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Internet Censorship

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The freedom of speech that was possible on the Internet could now be subjected to governmental approvals. For example, China is attempting to restrict political expression, in the name of security and social stability. It requires users of the Internet and electronic mail (e-mail) to register, so that it may monitor their activities. In the United Kingdom, state secrets and personal attacks are off limits on the Internet. Laws are strict and the government is extremely interested in regulating the Intern et with respect to these issues.10 Laws intended for other types of communication will not necessarily apply in this medium. Through all the components of the Internet it becomes easy to transfer material that particular governments might find objectionable. However, all of these means of communicating on the Internet make up a large and vast system. For inspectors to monitor every e-mail, every article in every Newsgroup, every Webpage, every IRC channel, every Gopher site and every FTP site would be near impossible. Besides taking an ext raordinary amount of money and time, attempts to censor the Internet violate freedom of speech rights that are included in democratic constitutions and international laws.11 It would be a breach of the First Amendment. The Constitution of the United Stat es of America declares that 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 redr ess of grievances 12 Therefore it would be unconstitutional for any sort of censorship to occur on the Internet and affiliated services. Despite the illegality, restrictions on Internet access and content are increasing worldwide under all forms of government. In France, a co untry where the press generally has a large amount of freedom, the Internet has recently been in the spotlight. A banned book on the health history of former French president Francois Mitterrand was republished electronically on the World Wide Web (WWW). Apparently, the electronic reproduction of Le Grand Secret by a third party wasn't banned by a court that ruled that the printed version of the book unlawfully violated Mitterrand's privacy. To enforce censorship of the Internet, free societies find that they become more repressive and closed societies find new ways to crush political expression and opposition.13 Vice - President Al Gore, while at an international conference in Brussels about the Internet, in a keynote address said that [Cyberspace] is about protecting and enlarging freedom of expression for all our citizens ... Ideas should not be checked at the border.14 Another person attending that conference was Ann Breeson of the Ame rican Civil Liberties Union, an organization dedicated to preserving many things including free speech. She is quoted as saying, Our big victory at Brussels was that we pressured them enough so that Al Gore in his keynote address made a big point of stre ssing the importance of free speech on the Internet.15 Many other organizations have fought against laws and have succeeded. A prime example of this is the fight that various groups put on against the recent Communication Decency Act (CDA) of the U.S. Se nate. The Citizens Internet Empowerment Coalition on 26 February 1996 filed a historic lawsuit in Philadelphia against the U.S. Department of Justice and Attorney General Janet Reno to make certain that the First Amendment of the U.S.A. would not be compr omised by the CDA. The sheer range of plaintiffs alone, including the American Booksellers Association, the Freedom to Read Foundation, Apple, Microsoft, America Online, the Society of Professional Journalists, the Commercial Internet eXchange Association , Wired, and HotWired, as well as thousands of netizens (citizens of the Internet) shows the dedication that is felt by many different people and groups to the cause of free speech on the Internet.16 Words like *censored*, *censored*, piss, and tits. Words of which our mothers (at least some of them) would no doubt disapprove, but which by no means should be regulated by the government. But it's not just about dirty words. It's also about words like AIDS, gay, a nd breasts. It's about sexual content, and politically controversial topics like drug addiction, euthanasia, and racism.17 Just recently in France, a high court has struck down a bill that promoted the censorship of the Internet. Other countries have attempted similar moves. The Internet cannot be regulated in the way of other mediums simply because it is not the same as anyt hing else that we have. It is a totally new and unique form of communication and deserves to be given a chance to prove itself. Laws of one country can not hold jurisdiction in another country and holds true on the Internet because it has no borders. Although North America (mainly the United States) has the largest share of servers, the Internet is still a worldwide network. This means that domestic regulations cannot oversee the rules of foreign countries. It would be just as easy for an American te en to download (receive) pornographic material from England, as it would be from down the street. One of the major problems is the lack of physical boundaries, making it difficult to determine where violations of the law should be prosecuted. There is no one place through which all information passes through. That was one of the key points that was stressed during the original days of the Internet, then called ARPANET. It started out as a defense project that would allow communication in the event of an e mergency such as nuclear attack. Without a central authority, information would pass around until it got where it was going.18 This was intended to be similar to the road system. It is not necessary to take any specific route but rather anyone goes. In th e same way the information on the Internet starts out and eventually gets to it's destination. The Internet is full of anonymity. Since text is the standard form of communication on the Internet it becomes difficult to determine the identity and/or age of a specific person. Nothing is known for certain about a person accessing content. There are no signatures or photo-ids on the Internet therefore it is difficult to certify that illegal activities



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