An Argument Against Internet Censorship

I am computer network system. I believe Internet censorship is absurd and unconstitutional. First, Federal censorship of the Internet is a breach of the First Amendment rights for those users residing in the United States. Second, any law-advocating censorship of the Internet is too broad and unenforceable on this global information media.

The Communications Decency Act of 1996 was signed by President Clinton and states, “the distribution of ‘obscene’ or ‘indecent’ materials to minors over the Internet is a felony punishable by fines of up to $250,000 and a maximum of two years in prison. Shortly after this law went into affect, a panel of three federal judges in New York City decided that the definition of “indecency” in the act is too vague to enforce. The Justice Department appealed the case to the Supreme Court, which heard arguments in the case, Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in the March of 1997. In a 7-2 decision handed down on June 26, 1997, the Court upheld the lower court’s ruling and struck down the decency act. The Supreme Court stated that the act was not only vague but that it unconstitutionally restricted the free speech rights of adults.

An estimated of 40% of Internet material originates from foreign countries, where the US’s Decency Act would not apply. Governments should not have the power to determine what sort of material is fit or unfit for individuals and their children to access on the Internet. Such power could become an oppressive form of censorship and could be used in an arbitrary manner by local judges and prosecutors to target minority viewpoints.

Federal Internet censorship is absurd and impossible due to the fact that the laws stated by our government, are too vague and have no affect on foreign “indecent” material. Pornography and sexually explicit material should be blocked out from children by web filtering devices and not law that prevents the Internet from being the public forum for the free exchange of ideas that the Constitution was meant to protect.

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