The Issue of Internet Censorship in the United States

In order to fully understand censorship you have to know what the Internet is. The Internet is an open inter-connection of networks that enables computers to connect directly through phone lines. It allows people from around the world to communicate with the touch of a button. Its size is unimaginable, its content is uncountable. “In early 1995 more than 50,000 networks and 5million computers were connected via the Internet, with a computer growth rate of about 9percent per month” Is the Internet to large to be censored? Remember in the1940s people said radio was uncensorable. What is censorship anyway? Censorship is the official restriction of expression thought to be harmful.”Censorship restricts the flow of ideas, depriving people of information they need to maintain anopen society” (Steffens, 11). Censorship itself is by no means a new idea. It has existed since the beginning of mankind, Playboy magazine in the 1950 s, radio in the 1930 s, book burning in the1940 s, steamy celluloid reels in the 1920 s, and erotic pages coming off the Gutenberg press in the1350 s.

People fear new technology, I believe this is the reason that people want to censor the Internet.Change is a frightening thing, but without it the human race would cease to exist. Taking over our world, computers can be good or bad depending on how you look at it. At this time there is more information on the Internet than there is in any library and it is only a matter of years before books themselves will become obsolete. By censoring the Internet, the government will only be holding us back. Germany, China, Singapore, and several other countries have taken action and began to censorthe Internet. With this act, the very same materials which are legally available today in book stores and libraries could be illegal if posted on World Wide Web sites or Use net newsgroups. Not only would it have made it a crime to write provocative e-mail to your lover, it would also be a crime for your Internet provider.”Censorship is never for those who have experienced it. It is a brand on the imagination that affects the individual who has suffered it, forever” (Nadine Gordimer, Microsoft Office).

What business does the government have telling people what they can and can t see anyway? If the child s parents are so concerned about what they are going to see on the Internet, there is software available that screens the Internet for just that computer. It isn t very expensive, in fact, you can even download some software from the Internet. Yet, this software is no substitute for good judgment. “If you have time on your hands, if your comfortable with computing, and you have an unflagging curiosity about sex – in other words, if you re a teenager – you may think you ve suddenly landed in pornography heaven” (Gleick, 26). Pornography is the only thing that you ever seem to hear about the Internet, but there is so much more out there. Information on anything and everything you could possibly ever imagine. Most of the material that I gathered for this project was done by hours of Internet surfing. Another large misconception about the Internet is that while surfing you can just stumble on to pornography.

Though it is possible, I highly doubt that you would, the Internet is not exactly known for being user-friendly. In fact it would probably be less of a hassle and much less time consuming to go to the bookstore in the mall to find nude pictures. Not that lam saying that the Internet is hard to maneuver, on it just takes some time to get used to it. Let s say that the government was to censor nudity and profane swearing. The good to come from this is that children and teenagers will no longer be able to view pornography on the Internet. Instead, you could go to the local public library or bookstore. The point I am getting at, if you fail at finding something at one place just move on to another. The bad part about censoring is that it would put a leash on the imagination and art such as Michelangelo s David would be lost. Action against censorship is being taken in Cyberspace, on February 10, 1996, to show just howmany people will be affected by the Communications Decency Act.

The Coalition to Stop NetCensorship had asked everyone, everywhere to turn their World Wide Web pages black until 11a.m. EST. Turnout was stupendous, thousands of web pages turned black for this occasion. A blueribbon campaign has also started, the blue ribbon symbolizes freedom of speech. More and moreblue ribbons are being placed on home pages everyday. Internet users do this for only one reason,to protect their imaginations. Or as civil rights activist, Harry Belafonte put it, “You can cage thesinger but not the song” (Microsoft Office). John Goydan sued for divorce from his wife Diane after finding e-mail messages from her on-linelover, whom appeared to be a married man thousands of miles away. Untold thousands areflirting, courting, marrying, and even cheating on-line. “On-line affairs shift the emphasis in arelationship from outward appearances to inner thoughts and feeling. The result: a quick andintense intimacy” (Toufexis, 53).

Al Cooper, a marriage counselor, said that, “It forces men to dosomething they don t normally want to engage in: communication. You have to be able tocommunicate on the Internet” (Toufexis, 53). Yet, most romances don t seem to burn after theymove off screen mostly because you will never be able to live up to the mental image created by him or her. In addition to reading magazine articles, World Wide Web pages, and books I conducted a surveyof people s opinion on censorship. I gathered statistics via e-mail, chat rooms, and bulletin boards. I found that all the adults that replied were against censorship of any kind. Teenagers, on the otherhand, were 50-50. This surprised me, I thought that teenagers would be against people censoringthe Internet. They tended to look at it from their parents point of view. I would like to ask you to think about censorship and what it stands for, think about where youstand and remember, only you can stop corruption.

I shall now conclude with a statement from Benjamin Franklin, “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safetydeserve neither liberty nor safety” (Steffens, 11). Instead of asking-“How much damage will the work in question bring about?” Why notask-“How much good” How much joy? Henry Miller, U.S. author (Microsoft Office) The media has over hyped sex on the Net the situation is nowhere near as bad as people arelead to believe. “Zarniwoop,” 19 Bournemouth, England (E-mail) Censorship is very good, because I do not believe that their should exist a total freedom, a placewhere there is no law and maniacs are allowed to abuse their rights its like rotten morals existno law to censor the indecent materials, its like allow crime to happen without anyone havingthe power to stop it. “UFO,” 18 South Africa (E-mail)When truth is no longer free, freedom is no longer real: the truths of the police are the truths oftoday.

Jacques Prevert, French poet (Microsoft Office)We should have the right of free speech and we have the right to do whatever, we pay the bills, we shouldn t be told what to say. “MJ,” 15 Peoria, Illinois (E-mail)I feel that without censorship we would be an over-run society of belligerent animals. It is too bad people do not see beyond the benefit of it all. We should always have some form of censorship. Iwouldn t like my children to be exposed to some of the lingo, or acts I see and hear everyday. There should be places where it isn t restricted, like adult places, where there are not a lot ofchildren. But as for schools, restaurants, and public buildings, censor away! “Vera,” 16 Bowling Green, Ohio (E-mail)Censors tend to do what only psychotics do: they confuse reality with illusion. David Cronenberg, Canadian filmmaker (Microsoft Office)Personally, I think that censorship should be the parents responsibility, not the web servers.

“Shroom,” 14 Barkansted, Connecticut (E-mail) I m the mother of an 11 year old daughter. Bet you think you know what I’m going to say don’tyou. It might just surprise you. For the most part I am against censorship of literature, TV, movie, and the net. What is obscene, offensive or distasteful for one person isn’t always the same foranother. I believe it is up to the individual to decide what should and what shouldn’t becensored. Parents should be theones to determine what their underage children can and can’tread, watch or hear. We owe it to our children to provide them with a balanced view of theworld. By allowing someone else to make the decision on what my daughter sees in my opinionseverely limits her education in all areas of life. It is a decision she and I should make jointly as toexactly how much ‘reality’ she is ready for. “Beth,” 36 Joplin, Missouri (E-mail)Woe to that nation whose literature is cut short be the intrusion of force.

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