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With the click of a mouse, anyone can access an incredible wealth of information on topics ranging from aardvarks to zygotes. We use desktops, laptops, palmtops, and cellular telephones to connect through telephone lines, cable connections, and wireless ports. The Internet is here. It has made our lives richer and easier; it has collapsed boundaries and expanded horizons.
Accessibility of information is one of the Internets fundamental features. Never before have so many had access to so much. Herein lies the paradox; while this increased level of information accessibility is one of the Internet's greatest strengths, it is also one of its greatest possible weaknesses. Because this new medium grants more access to the individual, now more than ever, the power and responsibility to censor rests in the hand of the user. While the debate on Internet censorship is complex, it is worth exploring. Through a careful examination of the issues, one can gain the knowledge necessary to make informed decisions on how to responsibly use this awesome tool.
Like the invention of the printing press before it, the Internet is a technology capable of changing the way the world functions by releasing information to the masses. Prior to Gutenberg's printing press, only a select few had access to the Bible. This monopoly of information allowed a small group to exploit and abuse the masses through the process of nondisclosure. In the same way that the printing press liberated millions from religious tyranny, the Internet has the ability to further empower a new generation in many areas by increasing the accessibility of information. The possibilities for low cost, widespread education are boundless. The applications for business are endless. The opportunities for consumers to gain new and better ways of shopping are becoming apparent. All of these goals can be realized through the constructive use of the Internet.
The freedom of expression movement argues that people have the right to express their views regardless of how offensive they may be. Conversely, many see a need for limits to be set on the amount of exposure some of these messages can gain. While the principle of free expression may be theoretically appealing, the accessibility of some of this material often poses moral dilemmas. Should a child have access to explicitly sexual or violent material?
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