The Case Against Censorship on the Internet

Some parents believe that a lot of material that is on the Internet is inappropriate, and/or offensive to them, or their children, and believe that all the information should not be accessible. Pornographic material, and children is among one of the biggest concerns of these people. At a young age, and child can be emotionally disturbed from seeing such pornographic material, and parents do not want this to happen. Another argument for blocking certain information is to protect the ideas of individuals. On the Internet there are many forms to transfer files, such as source code to programs, and digital music, and school documents.

Some argue that if this data is put on the Internet, it will be easier for individual’s to steal other’s work, and not give them credit. The most argued form of this transfer has been with the software program napster, which allowed users to transfer music files. But with every freedom comes a consequence. The price of freedom in this country is a higher crime rate than others, and the same idea goes with the Internet. Censorship on the net would not only jeopardize all the great information accessible on the Internet, but would not be constitutional. The first amendment states Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress grievances.”

This means that we are guaranteed the right of free speech, and freedom of expression of our ideas, but it does not say that these freedoms are limited to speech, and the printing press. It does not say anywhere that in the future, this amendment will not apply to new mediums of technology. For that reason Internet censorship is unconstitutional, and has been ruled to be un- constitutional in some cases. In 1995,the communication decency act was passed. This act was so the government could decide what was appropriate to view on the Internet, and what people could not access. Later in 1997, the Court decided that this act was unconstitutional. All channels of communication published on the Internet; print, broadcast, telephone, or mail deserves the highest level of protection, which before this court case was only given to the printing press. Not only is this un-constitutional, but it does not let parents do their job. The question of objectionable material, and what children should be able to view should be left to the decision of the children’s parents.

The parents can talk with the children, and let them know what is on the Internet, and how they are expected to behave. Just as we don’t have government officials at school telling children how to act, what to do and not what to do, we should trust that parents know what is best for their children, and should let them do their job. Alternatives to the government censoring what you see are filters. Filters are software programs designed to scan through the text, and source cod of a web page, and determine if it contains “bad words” or “bad ideas”. Also, the programs come with a list of web sites, which the company has seen, and believe the filter will not classify an in appropriate, but is. Such programs are designed for web pages, and e-mail.

These programs will essentially do two things. The first is it will read your e-mail, and if there is any foul language it will either delete the e- mail, or clear the foul language. Another purpose for this software is that it will prevent kids from accessing adult web sites. The hope of these filters I that they will be 99.9% efficient, and that they will help, but the reality is they are about 13% efficient, and do us more harm that they do good. In essence, what these programs are doing is crippling the Internet, all the useful information that there is on the Internet for us to use. The idea behind filters is that they will scan a web page, and according to the words, block the page. But this is not efficient because a computer cannot think.

It can see one word, and one word only. It cannot put a word into context, and see what message the string of text is trying to give. For this reason, filters may block certain pornographic sites, but they also block sites with useful information. One Filtering program called Bess has blocked many sites with information that could be used for research. Among these sites were sites on Human rights and Eating disorder awareness. Not only do these programs block content-based web pages, but also the list of “blocked sites” is bias, and the companies have double standards for deciding what sites to give access to. The filtering program cyber patrol was given a list of web ites to review.

Among them were sites, which had to do with gay and anti-gay web sites. The creators of this program decided that they would allow children to see the hate people felt against gays with the anti-gay web sites, but did not allow the life style, and ideas of the gay community be seen. This shows the double standards, and bias way these companies rate the web sites. An article in Time magazine talked about cyber patrol, and criticized it. Surprisingly enough, after this article was released, the address http://www.time.com was no longer an appropriate site according to cyber patrol. Either way we go, there is always going to be a downfall to censoring the Internet. If we let the government do it for us, we will not only be letting them take our first amendment rights, but also our fourth amendment rights because the internet does not stop at web pages. You will let the government see your e-mail, and go into your computer, and see what you are looking at.

If they can take away our fourth amendment rights on the internet, who is to say they won’t start pulling over every car, and seeing what is inside. The alternative, filtering programs are not efficient, and block too much information. The ideal way to prevent children from pornography, and not get rid of all of the information on the Internet would be the new system they are trying to organize called Platform Internet Content Selection. What this system will do is make a rating system for web pages, very similar to that of the T.V. each person in your house hold will have a user id, and based on what the administrator specifies on what ratings you can see, you will be able to see certain web sites. The only draw back is who decides what material is objectionable, but this will always be a problem. Censoring the Internet would be taking a huge step back. The Internet is full of ideas, and things we can benefit from, and we should censor it.

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