Thesis: Government Censorship would damage the atmosphere of the freedom to express ideas onthe Internet; therefore, government should not encourage censorship.
Introduction I. In the Internet community, there is a large volume of technical terms. For this reason, it is firstnecessary to examine the terminology specific to Internet.
1.The internet is a world wide computer network. 1.Electronic mail (email), which is one component of the Internet, approximates person to person letters, memoranda, notes and even phone calls. 2.Another term that is often used is electronic news (enews/Usenet), enews is a broadcast, free to the Internet medium. 3.
The term FTP is also frequently used. File transfer protocol (FTP) started as an Internet archival and retrieval medium, somewhat analogous to traditional libraries. 4.The world-wide web (WWW), which is another component of the Net, can be used to “publish” material that would traditionally appear in journals, magazines, posters, books, television and even on film. 2.It is also essential to give a brief history on the internet. 3.The U.
S. government is now trying to pass bills to prevent misuse of the Net. II. In order to understand the need for the ever-growing body of legislation, it is important toexplore the controversy, and the current problems involved with the Net as it exists must beintroduced.
1.The problem that concerns most people is offensive materials such as pornography. 2.Another crucial internet crime is the stealing of credit card numbers. III. One reaction to this inapplicability has been the “Censor the Net” approach (the censorshipbill), we are now to compare its advantages and disadvantages. 1.
First, the meaning of “Censoring the Net” must be explained. 2.However, many experts have pointed out that government censorship is not possible. 1.First, it is not fair to exclude the freedom and damage the atmosphere of freely expressing ideas just for the safety of children. 2.Most internet users are enjoying their freedom of speech on the Net, which is supposed to be protected by our First Amendment.
3.Additionally, only a very small portion of the Net contains offensive material, most people do not use the Net for pornography. 4.It must be understood that censoring the Net is technically impossible. 5.While people are concerned about Internet pornography, it should be recognized that pornography is sometimes legal; for example, pornography is legal in video and magazines. IV. There are many alternative measures to government censorship which would prevent misuse ofthe Net and would have the same effects as censorship.
1.It is very important for parents to provide moral guidance for their children, and parentsshould have this responsibility. 2.However, at the same time as we carry out moral guidance, we have to come out with someshort term approaches to solve the problem in a more efficient way as well.
3.An alternative to government censorship is the technological fix, which would preventmisuse of the Net and would have the same effects as government censorship. 1.One example of technological fix is the “SurfWatch” software. 2.Also, commercial Internet service providers, such as “America Online”, allow parents to control what Internet relay chat (IRC) sessions are available to their children. 3.
Another technological fix is for parents and guardians to have a separate “proxy server” for their children’s web browser. 4.There are no computer programs to automatically and reliably classify material; only peoplecan do it. As a result, while practicing technological fixes, the classification of the contents ofthe material when posting is very important. 5.
Nowadays, most internet users classify their postings with standard categories, and leavesignatures at the end of postings. 6.The combination of the installation of censoring software and the classification of materials isa much better solution than government censorship. Conclusion BibliographyThe Internet is a wonderful place of entertainment and education but like all places used by millionsof people, it has some murky corners people would prefer children not to explore. In the physicalworld society as a whole conspires to protect children, but there are no social or physicalconstraints to Internet surfing. The Internet Censorship Bill of 1995, also known as the Exon/Coats Communications DecencyAct, has been introduced in the U.S. Congress.
It would make it a criminal offense to makeavailable to children anything that is indecent, or to send anything indecent with “intent to annoy,abuse, threaten, or harass” (“Stop the Communications …” n.p.
). The goal of this bill as written(though not as stated by its proponents) is to try to make all public discourse on the Internetsuitable for young children. The issue of whether is it necessary to have censorship on the Internetis being argued all over the world. There are numerous homepages on the World Wide Webdiscussing this issue, or asking people to sign the petition to stop government censorship. The Internet was originally a place for people to freely express their ideas worldwide. It is also oneof America’s most valuable types of technology; scientists use email for quick and easycommunication. They post their current scientific discoveries on the Usenet newsgroups so otherscientists in the same field of study all over the world can know in minutes.
