Ease of Internet Use Sparked Debates over Censorship

Young Jonathan was surfing the Internet on his mom and dad's personal computer when he accidentally stumbled onto a website with pornographic pictures. It just so happened that his mother decided to walk in and call him for dinner at this very moment. She is horrified at what her eight year old son has found. The ease of which a young person using the Internet can find pornography has sparked serious debates over censorship.

On one side people see it as the government's job to ensure the integrity of our children.

While the opposing side maintains it should be the parent's job to teach the kids right from wrong. Both sides have valid reasons to back up their opinions. First I will discuss Internet censorship and the massive task it entails then I will propose a compromise of sorts that will offer the best of both sides. Internet censorship is not just limited to the United States. Other countries are struggling with it as well.

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"Just this month, in the same week that brought us the announcement that India was going to free up its Internet market, Saudi Arabia told us it was going to clamp down on the network in that country" (Victoria Shannon).

The United Nations is also jumping onto the bandwagon. "The United Nations is looking into whether it has a place in regulating "hate speech" on the Internet. Like the Saudis, the folks investigating this issue claim to have noble intentions. Hopefully Saudi Arabia will not similarly conclude governmental restraint is in order" (Victoria Shannon).

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While it seems some countries are allowing their citizens more Internet freedom, others are trying to restrict it.

A year ago a bill was passed attempting to censor the Internet for America's family and children. "Children and families won an important victory in Congress on Feb. 1, 1996. The Telecommunications Deregulation and Reform Bill, which includes the Exon-Coats Communications Decency Act, was passed by the Senate and House. Congress agreed that reasonable steps need to be taken to protect children on the information superhighway instead of simply handing the keys of our homes to pornographers." The Communications Decency Act would make it illegal for anyone to transmit pornographic material in areas accessible to anyone under the age of eighteen (Jim Exon).

The Supreme court had a different opinion, they declared the Communications Decency Act unconstitutional because it infringed on the first amendment right of free speech. The Internet's overall size and growing popularity make it uniquely immune to any government restrictions. The Internet has been expanding at enormous rates. "Internet traffic has been growing between 15 and 20 percent a month. Terabytes, or trillions of bytes, are circulating on the net at any given time. Trying to locate illegal or offensive data on the net would be harder than trying to isolate two paired words in all the world's telephone conversations and TV transmissions at once. And this difficulty grows worse every hour" (Gary Chapman). The Internet's sheer size and amount of data flow makes it impossible to enforce censorship. The Internet is basically void of any form of government or laws.

To try and censor the Internet just for people under eighteen would be impossible. "The more pressing issue is that the Internet, for technical reasons, is largely immune not just to this but to any form of government regulation that net users oppose. There are already myriad ways that controversial regulations can be circumvented or foiled. In that sense the net may well be the first empirically lawless domain of modern life" (Gary Chapman). There are just too many ways to circumvent the programs and too many people for this plan to have any kind of success.

There is a compromise that can satisfy both sides. There are programs like "Cyber Patrol" and "Net Snitch" that allow the parents to censor what their kids see. That way the government does not violate the first amendment and children are not subjected to pornography. This plan seems to promise the best solution for both sides. Children should not be subjected to pornography, but at the same time the government should not trash the First Amendment. "Cyber Patrol" locks kids out of specified Internet Sites. "There is a list that is updated daily that has questionable material. It also has a feature called "ChatGard." This prevents children from divulging personal information like, name, phone number, address and so on" (Cyber Patrol). As with almost any program there are ways around this one too. No lock is foolproof so long as the person doing the picking is determined and resourceful.

NetSnitch is a different kind of program designed to protect children. This program leaves the punishment and discipline up to the parents. "NetSnitch monitors what sites the user has visited and lists them. This way a parent or teacher can see where their child has been" (NetSnitch). This program is much more popular among people extremely leery of censorship. However this program is useless without adult supervision.

The debate over the information being viewed by America's children like little Johnny still rages on. However, it is highly unlikely that censorship could ever be enforced. Although censorship may have noble intentions, it does not appear as if those intentions will become a reality any time soon. Not only is censorship unconstitutional it is also practically impossible to enforce.

Updated: Mar 15, 2023
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Ease of Internet Use Sparked Debates over Censorship. (2023, Mar 15). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/ease-of-internet-use-sparked-debates-over-censorship-essay

Ease of Internet Use Sparked Debates over Censorship essay
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