Essay PreviewMore ↓
With more and more frequency the newspapers are reporting instances of school children distributing disks of pornographic images which they have downloaded from the net and recently a university student was found to be operating such a site for material. On November 11, an Associated Press release (Phillips,1994) reported that Carnegie Mellon University had decided to block its users from accessing sexually explicit materials through the Internet: the university's president feared that the university could be prosecuted under state pornography laws if it did not control the access. Within the last week Towson State has prevented access to all of the alt.* groups on the Usenet which include alt.binaries.pictures.* which has sexually explicit pictures. Towson State has also included a warning on their home page that there may be pornographic material on the Internet. Pornographic material is not the only material to be found on the net which can raise questions of censorship and control: discussion of racial, political, religious and sexual topics all run the risk of offending someone, somewhere, leading to demands for control of the Internet. The question of censorship may also be raised in some unexpected places: one newsgroup is the rec.humor list, which is a collection of jokes submitted to subscribers. There are straightforwardly rude jokes but others are politically incorrect, focusing on sexual stereotypes, mothers-in-law, women and so on.
It has been suggested (Interpersonal Computing and Technology, 1994) that discretionary warning labels could be attached to potentially offensive material. With warning labels like those on records this may serve to whet appetites. Warning labels involve some sort of judging and then the question is raised as to who shall be the judge. The Internet is world-wide so would the First Amendment apply in Germany? The material on the Internet which is grossly offensive by any standards, such as paedophile material, is extremely difficult to find because of its small amounts. Of the 976 obscenity cases handled between 1991 and 1993 only 11 involved computer files, while 0.3% of the obscene material seized by Customs staff in 1992-93 were computer items (Cornwall, 1994). This paper considers the question of censorship on the Internet - does it exist, in what form, should it exist and what should be censored?
To understand many of the questions raised an understanding of how the Internet originated is important.
How to Cite this Page
"Freedom of Speech & Censorship on the Internet." 123HelpMe.com. 16 Aug 2018
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- Every second, citizens of the world enter cyber space to relay information, keep in contact with family and friends, and to complete a multitude of various tasks. The World Wide Web is a major staple in ensuring that individuals of all nationalities can perform all the necessary tasks in their lives. However, the negative aspects of the internet have been recently brought into the public eye. Social Networks such as Facebook and Twitter along with other popularly accessed websites such as Reddit, 4Chan, and Pinterest have become the subject of critique after a whirl of internet controversy arose.... [tags: Argumentative Essay]
1291 words (3.7 pages)
- Picture it: you pick up your phone to read your email. You're expecting a message from a friend, who is sending you some information on breast cancer, but when you check your inbox there is instead a message from the server. It says the message that was sent to you from the address of your friend has been intercepted because it contained indecent material that did not comply with FCC regulations of the Internet. You call your friend only to find that the police have come and taken her away, and she is now facing up to two years in prison and/or up to $100,000 in fines.... [tags: Argumentative Persuasive Topics]
2142 words (6.1 pages)
- Nowadays, Internet Surfing might have been viewed as a part of our daily life, since the Internet has provided a virtual reality with enormous freedom. Actually, possessing the features of speediness, immediateness, freeness and borderlessness, the Internet was a free domain for every user to act whatever they want. In this cyberspace, someone suggests that the policy of Internet censorship is needed to prevent users from misusing the Internet. However, some people argue that the Internet censorship should not be adopted, as the freedom of speech is the basic human right.... [tags: freedom of speech and expression, cybercrimes]
554 words (1.6 pages)
- With the bountiful amount of unrestricted information available on the internet many people believe that some of this information should be censored by the United States Government. Who's to say what should be accessible and what should not. Where does it start and stop. Does internet censorship make a nation a safer place to live. There are many countries that don’t allow the use of the internet at all and some countries only censor what they don’t want their citizens to know. Daniel Calingaert said “The internet has provided greater space for free expression in countries where traditional broadcast and print media are restricted” (64).... [tags: free speech, freedom, United States]
1199 words (3.4 pages)
- With today’s technology, communication and information can travel across the world in a matter of seconds. Ever since the internet was first made publically available in 1991 the ease of accessing entertainment, education, and information has been increasing every year. We now live in an age where roughly 30% of all people in the entire world are connected to the web ("World Internet Usage Statistics New and World Population Stats"). However, despite the obvious advantages of the internet’s freedom, some countries are trying to control the internet and display what it deems appropriate for the public eye.... [tags: Censorship]