Ordinary people usethe Net for communication, expressing their opinions in the newsgroups, obtaining up-to-dateinformation from the WWW, acquiring files by using FTP, etc. Censorship would damage theatmosphere of the freedom to express ideas on the Internet; therefore, government should notencourage censorship. In the Internet community, there is a large volume of technical terms.
For this reason, it is firstnecessary to examine the terminology specific to Internet. The Internet is a world wide computernetwork. The “Net” is frequently used in place of Internet. In the words of Allison and Baxter, twoexperts on Internet Censorship at the Monash University, “the Internet is comprised of variousdigital media subsuming many of the distinct roles of traditional media” (Allison and Baxter 3). Electronic mail (email), which is one component of the Internet, approximates person to personletters, memoranda, notes and even phone calls. Sound and pictures are sometimes sent along withtext. Email is mainly for private communication.
Electronic mailing lists are rather like clubnewsletters and readers have to contract-in or subscribe to a list. Another term that is often used is electronic news (enews/Usenet), enews is a broadcast, free tothe Internet medium. It has some properties of radio or television, particularly talk-back radio ortelevision, in that the destination is indiscriminate. The term FTP is also frequently used. File transfer protocol (FTP) started as an Internet archivaland retrieval medium, somewhat analogous to traditional libraries. Files can be retrieved fromdistant computers using a traditional text-based interface. The world-wide web (WWW), which is another component of the Net, can be used to “publish”material that would traditionally appear in journals, magazines, posters, books, television and evenon film.
The term UNIX, “a widely heard computer term, is a multi-user, multitasking operatingsystem originally developed by Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie, at AT&T Bell Laboratories, in1969 for use on minicomputers” (“UNIX” n.p.).
To understand the background of the controversy, it is also necessary to give a brief history on theInternet. The Internet was created about twenty years ago in an attempt to connect a U.S. DefenseDepartment network called the ARPAnet and various other radio and satellite networks.
TheARPAnet was an experimental network designed to support military research; in particular,research about how to build networks that could withstand partial outages (such as bomb attacks)and still function. At about the same time the Internet was coming into being, Ethernet local areanetworks (“LANs”) were developed. Most of these workstations came with Berkeley UNIX,which included IP (Internet Protocol) networking software. This created a new demand: ratherthan connecting to a single large timesharing computer per site, organizations wanted to connectthe ARPAnet to their entire local network. The demand keeps growing today.
Now that mostfour-year colleges are connected to the Net, people are trying to get secondary and primaryschools connected. People who have graduated from college where they have used the resourcesof the Net in classes, know what the Internet is good for, and talk their employers into connectingdifferent corporations. All this activity points to continued growth, networking problems to solve,evolving technologies, and job security for networkers (Willmott 107). The Internet can also be compared to a church. In many ways the Internet is like a church: it has itscouncil of elders, every member has an opinion about how things should work, and they can eithertake part or not. It’s the choice of the user. The Internet has no president, chief operating officer,or Pope. The constituent networks may have presidents and CEO’s, but that’s a different issue;there is no single authority figure for the Internet as a whole.
As stated by Frances Hentoff, thestaff writer for The Village Voice and the author of First Freedoms, “on an info superhighwaydriven by individuals, there are no cops preventing users from downloading” (Hentoff 1). Internetusers can broadcast or express anything they want. The fact that the Net has no single authorityfigure sets forth a problem about what kind of materials could be available on the Net. The U.S. government is now trying to pass bills to prevent misuse of the Net. The InternetCensorship Bill of 1995, which has already been discuss earlier, was introduced to the U.
S.Congress. Under the Censorship Bill, a person breaks the law if he/she puts a purity test on a webpage without making sure children cannot access the page. Also, if a person verbally assaultssomeone on IRC, he/she breaks the law. If a university, where some students may be under 18years old, carries the alt.sex.* newsgroups, which contains adult material, it breaks the law.
According to George Melloan from the Wall Street Journal, a censorship bill was passed by theSenate 84-16 in July, and an anticensorship bill was passed by the House 420-4 in August. Thereare now four different sets of censorship and anticensorship language in the House and Senateversions of the Telecomm reform bill, which contradict each other and will have to be reconciled(Melloan, n.p.). In order to understand the need for the ever-growing body of legislation, it is important to explorethe controversy, and the current problems involved with the Net as it exists must be introduced.The problem that concerns most people is offensive material such as pornography.
