Censorship Of The Internet And The Tyranny Of Our Government

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Censorship of the Internet and the Tyranny of Our Government 'To curtail free expression strikes twice at intellectual freedom, forwhoever deprives another of the right to state unpopular views also deprivesothers of the right to listen to those views,' said Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr(Censorship and the U. S. Government 1). I completely agree with Mr. Holmes, and when the question of censoring the Internet arises, I cringe. Governing theInternet dominates many debates, censorship leading the fight.

The Internet isthe largest and most accessible form of mass media available today. It allowsanyone with a few simple tools to consume, and produce, information and ideas tohundreds of people at a practically non-existent cost. Numerous factorsindicate censorship of this force is not possible, and not the government'splace. It should be left up to the users to decide what is broadcast. Mostimportantly, censorship of the Internet impairs the expression of ideas andinfringes against the First Amendment of the Constitution. First of all, censoring the Internet as a whole is not possible, so whyeven try? Cyberspace is the most decentralized form of communication todaymaking policing the Internet a virtually futile task. Unlike television orradio, the Internet consists of thousands of individual computers and networks, with thousands of speakers, information providers and information users, and nocentralized distribution point (ACLU vs

Reno Brief 1). No guards watch to seewho goes where and if that place is appropriate. The Internet has grown to be aglobal network. Just because one country deems something inappropriate does notmean that another will comply with the decision and follow the ruling. Ifposting pictures of bestiality was banned in China, for example, someone inSwitzerland could post those pictures and the Chinese would have access to everysingle bit of data.

Another example, this being completely factual, occurred inOntario concerning the Karla Homolka/Paul Bernado trial. The courts decidedthat in order not to influence the jurors outside of the courtroom that a gagorder 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, butstill another appeared (Censorship and the Internet 1). There exists today noway of effectively tracking and determining from where a bulletin was posted, especially with the automatic dialing and encryption technology available. Thuseven trying to censor the Internet as a whole would be only an exercise infutility.

Although pornography and potentially destructive material exist on theInternet, not all potentially offensive material shows violent sex acts withchildren or instructs one how to make bombs. Many users transmit importanthealth-related information about sex. Some relate their views using stronglanguage that may be considered unsuitable. Still, some convey news andinformation about human rights and civil liberties(ACLU vs. Reno Brief 1).Every user has the right to such communication.

Recently, while doing apresentation, for a history class, concerning the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), I accessedthe KKK home page. At this site I found a plethora of information detailed withtheir beliefs. If censorship, such as that desired by some government officials, was in effect, a site, such as above, would never have been available and mymost abundant source of information would have been gone. Hate literature andpornography do exist, but it is insignificant to the legitimate applications ofthe Internet. Banning of material that may be offensive to one, but may be quitevaluable to another, deprives people of their civil right to information.

Pro-censorship advocates argue that some child might unsuspectinglystumble upon unsuitable information. This is not true. Online users are notbombarded with grotesque pictures and hate groups' paraphernalia. One has todeliberately go into such a site, and there exists software to protect childrenfrom such occurrences. Often times pornography sites will ask for aregistration and a major credit card number. Forms are sent in the mail andlogging onto a pornography site can be quite time consuming.

Also, parents cantake an active part in the censoring of their own children's online activities. They should manage their child's Internet usage as they would determine thekinds of movies available to be watched. (Censorship and the Internet 1) Thiscan be done with software, not government intervention. As stated in'Censorship and the U. S. Government,' 'Censorship, like charity, should begin athome, but unlike charity it should end there' (Censorship and the U. S.Government 1), technology makes this possible. Internet providers, such as, America Online, Prodigy and CompuServe offer child functions to restrict sitesdetermined by keywords, subject matter, or specific sites. Such software as'SurfWatch', 'NET NANNY', and 'CYBERsitter' offer a variety of options includingblocking of specific sites, preventing children from revealing personalinformation, and keeping a record of the places visited while on-line(Censorship and the U. S.

Government 1). These restraints are not 100% effectivebut are a powerful force when combined with common sense and a strong familyatmosphere. This reinforces my belief that government does not need to censorthe Internet. We can do it ourselves. Most importantly censorship 'refers to the suppression of information, ideas, or artistic expression by anyone whether government officials, churchauthorities, private pressure groups, or speakers, writers, and artiststhemselves'(Censorship 1). The First Amendment to the Constitution of theUnited States of America guarantees the right to express oneself, essentiallythe freedom of speech.

If we lose our First Amendment rights what will follow? I thoroughly follow the belief, as stated in the ACLU Vs. Reno Brief, 'The lossof the First Amendment freedoms, for even minimal periods of time, unquestionably constitutes irreparable injury'(ACLU vs. Reno Brief 1). The onlycommunications that may be banned are those considered 'indecent' or 'patentlyoffensive'(ACLU vs. Reno Brief 1), yet the question arises, what is 'indecent'or 'patently offensive'? According to the ACLU vs.

Reno Brief, a communicationis 'measured by contemporary community standards, sexual or excretory activitiesor organs..in context, depicts or describes, in terms patently offensive asmeasured by contemporary community standards, sexual or excretory activities ororgans'(ACLU vs. Reno Brief 1). Each person should be able to decide forhimself what is acceptable to express and what is not. Hate literature and suchhas just as much of a right to be posted on the Internet as does the book ofGenesis. If Neo-Nazis do not have the right to express themselves, then I haveno right to express myself.

As one can see, censorship is driven by the fear of the unknown. Theunknown, in question, may or may not be beneficial. Still, we have no right tosuppress the expression of such ideas. Foul language, pornography, and hategroups may exist on the Internet, and yes, children may be exposed to this, butthe government forbidding the viewing of this information by anyone is a directviolation of the First Amendment of the Constitution. A concerned reader shoulde-mail his Congressperson, expressing his views, join Internet discussions onthis topic, or become more aware of the danger of Internet censorship faced bythe citizens of this country and the world. He must not wait for the problem tofix itself, nut rather act now! Works CitedACLU vs.

Reno Brief 'http://www. aclu. org/court/cdacom2.html'. 2/15/97'Censorship.' New Grolier Electronic Encyclopedia 1991; Grolier electronicPublishing, Inc. 2/15/97Censorship and the Internet 'http://cmns-web. com. stu. ca/cmns353/96-l/dksershaw '. 2/15/97Censorship and the U. S. Government http://www. arlut. utexas. edu/~~guass/censorship. htm l'. 2/15/97.

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25 March 2014. Author: Criticism