Internet Censorship

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Internet Censorship There is a growing debate about censoring the internet. Some people think that the internet is protected under the first ammendment and cannot be censored. Others think that some of the material that is on the net needs to be filtered and regulated. The word censorship is defined as examining any material and prohibiting what is objectionable, according to Webster’s II dictionary. Censoring the internet is a violation of the first ammendment rights of every citizen in the United States. There are two general truths that some people feel are attitudes towards censoring the internet. The first is that very few people admit to favoring it. The second is that no matter who you are, in a matter of minutes spent surfing the net almost anyone can find something that they find to be offensive. In fact, some web surfers feel that the truly inappropriate things are inspired by one’s own religion. For example, the Nurenberg Files website showed pictures of mangled fetuses with the photograph, name, and address of some abortion clinic doctors. If someone were to kill one of the doctors then an ‘X’ was put over their picture. This site may not harm a child, but it seems that the focus today is on what is inappropriate for the child to see. What about the adults? A site like this “clearly acts to corrupt and deprave the adults who take it seriously” (Brown 48). Another reason for not censoring the internet is the psychological effects that it can have on a child. The filtering of the internet can tell a child that adults do not trust them to surf the net on their own. This can lead them to believe that they can not make their own decisions, and that a computer determines what right and wrong is. These filters also give off the impressions that the communities are unsafe and the school officials have not got the know how to do their job. Many teachers try to teach their students responsibility. This can be done in many ways, one of which is through the internet policy in our schools. By not censoring the internet and trusting children to make the right decisions they can get a boost of self-esteem that so many children need these days (Nellen 53). The filtering devices can obstruct a teacher in their quest to teach their students. For example, Ted Nellen wanted to use to obtain some information on the AIDS virus to help him teach his class. He tried to get information of the internet at the school he teaches at and found that to be impossible because the filtering devices that were installed worked (Nellen 53). Another question that needs to be asked is who are the people that are determining whether a site should be filtered or not? Just because they find something offensive does not mean that there is not some one out there who would find the site unoffensive. These people can filter what is put on the internet, so what is stopping them from doing this sort of thing in other areas of American culture. Filtering the internet is not the answer to the problem. Children and adults should be educated on what is right and wrong on the internet and not treated like they are criminals (Nellen 53). The software that is available for the purpose of internet filtering and blocking has been able to block out certain web sites, but the web is always changing and the software is outdated so fast that censoring that way is not worth it. Another way to censor is to leave it up to the internet server. Even they cannot keep up with the growing number of sites and monitor each and every one. These undesirable sites are not easily found unless a specific word is typed in as a search engine or if the web site is known. However, those who are for censoring the internet all have the same argument, which is that the obscene sites will cause some kind of unacceptable behavior that will lead to violence. They feel the software is a good thing even though it becomes obselete within a short period of time. When a person subscribes to an internet provider they are receive with a few services. The first one is the use web itself. The user can see postings made by the internet provider or by other people. A user can access any website he or she wants as long as they know the website’s address. Another option that internet users have is the ability to send messages across the web to another person by sending them an e-mail. E-mail is included in most internet servers’ packages. The last major service that the internet provides is Usenet News. Usenet News is where all the issues of today are discussed by internet users. These kinds of things are what some critics want to censor. E-mail is just like using the telephone and phone calls are not censored, so the internet should not be either. If the whole story cannot be presented on the internet then the Usenet News is useless because no one can get all the facts. The web itself is where advertisements and offers take place and the only way to find these offensive sites is to type in a key word that a child must already know. On the internet a user can put up signs, banners, ads, displays, etc. of anything they want. The press always uses the first ammendment as their justification for what they do and the internet users should also receive the same benefits from the first ammendment as the reporters do. There are three main ways that the attempt to block obscene sites from children. The first is software that goes through a list of offensive sites and if the one using the computer feels the site is inappropriate then the software will block the site. The second is software that looks for words that could be connected to pornography or violence and chooses when to deny access to the site. The last one is provided by the internet server and blocks out portions of the site that are inappropriate (The