As pointed outby Allison and Baxter, “Possible (offensive) topics are behavior (drugs, … ), nudity,political/economic/social opinion, violence, racial/ethnic, religious, coarse language, sexual/genderorientation, and sexuality” (Allison and Baxter 3). Since the Internet is open to everyone, childrenare very easily exposed to such material. According to Allison and Baxter, “the informationprovided on the Internet, particularly through the WWW, ranges across train time-tables,university lecture notes, books, art exhibits, film promotions, the wisdom and ravings of individualsand, yes, pornographic pictures” (Allison and Baxter 3).
Moreover, many high schools in theUnited States provide Internet access to students, which is very useful for looking up information,but if a student intends to look for inappropriate material, he/she is very likely to find such materialsimply by doing an Internet search. Another crucial Internet crime is the theft of credit card numbers. Companies do business on theNet, and credit card numbers are stored on their servers; everyone with the necessary computerknowledge could hack in and obtain such databases for illegal purposes.
To cite an instance, themost infamous computer terrorist, Kevin Mitnick, “waived extradition and is now in jail inCalifornia, charged with computer fraud and illegal use of a telephone access device. The list ofallegations against him include theft of many files and documents, including twenty-thousand creditcard numbers from Netcom On-Line Services, which provides thousands with access to theInternet” (Warren 52). Americans have to come up with a solution in order to keep children awayfrom inappropriate material and to prevent misuses of the Net. One reaction to this inapplicability has been the “Censor the Net” approach (the censorship bill),which is being debated worldwide. First, the meaning of “Censoring the Net” must be explained.Simply, it is the banning of offensive material. To see if the government should censor the Net, it isimperative to list the advantages and disadvantages of the “censor the Net” approach.
Theadvantage of government censorship is that ideally, children and teenagers could be kept awayfrom unsuitable material. However, many experts have pointed out that government censorship is not possible. HowardRheingold, the editor of the Whole World Review, observes that, “the ‘censor the Net’ approach isnot just morally misguided. It’s becoming technically and politically impossible” (Rheingold n.p.).First, it is not fair to exclude the freedom and damage the atmosphere of freely expressing ideasjust for the safety of children. Corn-Revere, an expert on Internet censorship at the Howgan ;Harson Law Firm, points out that “the purpose of indecency regulation is to keep adult materialfrom falling into the hands of kids.
When he first introduced a similar bill last year, Senator Exonsaid he was concerned that the Information Superhighway was in danger of becoming an electronic’red light district’ and that he wanted to bar his granddaughter’s access to unsuitable information”(Corn-Revere 24). It is clear that Senator Exon introduced the bill to prevent minors from viewingunsuitable material on the Net. In addition, Meleedy, a computer science graduate student atHarvard University, questions that if “the Internet makes democracy this accessible to the averagecitizen, is it any wonder Congress wants to censor it?” (Meleedy 1) Allison and Baxter assert that,”the most significant new properties of the Internet media are the diversity of information sourcesand their ability to reach almost anywhere in the world. Authors range from major corporationssuch as IBM and Disney to school children” (Allison and Baxter 3).
As predicted byCorn-Revere, “At the very least, the law will force content providers to make access moredifficult, which will affect all users, not just the young” (Corn-Revere 70). Censoring the Net istechnically and politically impossible; it will damage the atmosphere of freedom and free ideaexpression on the Net; therefore, government should not encourage censorship. Most Internet users are enjoying their freedom of speech on the Net, which is supposed to beprotected by the First Amendment of the United States. According to Corn-Reverse, “it has beensuggested that, ‘on-line systems give people far more genuinely free speech and free press thanever before in human history'” (Corn-Reverse 71). Rheingold predicts that “Heavy-handedattempts to impose restrictions on the unruly but incredibly creative anarchy of the Net could killthe spirit of cooperative knowledge-sharing that makes the Net valuable to millions” (Rheingoldn.p.).
