Gov Internet Intervention Essay, Research Paper
The Internet is a method of communication and a source ofinformation that is becoming more popular among those who are interestedin, and have the time to surf the information superhighway. The problemwith much information being accessible to this manypeople is that some of it is deemed inappropriate for minors. Thegovernment wants censorship, but a segment of the population does not.Within this examination of the topic of, Government Intervention of theInternet, I will attempt to express both side s of this issue. During the past decade, our society has become based solely on theability to move large amounts of information across large distancesquickly. Computerization has influenced everyone’s life. The naturalevolution of computers and this need for ultra-fas t communications hascaused a global network of interconnected computers to develop. Thisglobal net allows a person to send E-mail across the world in merefractions of a second, and enables even the common person to accessinformation worldwide. With th e advances with software that allows userswith a sound card to use the Internet as a carrier for long distance voicecalls and video conferencing, this network is the key to the future of theknowledge society. At present this net is the epitome of the F irstAmendment: freedom of speech. It is a place where people can speak theirmind without being reprimanded for what they say, or how they choose tosay it. Recently, Congress has been considering passing laws that willmake it a crime punishable by jail to send “vulgar” language over the net.The government wants to maintain control over this new form ofcommunication, and they are trying to use the protect ion of children as asmoke screen to pass laws that will allow them to regulate and censor theInternet, while banning techniques that could eliminate the need forregulation. Censorship of the Internet threatens to destroy its freelanceatmosphere, whilemethods such as encryption could help prevent the need for governmentintervention. The current body of laws existing today in America does not applywell to the Internet. Is the Internet like a bookstore, where serverscannot be expected to review every title? Well, according to an articlewritten by Michael Miller “Cybersex Shock.” Inthe October 10, 1995 issue of PC Magazine (p.75) “The Internet is muchmore like going into a book store and choosing to look at adultmagazines.” Although the Internet differs from other forms of media inthat one cannot just happen upon a vulgar site without first, eitherentering a complicated address following a link from another source, or byclicking on the agreement statement at the beginning of the siteacknowledging that one is of the legal age of 18. This lawless atmosphere bothered many people, one such person isNebraska Senator James Exon (D), who is one of the founding fathers of theTelecommunications Decency Act of 1996, Section 502, 47 U.S.C Section 223[a], which regulates ” any obscene or in decent material via the Internetto anyone under 18 years of age. Exon’s bill would also according to anarticle written by Steven Levy in an April 1995 issue of Newsweek magazine(p.53) “criminalize private mail,” Levy also stated emotional “I can callm y brother on the phone and say anything-but if I say it on the Internet,it’s illegal.” One thing that Congress seems to have overlooked in its pursuit ofregulations is that there are no clear bountries from information beingaccessed over the Internet from over countries. All it takes is a click ofa mouse to access, even if our governmen t tried to regulate informationaccessed from other countries, we would have no control over what isposted in those countries, and we would have no practical way to stop it.Today’s Internet works much like that of our own human brains, in that ifone ba rrier or option is taking your brain tries to find an alternateroute or option. Today’s Internet works on a similar design, if a majorline between two servers say in two countries, is cut, then the Internetusers will find another way around this obstac le. This process ofobstacle avoidance makes it virtually impossible to separate an entirenation from indecent information in other countries. If it were physicallypossible to isolate America’s computers from the rest of the world, in myopinion it woul d be devastating to our economy. In an article published In Time magazine, written by PhilipEmler-Dewitt titled “Censoring Cyberspace: Carnegie Mellon’s attempt toBan Sex from its Campus Computer Network Sends A Chill Along the InfoHighway.” Nov. 1994, (p.102) “Martin Rim put togethe r quite a largepicture collection (917,410 images) and he also tracked how often eachimage had been downloaded (a total of 6.4 million). A local court hadrecently declared pictures of similar content obscene, and the school feltthey might be held resp onsible for the content on its network. The schooladministration quickly removed access to all these pictures, and to thenewsgroups where this obscenity is suspected to come from. A total of 80newsgroups were removed, causing a large disturbance among the studentbody, the American civil Liberties Union, and the Electronic FrontierFoundation, all of whom felt this was unconstitutional. After only half aweek, the college had backed down, and restored the newsgroups.” This isonly a tiny example of wha t may happen if the government tries to imposecensorship. Regardless of what types of software or safeguards are used toprotect the children of the information age, there will always be waysaround them. As stated in an article printed in PC Magazine onOct. 10, 1995, written by Michael Miller on (p.76) titled “CybersexShock.” “When it comes to our children, censorship is a far less importantissue than good parenting. We must teach our kids that the Internet is anextension and reflection of the real world, and we have to show them howto enjoy the good things and avoid the bad things. This isn’t thegovernment’s responsibility. It’s ours.” Until the development of the Internet, the U.S. governmentcontrolled most of the new communication techniques. With the developmentof faster personal computers and the addition of the worldwide web, theyhad no control over the vast range of this styleof communication. To stop the spread of data the U.S. government hasimposed strict laws on the exportation. This is explained in an article byPhil Zimmerman entitled ” Pretty Good Privacy” found online at Ftp:net-dist.mit.edu “To send a encoded messag e to someone, a copy of thatperson’s ‘public’ key is needed. The sender uses this public key toencrypt the data, and the recipient uses their ‘private’ key to decode themessage.” As with any new technology, this program has allegedly been usedfor ille gal purposes, and the FBI and NSA are believed to be unable tocrack this code. Zimmerman’s reply to his knowledge of this rumor wasquoted in Steven Levy’s article published in the Apr. 1995 issue ofNewsweek titled “The Encryption Wars: Privacy Good or Bad?” (p.56) “If Ihad invented an automobile, and was told that criminals used it to robbanks, I would feel bad, too. But most people agree that the benefits tosociety that come from automobiles-taking the kids to school, groceryshopping and such-outw eigh their drawbacks.” As the Internet continues to grow throughout the world, moregovernments may try to impose their views onto the rest of the worldthrough regulations and censorship, It will be a sad day when the worldmust adjust its views to conform to that of the mostprudish regulatory government. If too many regulations are incited, thenthe Internet as a tool will become nearly useless, and the Internet as amass communication devise and a place for freedom of mind and thoughts,will become non existent. The govern ment should rethink its approach tothe censorship and the encryption issues, allowing the Internet tocontinue to grow and mature. The users, parents, and servers of the worldneed to regulate themselves, so, as not to push the government intoforcing th ese types of regulations on what might be the bestcommunication instrument in history.
Emler-Dewitt, Philip. “Censoring Cyberspace: Carnegie Mellon’s Attempt to Ban Sex from it’s Campus Computer Network Sends A Chill Along the Info Highway.” Time 21 Nov. 1994; 102-105.
Levy, Steven. “The Encryption Wars: is Privacy Good or Bad?” Newsweek Apr. 1995; 55-57.
Miller, Michael. “Cybersex Shock.” PC Magazine Oct. 10, 1995; 75-76
Zimmerman, Phil. (1995). Pretty Good Privacy v2.62, [Online]. Available Ftp: net-dist.mit.edu Directory: pub/pgp/dist File: 262dc.zip