Economist 84). However, there are new sites popping up all the time and the software cannot keep up with the growing number of sites. Children can just type in any word and get a whole list of sites related to that topic. In some cases the blocking of anything to do with that topic can prove to be anything but helpful. For example, America Online’s word-screening software caused a forum on cancer to be shut down because the word “breast” was mentioned. The White House web site was shut off because the word couple was mentioned (The Economist 84). In addition, net minders like Surf Watch have no official watcher to tell the users what sites are being blocked. Surf Watch seems to be the leader in the struggle to keep inappropriate sites away from the eyes of children. The installation is easy for anyone, even the computer illiterate. Surf Watch will block up to sixteen categories in four main categories which are violence and hate speech, gambling, sexually intended items, and illegal drugs and alcohol. Search Watch will not allow any search engines that are considered sexually explicit. At the present time some of these net watchers are not free and some people do not want to pay the money to own one. A simple solution to the idea of censoring the internet for everyone with a computer to be given one of these net watchers free with the purchase of a computer. The government has a good reason to be involved with the controlling access operation because: As networked digital communications become more prevalent, consumers will be faced with justifying the purchase of a PC and modem or computer-powered television. If that purchase comes with the added cost of access-control software, there's an inherent disincentive to embrace interactive technologies (Ratcliffe 16). As long as the system allows the computer owner to change his or her list of inappropriate sites, then it does not violate the first ammendment right. In order to make this access control system available threre are a few simple things that must be done. First, the access control API would need to be available for all the web browsers and microsoft and apple computers. An ambitious company could promote the API as freeware and allow for the option of add ons to this free piece of software. However there is a problem, getting support for such a plan. Using the International Telecommunications Union the United Nations could get a global license to this kind of technology and distribute it through the International Telecommunications Union for an annual cost. After this was all squared away the individual countries could decide what needs to be installed and how to download additions to the program (Ratcliffe 16). A solution to this problem was presented in Paris in May of 1996. The meeting was attended by a plethora of internet and computer firms. They decided that self-rating was the way to go when it came to preventing the children from seeing inappropriate sites. The Platform for Internet Content Selection was the name given to this idea and it allows internet providers to put a rating on their contents using software that runs on either the users on computer or doing it through the internet provider, which is more difficult to get around. This allows for people to write what they want on the internet, but what they write may not be seen as appropriate and will be blocked (The Economist 84). Another argument for censoring the internet is the pornographic sites that are easily accessible can cause children to view things that are inappropriate. In 1996 President Clinton signed the Telecommunications Act which included the Communications Decency Act. The Communications Decency Act was intended to protect young children from those sites which are not in their best interests to see (Lewis 114). However, there are problems with this law. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 does not successfully get the job done. Any child can still find material that is not meant for them to see. The act says that adults can communicate using any words they want to as long they are careful not to be accused of harassment. These words and phrases can seem sexual to one person, but just casual conversation to another. The laws that were made to protect minors from offensive material are very unclear. The term “indecent” that was used in items aimed at protecting adults as well as children is unconstitutionally vague (Sjoerdsma 301).Lewis says: It is also stupid, because it assumes that Congress can regulate an international computer network that is 99 percent private and that is composed of users who are more than 50 percent non-American. It assumes it can outsmart my two teenagers technologically, and it is offensive because it assumes that the Government can provide a better moral compass for my kids than my wife and I are already providing (84). Lewis feels that the best way to prevent inappropriate material from being viewed on the internet is to make all the users identifiable (Lewis 84). This idea may work for a while, but false identifications can be entered and if that is said to be impossible all anyone has to do is look at all the under twenty-one people who have id’s saying they are twenty-one. It would only be a matter of time before fake id’s would be available for internet use. Edwin Diamond said “It doesn’t take a magnifying glass to find hard-core pornography on the Internet...and since many youngsters can navigate circles around their elders on the Net, some adults are in near panic” (Diamond 30). Pornography is defined as material, films, printed matter, or devices dealing with sexual poses or acts considered indecent by the public. Pornography is censored in almost every form of communication. Movies, books, and even stores that specialize in sexual toys, movies, and magazines are being censored in this day and age in stores