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Censorship on the Internet

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During the past decade, our society has become based solely on the ability

to move large amounts of information across large distances quickly.

Computerization has

influenced everyone\'s life. The natural evolution of computers and this need


ultra-fast communications has caused a global network of interconnected


to develop. This global net allows a person to send E-mail across the world

in mere

fractions of a second, and enables even the common person to access


world-wide. With advances such as software that allows users with a sound

card to

use the Internet as a carrier for long distance voice calls and video

conferencing, this

network is key to the future of the knowledge society. At present, this net

is the

epitome of the first amendment: free speech. It is a place where people can


their mind without being reprimanded for what they say, or how they choose

to say it.

The key to the world-wide success of the Internet is its protection of free

speech, not

only in America, but in other countries where free speech is not protected

by a

constitution. To be found on the Internet is a huge collection of obscene


Anarchists\' cookbooks and countless other things that offend some people.

With over

30 million Internet users in the U.S. alone (only 3 million of which surf

the net from

home), everything is bound to offend someone. The newest wave of laws


through law making bodies around the world threatens to stifle this area of

spontaneity. Recently, Congress has been considering passing laws that will

make it

a crime punishable by jail to send \"vulgar\" language over the net, and to


encryption software. No matter how small, any attempt at government


in the Internet will stifle the greatest communication innovation of this

century. The

government wants to maintain control over this new form of communication,


they are trying to use the protection of children as a smoke screen to pass

laws that

will allow them to regulate and censor the Internet, while banning

techniques that

could eliminate the need for regulation. Censorship of the Internet

threatens to

destroy its freelance atmosphere, while wide spread encryption could help


the need for government intervention.

The current body of laws existing today in America does not apply well to


Internet. Is the Internet like a bookstore, where servers cannot be expected


review every title? Is it like a phone company who must ignore what it


because of privacy? Is it like a broadcasting medium, where the government

monitors what is broadcast? The trouble is that the Internet can be all or

none of

these things depending on how it\'s used. The Internet cannot be viewed as


type of transfer medium under current broadcast definitions.

The Internet differs from broadcasting media in that one cannot just happen

upon a

vulgar site without first entering a complicated address, or following a

link from

another source. \"The Internet is much more like going into a book store and

choosing to look at adult magazines.\" (Miller 75).

Jim Exon, a democratic senator from Nebraska, wants to pass a decency bill

regulating the Internet. If the bill passes, certain commercial servers that


pictures of unclad beings, like those run by Penthouse or Playboy, would of


be shut down immediately or risk prosecution. The same goes for any amateur

web site that features nudity, sex talk, or rough language. Posting any

dirty words

in a Usenet discussion group, which occurs routinely, could make one liable

for a

$50,000 fine and six months in jail. Even worse, if a magazine that commonly


some of those nasty words in its pages, The New Yorker for instance, decided




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