minutes. An example could be the hacking

of the U.S. Department of Justice’s homepage and the hacking of the Central

Intelligence Agency’s homepage. Someone illegally obtained access to the

computer on which these homepages were stored and modified them. It was done as

a prank; however, both of these agencies have since shut down their pages. 2600,

a magazine devoted to hacking, has republished the hacked DoJ and CIA homepages

on their website. The magazine either copied the data straight from the hacked

sites or the hacked site was submitted to the magazine. Whichever is true, is

shows how easy it is for data to be copied and distributed, as well as how

difficult it would be to prevent material deemed inappropriate from appearing

where it should not. The Internet is much too complex a network for censorship

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

communication happens. Existing laws are not applicable. The lack of definite

boundaries causes confusion as to where violations of law take place. The

Internet is made up of nameless interaction and anonymous communication. The

intricacy of the Internet makes it damn near impossible to delete data that has

been publicized. No country should be allowed to, or even could, regulate or

censor the Internet.

Bradford, Bryan and Mark Krumhoz. "Telecommunications and Decency: Big

Brother Goes Digital." Suncom Incorporated. June 3, 1998. Gates, Bill.

"Searching for Middle Ground in Online Censorship." Microsoft

Corporation. June 3, 1998. Irwin, Heather. "Geeks Take to the Street."

Hotwired.com. June 2, 1998. McCullagh, Declan. "Plague of Freedom."

Internet Underground. June 3, 1998. Silberman, Steve. "Defending the First

Amendment." Hotwired.com. June 2, 1998. "Silencing the Net-The Threat

to Freedom of Expression Online." Human Rights Watch. May 1996. Sterling,

Bruce. "Short History of the Internet." The Magazine of Fantasy and

Science Fiction. September 1997.


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