The freedom of idea expression is what makes the Internet important and enjoyable, and itshould not be waived for any reason. Additionally, only a very small portion of the Net contains offensive material, most people do notuse the Net for pornography. Caragata from Maclean’s magazine observes that, “it is pornographythat stirs the most controversy. But while there is no doubt that pornography is popular, it amountsto a trickle compared with everything else available on the Net” (Caragata 51). The Net is mostlybeing used for communication and information exchange, and only a tiny portion of the Netcontains pornography and other offensive material. It must be understood that censoring the Net is technically impossible.
According to Allison andBaxter, “in principle, it is impossible to monitor all material being transmitted on the Internet.Considering the difficulties with international boundaries, a licensing system faces many obviouspractical hurdles” (Allison and Baxter 6). As described by Allison and Baxter, “Any goodComputer Science graduate can create a completely secure encryption system for concealmentpurposes. The material can even be disguised, for example hidden ‘inside’ a perfectly innocuouspicture” (Allison and Baxter 6). Therefore, if a person wants to publish offensive material, he/shecan design a formula to change the material with respect to a key, and secretly tell other users whatthe key is. In this way, they can retrieve the same material and pass through the governmentcensorship. While people are concerned about Internet pornography, it should be recognized that pornographyis sometimes legal; for example, pornography is legal in video and magazines. Therefore, it isinconsistent to ban the Internet equivalents.
According to Rheingold, “Citizens should have the rightto restrict the information-flow into their homes. They should be able to exclude from their homeany subject matter that they do not want their children to see. But sooner or later, their children willbe exposed to everything from which they have shielded them , and then they will have left to dealwith these shocking sights and sound in the moral fiber they helped them cultivate” (Rheingoldn.p.). The Internet is definitely not the only medium for teenagers to find inappropriate material.
Even if the Net does not have any, teenagers could also be exposed to indecorous material inmany other places. For example, Allison and Baxter say that, “most authors using electronic mediado not produce material that is any ‘worse’ than that available from news agents, video shops, ormail-order sources” (Allison and Baxter 8). On that account, if the purpose of censoring is toprevent minors from being exposed to indecorous material, not only the Net has to be censored.Censoring the Net will only eliminate one single medium for minors to find irrelevant material.Government censorship is not the solution to the problem, and alternatives measures that havesame effects as censorship can be practiced. There are many alternative measures to government censorship which would prevent misuse of theNet and would have the same effects as censorship. According to Hentoff, “there are ways toprotect children without the Act’s intervention: blockage of certain areas, passwords, parentalsupervision. And adults–under protection of the First Amendment–can remain protected fromgovernment thought control.
However, if the censorship bill is passed, the First Amendment mayeffectively be excluded from cyberspace” (Hentoff 1). It is very important for parents to provide moral guidance for their children, and parents shouldhave this responsibility. Moral guidance is the foremost long-term solution to the problem.Rheingold believes that, “this technological shock (pornography on the Net) to Americans’ moralcodes means that in the future, Americans are going to have to teach their children well. The onlyprotection that has a chance of working is to give their sons and daughters moral grounding andsome common sense” (Rheingold n.
p.). In America, minors can be exposed to sexual material inmany media. Providing children with moral guidance is the foremost solution to the problem. However, at the same time that parents carry out moral guidance, Americans have to come outwith some short term approaches to solve the problem in a more efficient way as well. Analternative to government censorship is the technological fix, which would prevent misuse of theNet and would have the same effects as government censorship. This involves the design ofintelligent software to filter information. There is a rush to develop information filtering software andget it to market.
One example of technological fix is the “SurfWatch” software, as described byAllison and Baxter, “SurfWatch is a breakthrough software product which helps parents deal withthe flood of sexual material on the Internet. By allowing parents to be responsible for blockingwhat is being received at any individual computer, children and others have less chance ofaccidentally or deliberately being exposed to unwanted material. SurfWatch is the first majoradvance in providing a technical solution to a difficult issue created by the explosion of technology.SurfWatch strives to preserve Internet freedom by letting individuals choose what they see”(Allison, Baxter 6). The SurfWatch vendor intends to provide monthly updates to cope with thefast changing Internet. Also, commercial Internet service providers, such as “America Online”,allow parents to control what Internet relay chat (IRC) sessions are available to their children(Cidley 59). Parental Control is a feature in many commercial Internet service providers, users canturn on the Parental Control function, and they will automatically be kept away from offensivewords in IRC. In this way, children can be kept away from offensive material and adults cancontinue to enjoy their Internet freedom.