that make a profit from selling sexual material. Pornography is not something that a user justs happens to discover. The pornographic sites need to be triggered by a key word typed into the search engine. Children who find these sites have to have some knowledge of the topic of sex in order to type in a word that would lead to a sexual site. Of course there are accidental discoveries of these sites, but any further exploration is done by the user. Many people want to regulate these sites, but they do not realize the amount of money it costs or the time it involves in order to effectively censor the net. Moreover, studies have been conducted that show that pornography is represents only a small portion of the entire internet traffic. Steve Lloyd feels regulation of the net is not very practical because “It’s virtually impossible to regulate the net because of the global nature of this communications device. It would mean monitoring every phone call into the Internet which is impossible to do” (39). The internet was designed to be able to operate under any condition. The internet service providers have found it very costly to censor portions of newsgroups without blocking the whole site. Pornography is a very miniscule amount of the internet user’s interest (Gidari). Gidari feels that internet regulation is a futile thought because : Anything as massive as the global system of interconnected networks that is the internet can not be “regulated” in any meaningful manner. The very nature of the internet precludes its effective regulation. It was designed to be a self-healing network of diverse platforms capable of opreating under the most adverse of conditions - nuclear holocaust” (Gidari). If what Albert Gidari says is true then the internet can not be censored because that would defeat the whole purpose of its creation. The following editorial appeared in the Knight Ridder Tribune News Service. These articles are right on the money as to why the internet should not be censored. Here is the first article in part: Knowledge at the fingertips. That's the charm of the Internet, the global network of computers that allows anyone with the capability, even a grade-schooler, to tap into vast pools of information at any time.The Internet, indeed, may be the closest society has come yet to free and equal access to information for all. The relative ease of access is also the Internet's bane. There is no telling the range of information one could be exposed to or the nature of activities one could be drawn into, knowingly or unknowingly. With children, controlling what they see once they are on-line becomes a problem as well. Pornography on computer networks and unsavory characters on chat lines have garnered much attention, but consider the three eighth-graders arrested recently for allegedly plotting to bomb their junior high school in the Syracuse area of New York. They gained information on materials and how to build the bombs from the Internet, and police say they were serious about following through. They had set off a test bomb in a field behind an elementary school. As has been pointed out many times, an interested person could gather the same information from a public library. True enough, but space and money preclude public libraries from stocking every piece of available information. The process of selection, based on the principle of community standards and needs, imposes some limitation. Global computer networks bypass even such minimal limitation. Being plugged into the global network is a release from traditional barriers to knowledge, and with the vast pools of information come multitudes of opportunities for misuse. Computer-inspired pranks and outright crime, from murder to fraud, are as likely as the potential for beneficial use. As the network industry matures, incidents such as the youngsters' bomb plot will continue to invite serious efforts to reduce abuses. Provisions in the new telecommunications bill such as the ban against pornography and indecent material directed at minors are one form of response. In a free system such as the Internet, however, monitoring data from computers worldwide may be next to impossible, and strict content regulation would destroy the freedom that gives the Internet its value. Personal computers have brought global links down to individual levels. In time, from their very usage, new technologies generate new levels of public awareness and their own standards of use consistent with the constitutional rights of all users. In that vein, the market's response in developing software allowing parents or operators to block access to certain services is most reasonable and practical. The only guarantee against egregious abuse of the global computer networks, in the end, is a well-developed ethic of personal responsibility, in which users and those who provide the services are mindful of the potential for mischief (Knight Ridder 212). This article was provided as a way of showing the reader why the internet should not be censored. The solution is not in censoring the internet, but in teaching children what the difference between right and wrong is. Like the article says “In a free system such as the Internet, however, monitoring data from computers worldwide may be next to impossible, and strict content regulation would destroy the freedom that gives the Internet its value” (Knight Ridder 212). The second article is also pro internet freedom as well. Here is the article to clarify any misconceptions about this paper’s purpose: Like the Maytag repairman in the TV commercials, Congress is itching to fix something that isn't broken: the Internet and online services. As part of the vast new telecommunications bill, both House and Senate are on the brink of making it a federal crime to expose minors to naughty words or

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