An Argument Against Internet Censorship in United States of America

The history of western censorship was said to have begun when Socrates was accused firstly, of denying the gods recognized by the State and introducing new divinities, and secondly of corrupting the young. He was sentenced to death for these crimes. Many modern governments are attempting to control access to the Internet. They are passing regulations that restrict the freedom people once took for granted. The Internet is a worldwide network that should not be regulated or censored by any on country. It is a complex and limitless network which allows boundless possibilities and would be affected negatively by the regulations and censorship that some countries are intent on establishing. Laws that are meant for other types of communication will not necessarily apply in this medium. There are no physical locations where communications take place, making it difficult to determine where violations of the law should be prosecuted.

There is anonymity on the Internet and so ages and identities are not knownthis makes it hard to determine if illegal activities are taking place in regards to peopleunder the legal age. As well, it is difficult to completely delete speech once it has been posted, Meaning that distributing materials that are obscene are banned becomes easyThe American Library Association (ALA) has a definition that states censorship is the change in the access status of material, made by a governing authority or its representatives. Such changes include exclusion, restriction, remove, or age/grade level changes. This definition, however, has a flaw in that it only recognizes one form of censorship-government censorship.

Cyberspace, a common name for the Net, has been defined by one author as being made up of millions of people who communicate with one another through computers. Itis also information stored on millions of computers worldwide, accessible to others through telephone lines and other communication channels that make up what is known as cyberspace. The same author went on to say term itself is elusive since it is not so much a physical entity as a description of an intangible. The complexity of the Internet is demonstrated through its many components. The Most readily identifiable part is the World Wide Web (WWW). This consists of web pagesthat can be accessed through the use of a web browser. Web pages are created using an abasic programming language. Another easily identified section of the Internet is e-mail. Once again it is a relative user- friendly communication device. Some other less-publicized sections of the Internet include Internet Relay Chat (IRC), which allows real-time chatting to occur among thousands of people, Gopher, which works similarly to the but for a more academic purpose, and File Transfer Protocol (FTP), Which allows the transfer of files from one computer to another.

Another service that is not Internet but is carried along with it in many instances is Usenet or News. In Usenet there are many newsgroups that center their conversations on varied topics. For example, would focus the discussion on the Beetles. This would be done through posts or articles, almost like letters sent into a large pot where everyone can read and reply. Many controversial newsgroups exist and they are created easily. It is possible totransfer obscene and pornographic material through these newsgroups. There is noaccurate way to determine how many people are connected to the Internet because the number grows so rapidly everyday. Figures become obsolete before they can be published. [The Internet] started as a military strategy and, over thirty years later, has evolved into the massive networking of over 3 million computers worldwide. One of themost prominent features of the young Internet was it had freedom. It is a rate example of a true, modern, functional anarchy…there are no official censors, no bosses, no board ofdirectors, no stockholders. It is an open forum where the only thing holding anyone backis their conscience. The Internet has no central authority and therefore it makes it difficultto be censored.

As a result of these and more, the Internet offers the potential for a true democracy. 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 toregister, so that it may monitor their activities. 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, especially these issues. Laws intended forother types of communication will not necessarily apply in this medium.

Through all the components of the Internet it becomes easy to transfer material that particular governments might find objectionable. However, all of these ways of communicating onthe Internet make up a large and vast system. For inspectors to monitor every E-mail,Webpage, IRC channel, Gopher site, Newsgroups, and FTP site would be near impossible. This attempt to censor the Internet would violate the freedom of speech rights that areincluded in democratic constitutions and international laws. It would be a violation 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 ofspeech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably toassemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances Therefore it would be unconstitutional for any sort of censorship to occur on the Internet and affiliated services.

Despite the of being illegal restrictions on Internet access and content are increasing world-wide under all forms of government. In France, a country where the press generally have a large amount of freedom, the Internet has recently beenin the spotlight. To enforce censorship of the Internet, free societies find that they become more repressive and closed societies find new ways to crush political expression and opposition Vice-President Al Gore, while at an international conference in Brussels about the Internet, in a keynote address said that [Cyberspace] is about protecting and enlarging freedom of expression for all our citizens…Ideas should not be checked at the border Another person attending that conference was Ann Breeson of the American Civil Liberties Union, an organization dedicated to preserving many things including freespeech. She is quoted as saying Our big victory at Brussels was that we pressured them enough so that Al Gore in his keynote address make a big point of stressing the importance of free speech on the Internet. Many other organizations have fought against laws and have succeeded. A good example of this is the fight that various groups put onagainst the recent Communication Decency Act (CDA) of the U.S. Senate.

The CitizensInternet 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 not be compromised by theCDA. The plaintiffs alone, including American Booksellers Association, the Freedom toRead Foundation, Apple, Microsoft, America Online, the Society of ProfessionalJournalists, the Commercial Internet eXchange Association, Wired, and HotWired, along with thousands of netizens (citizens of the Internet) shows the dedication that is felt bymany different people and groups to the cause of free speech on the Internet. Just recently 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 in the way of other mediums 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 and this is applicable to the Internet because there are no borders. Although North American (mainly the U.S.A.) has the largest share of servers, the Internet is still a world-wide network.

This means that domestic regulations cannot oversee the rules of foreign countries. It would be just as easy for an American teen to download (receive) pornographic material form England, as it would be from down thestreet. 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 placethrough which all information passes. That was one of the key points that was stressed during the original days of the Internet, then called 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 itwas going.

Something like a 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 it s 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 ofa specific person. Nothing is known for certain about a person accessing content. Thereare no signatures or photo-ids on the Internet therefore it is difficult to certify that illegal activities (regarding minors accessing restricted data) are taking place. Take for examplea conversation on IRC. Two people could be talking to one another, but all that they seeis text.

It would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to know for certain the gender and/or age just from communication like this. Then if the conversationalist lies about any points mentioned above it would be extremely difficult to know or prove otherwise. Inthis way governments could not restrict access to certain sites on the basis of ages. A thirteen year old boy in British Columbia could decide that he wanted to download pornography from an adult site in the U.S. The sire may have warnings and agerestrictions but they have no way of stopping him from receiving their material if he sayshe is 19 years old when prompted.

The complexity in the way information is passed around the Internet means that if information has been posted, deleting this material becomes almost impossible. The millions of people that participate on the Internet every day have access to almost all of the data present. As well it becomes easy to copy something that exists no the Internet with only a click of a button. The relative ease ofcopying data means 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: Walnut Creek s, which archives an incredible amount of software among others, The Internet, which is working towards archiving as much of the WWW as possible, and TheWashington University Data Archive, Which is dedicated towards archiving software, publications, and many other types of data.

It becomes hard to censor material that mightbe duplicated or triplicated within a matter of minutes. The Internet is much too complex of a network for censorship to effectively occur.It is a totally new and unique environment in which communications take place. Existing laws are not applicable to this medium. The lack of touchable boundaries cause confusion as to where violations of law take place. The Internet is made up of nameless interaction and anonymous communication. The complexity of the Internet makes it near impossible to delete data that has been publicized. No one country should be allowed to, or could, regulate or Censor the Internet.

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