Another technological fix is for parents and guardians to have a separate “proxy server” for theirchildren’s web browser. A “proxy server” is a program that disallows uses of some specifiedInternet sites or Usenet newsgroups. The parents need to actively select sites their proxy servercan access. Parental control tools is a very possible solution to the problem, as stated in the”Communications Decency Act Issues Page” by the Center for Democracy and Technology, “whatwill help parents control their children’s access to the Internet is Parental Control tools andfeatures, such as those provided by several major online services and available asover-the-counter software” (“Stop the Communications …
Tools for controlling Internetaccess by children are widely available, and parents can already control their children’s access tothe material on the Net. There are no computer programs to automatically and reliably classify material; only people can doit. As a result, while practicing technological fixes, the classification of the contents of the materialwhen posting is very important. Nowadays, most Internet users classify their postings withstandard categories, and leave signatures at the end of postings. According to Allison and Baxter,”items are signed with a secure digital signature that can be traced to a real person, company ororganization” (Allison, Baxter 4). The strengths of the material are often classified as “strong” or”weak”, and attitudes of a given document towards a topic are often classified as “advocates”,”discusses”, “deplores”, or “does not discuss”. Additionally, in order to reduce the effort ofclassifying many individual items, particularly in the case of FTP and WWW, classifications areoften attached to directories and inherited by subdirectories and documents.
In this way, readerscan make informed decisions regarding access of Internet material, and the programming ofintelligent software will be much easier: just by recognizing a small number of terms ofclassification. As a matter of fact, the classification of material has already been done on the Netfor a period of time. Most Internet materials are well classified, and people will have an idea ofwhat they are going to see beforehand. For instance, the articles in a particular Usenet newsgroupcan be accurately predicted by the name of the group.
For example,soc.culture.hongkong.entertainment contains discussion of the entertainment industry of HongKong; alt.binaries.
sex.pictures contains encoded binary files of dirty pictures. Internet users knowwhat they are approaching beforehand, and minors know that they are not supposed to browsethose alt.sex.* newsgroups. The combination of the installation of censoring software and the classification of material is a muchbetter solution than government censorship. Hentoff mentions that “flexibility of interactivemedia.
..enables parents to control what content their kids have access to, and leaves the flow ofinformation free for those adults who want it” (Hentoff 1). This prevents unwanted material fromreaching children and allows adults to continue enjoying their Internet freedom.
The problem of the Net is that it is easy for minors to obtain inappropriate materials. The Americangovernment came up with a proposal to censor the Net, but as proved earlier, the “Censor theNet” approach is both technically and politically impossible. The foremost solution to the problemis for parents to provide moral guidance for their children. At the same time they are providingmoral guidance for their children, Americans also need short term technical solution. Intelligentcensoring software and proxy servers can let parents disallow their children access to certain sites.In this way, parents can keep their children from the offensive materials on the Net. “Like otherdilemmas and unanswered questions of the digital age, traditional approaches (governmentcensorship) simply won’t work. Americans are going to have to accept less intrusive, probablymore exotic solutions, such as providing intelligent software filters to those who want a version ofInternet Lite sic” (Baker 65).
For intelligent software and proxy servers to operate successfully, it is necessary to classify theinformation available on the Net, and the classification of materials has already been done byInternet users for years. Parents can then censor the Net for their children, and adults can continueto enjoy their Internet freedom. This will provide the same effect as government censorship, butwill not damage the atmosphere of free idea expression and freedom on the Net. Moreover, indecorous materials are not only on the Net, minors can obtain such materials withoutaccessing the Internet at all. Internet censorship is not the solution to keeping minors away fromsexual material. The real and foremost solution to preventing minors from viewing sexual material isfor parents to take a stronger role in their children’s viewing.
“This technological shock(pornography on the Net) to Americans’ moral codes means that in the future, Americans aregoing to have to teach their children well. The only protection that has a chance of working is togive their sons and daughters moral grounding and some common sense” (Rheingold n.p.). WORKS CITED Allison, L., and R. Baxter.
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