1715 words (4.9 pages)
- Freedom of Cyber-Speech Freedom of speech has always been an important issue in American society. With the advent of the Internet as a high-speed communication device, this issue has become even more prominent in recent years. This paper will explore the issue of whether the Internet should be censored. Additionally, it will investigate possible methods for undertaking this censorship. Since 1787, the Constitution has been integral part of American society. The First Amendment to the Constitution, passed in 1791, reads: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speec... [tags: Internet Censorship Essay]
2093 words (6 pages)
- The Internet is like many great inventions, it has some flaws, but the pros definitely outweigh the cons. The Internet has become an educational tool for students, increased communication, and allowed for knowledge of all subjects to be shared. These are but a few benefits of the Internet. Censorship is generally an evil and should be avoided where ever possible (Butt, 2000). The regulation or censorship of the Internet will make it difficult for people to express their mind openly, block even more useful sites for students, and deny American citizens their first amendment right to free speech.... [tags: Internet Pornography Essays]
2009 words (5.7 pages)
- I. Introduction Internet censorship laws started appearing around the world in 1995. These laws covered content already illegal in existing laws for non-internet content, as well as for content that is not suitable for minors. Worldwide, four different approaches were taken with internet censorship. 1) The government encouraged user self-regulation, and voluntary use of content filters by their citizens. 2) Laws were implemented that penalized content providers who made censored material available online.... [tags: Internet Web Censorship Censoring Essays]
2715 words (7.8 pages)
- Global Look at Internet Censorship Introduction Many Americans take for granted the freedom that living in the United States allows us. As we go through our days, we whine about our bosses, the governor’s latest political agenda, or read commentary about how the war in Iraq is morally wrong. Whether we are sending e-mail, posting on message boards, or reading the news online, we are guaranteed the same freedom of self expression that we enjoy offline. In other countries, the mere act of accessing websites that criticize the government is an offense that can land you in prison.... [tags: Internet Censoring Censorship Cyberspace Essays]
2829 words (8.1 pages)
- I.Introduction This paper addresses whether we should censor or block access to websites with controversial material. It looks at the issue from several sides: The relevant US laws that are in place, how censorship is used at the university and corporate levels, how other countries are attempting censorship, and finally what I feel about the topic. Given all that I have read in preparing this paper, I have come to the conclusion that without a set of globally-accepted rules, we should not be censoring the Internet except where these rules are being broken.... [tags: Freedom of Speech]
3924 words (11.2 pages)
Quality and content
The previous fact leads to two related issues. First, there is no overall set of standards to apply to the quality of material available over the Internet, quality meaning factors like accuracy, currency, editing and updating policies. Right now quality control is only exercised by the people who make the documents and because of that the standards are sometimes low. There is also a problem of currency and revision as well as the accuracy of the original material and the most common complaint that out-of-date items are being re-found, sometimes after several years (Cockerill, 1994).
Secondly, the anarchic nature means that there is little or no control over the content of documents posted over the Internet. National governments may try to apply legislation but it is very difficult to prevent a range of potentially offensive material from being distributed once that material has already been disseminated. Not only that but the USA could be protected by the First Amendment. Also, the offense usually is one of possession of material so once the material is distributed over the Internet it is out of the hands of the main offender. The Internet is international and it is not possible to stop material at the border in the same way that books and magazines can be stopped, therefore, it is left up to individual organizations like Carnegie Mellon. This is an example of how technical developments have overtaken the ability of the national governments to control the dissemination of information on a national scale. It is not certain whether legislation applying to, for example, obscene publications, can be applied to digitized material because the question that is asked is whether or not it is published. What may be legal in one country is illegal in another: German law prohibits claims that the Holocaust did not happen, but this does not stop white supremacists from the US or another country from transmitting this claim to their sympathizers in Germany. This is a complicated issue because usually there is a feature of different cultures, for example, codes for women's dress in Islamic counties. It would be very difficult to find a common denominator that everyone could agree upon that should be censored. Even at an individual level what is offensive to one person may not be offensive to another. This debate is not new, it is just a new medium that it is taking place over. Internet dissemination is fast, less agreeable to control by governments, it is almost global and the actual potential audience is huge. It is also less public: the same images can be sent to your terminal in your own room.
Material on the Internet: what should be censored?
What is the range of material on the Internet which could cause offense and generate demands for censorship? It is not possible to cover all the possibilities but a highly selective list would prove that censorship it not just about pornography. A look at the alt.* newsgoups would contain material offensive to some people and that is precisely the problem. The alt.* newsgroups are just the most visible groups. If there really were a list it would probably contain anything that caused debate, such as: religion, sex, drugs, politics, alternative lifestyles and astrology, just to name some. It is also possible to visit web sites which seem relatively unoffensive and by following links to other subjects accidentally stumble upon something that might be found offensive. Another question of censorship can be raised too, what about subjects that people feel are a waste of valuable Internet resources- "should these be censored as a waste?" The question is raised: why should a university provide the platform to discuss morning cartoons or your favorite movie star? By looking at these questions once again you must ask if it is possible to agree on what should be censored and can we agree that censorship should be exercised at all? The actions of Towson State and other universities can be explained as a conformity with local legislation, shifting the responsibility for censorship to the state, which introduces various laws which limit what we can see and read or say and write. Censorship may be applied to material which governments judge as damaging to some or all of society (e.g., pornography) or to preserve state security. One of the Internet's most popular and visited sites is Yahoo, a huge index of Internet sites that 1.4 million people use per week as a reference center to guide them around the vast Internet. Yahoo tracks and categorizes about 50,000 different sites around the Internet, ranging from home pages of computer companies to on-line catalogs to news sources. 217 of those 50,000 sites are listed under the category of sex which is 0.4 percent of the total. Many of the sites under the heading relate to the discussion of health issues. Many others are commercial sites like Playboy, Penthouse and Hustler magazines. Yahoo's co-founder acknowledges that the sites his index tracks are a fraction of the "millions" of places people can travel on the Internet but he said it is a good representative sample (O'Conner, 1995).
Who should censor the Internet and how?
Due to the lack of a controlling body and the Internet's anarchic nature, who could act as a censor of the material stored and distributed over the Internet? This is an extremely important issue because the censor or censors would have an enormous amount of power. Right now, it is unlikely that any group exists that could take this role and, it is most likely going to fall on individual organizations, like Towson State, to limit what can be received, as in the alt.* groups. Also, who could be held responsible for what is distributed over the various sections of the Internet, there are many divisions, such as: private email, public databases and bulletin boards, plus sites maintained in both the public and private sector. Is the moderator of an email discussion list to be held responsible for the contributions of subscribers? Most likely. The President of the Internet Society has indicated that the ISOC has drafted guidelines for behavior on the net but this will probably not deter anti-Semitic and racist groups because it is a form of free speech. As the Internet becomes even more commercial there will probably be less forms of offensive material because these large corporations will censor anything that may offend. The best way to think about the Internet is to think of it as a huge river. If you think of it that way, preventing access to newsgroups is easy because all that is required is to cut out the link coming into an organization, thought this could have the effect of cutting off other organizations further down the so-called river, unless secondary feeds, or tributaries, can be arranged. That is not a complete solution, though, because it is possible to obtain newsgroup feeds from other sources. Material from the Internet is much more difficult to control because of the nature of the net. It is largely for this reason that governments will have to fall back on legislation over possession, rather than distribution. The only other solution, right now, is for organizations to licences sites and then have the servers use their power to exert control over the content or the space and then licences would be withdrawn as a means of punishment or censorship. House Speaker Newt Gingrich has spoken out against a proposed government ban on sexually explicit material on the Internet, calling it "clearly a violation of free speech and...a violation of the rights of adults to communicate with each other." Even with Gingrich's support for free speech there was an overwhelming vote in early June, the Senate amended a telecommunications bill to make it a criminal offense to place "indecent" material on-line anywhere children might view it. After the Oklahoma City bombing, a prominent Jewish group called for the monitoring of hate groups on the Internet (O'Connor, 1995). Currently, such a move is strongly opposed by most of the Internet users because that would ruin the whole anarchic nature of the net where information is exchanged freely and without undue obstacles. A major consideration should be the balance of control and freedom of expression and information.
Currently, there are not any absolute solutions because of the nature of the Internet. There are some suggestions:
- Parents can teach children safe behavior on the Internet just as they teach them to deal with the dangers present in the real world. - Schools should develop acceptable use policies which establish clear guidelines for acceptable and unacceptable behavior. - We should teach all new users to use common courtesy whenever they participate in networking activities.
- All concerned networkers need to act responsibly and encourage their peers to do likewise.
- Inappropriate activities should be dealt with in a manner which respects the privacy, intellectual freedom and human rights of all concerned. - Concerned parents should purchase and use blocking software to control sites and material they don't want their children to access. There is also various types of Internet control software like Surfwatch and CyberSitter which are available by email from Classroom Connect (Voicenet,1995). The best idea is to strengthen the freedom of information which it offers and accept the consequence that some material will be distributed which individuals will find offensive. Then, our responsibility is to ensure that the content of such material is made clear, to prevent anyone from wandering into it innocently.