CENSORSHIP ON THE INTERNET A 43-year-old man from Boston was having a steamy cyber affair with who he thought to be a 23-year-old woman. He later found out the “she,” to his dismay, was an 80-year-old man living in a Miami nursing home. Things like this happen everyday, people mask their sex and age to avoid or attract attention on the Internet. This is only one of the reasons why the government wants to censor the Internet. They claim they want to protect the children by limiting the amount of reality they are allowed to view. But in order to do this they would need to censor the entire Internet, from everyone.
This is why censorship on the Internet would be a violation of the first amendment. Censorship itself is not what most people are concerned about. Instead, how far will it go? How far is too far? When will it stop? Can the Internet ever be censored? These questions need to be answered before we can even think about censoring. In order to fully understand censorship you have to know what the Internet is. The Internet is an open interconnection of networks that enables computers to connect directly through phone lines.
It allows people from around the world to communicate with the touch of a button. Its size is unimaginable, its content is uncountable. “In early 1995 more than 50,000 networks and 5 million computers were connected via the Internet, with a computer growth rate of about 9 percent per month” (Rutkowski, Encarta). Is the Internet to large to be censored? Remember in the 1940s people said radio was uncensorable. What is censorship anyway? Censorship is the official restriction of expression thought to be harmful.
“Censorship restricts the flow of ideas, depriving people of information they need to maintain an open society” (Steffens, 11). Censorship itself is by no means a new idea. It has existed since the beginning of mankind, Playboy magazine in the 1950s, radio in the 1930s, book burning in the 1940s, steamy celluloid reels in the 1920s, and erotic pages coming off the Gutenberg press in the 1350s. People fear new technology, I believe this is the reason that people want to censor the Internet. Change is a frightening thing, but without it the human race would cease to exist. Taking over our world, computers can be good or bad depending on how you look at it. At this time there is more information on the Internet than there is in any library and it is only a matter of years before books themselves will become obsolete.
By censoring the Internet the government will only be holding us back. Germany, China, Singapore, and several other countries have taken action and began to censor the Internet. The United States is not far behind. On February 8th, 1996, President Clinton signed the Communications Decency Act, which limits freedom of expression on the Internet. With this act, the very same materials which are legally available today in book stores and libraries could be illegal if posted on World Wide Web sites or Usenet newsgroups.
Not only would it have made it a crime to write provocative e-mail to your lover, it would also be a crime for your Internet provider. “Censorship is never for those who have experienced it. It is a brand on the imagination that affects the individual who has suffered it, forever” (Nadine Gordimer, Microsoft Office). What business does the government have telling people what they can and cant see anyway? If the childs parents are so concerned about what they are going to see on the Internet, there is software available that screens the Internet for just that computer. It isnt very expensive, in fact, you can even download some software from the Internet.
Yet, this software is no substitute for good judgment. “If you have time on your hands, if your comfortable with computing, and you have an unflagging curiosity about sex – in other words, if youre a teenager – you may think youve suddenly landed in pornography heaven” (Gleick, 26). Pornography is the only thing that you ever seem to hear about the Internet, but there is so much more out there. Information on anything and everything you could possibly ever imagine. Most of the material that I gathered for this project was done by hours of Internet surfing.
Another large misconception about the Internet is that while surfing you can just stumble on to pornography. Though it is possible, I highly doubt that you would, the Internet is not exactly known for being user-friendly. In fact it would probably be less of a hassle and much less time consuming to go to the bookstore in the mall to find nude pictures. Not that I am saying that the Internet is hard to maneuver, on it just takes some time to get used to it. Lets say that the United States was to censor nudity and profane swearing.
The good to come from this is that children and teenagers will no longer be able to view pornography on the Internet. Instead, you could go to the local public library or bookstore. The point I am getting at, if you fail at finding something at one place just move on to another. The bad part about censoring is that it would put a leash on the imagination and art such as Michelangelos David would be lost. Action against censorship is being taken in Cyberspace, on February 10, 1996, to show just how many people will be affected by the Communications Decency Act. The Coalition to Stop Net Censorship had asked everyone, everywhere to turn their World Wide Web pages black until 11 a.m. EST.
Turnout was stupendous, thousands of web pages turned black for this occasion. A blue ribbon campaign has also started, the blue ribbon symbolizes freedom of speech. More and more blue ribbons are being placed on home pages everyday. Internet users do this for only one reason, to protect their imaginations. Or as civil rights activist, Harry Belafonte put it, “You can cage the singer but not the song” (Microsoft Office).
John Goydan sued for divorce from his wife Diane after finding e-mail messages from her on-line lover, whom appeared to be a married man thousands of miles away. Untold thousands are flirting, courting, marrying, and even cheating on-line. “On-line affairs shift the emphasis in a relationship from outward appearances to inner thoughts and feeling. The result: a quick and intense intimacy” (Toufexis, 53). Al Cooper, a marriage counselor, said that, “It forces men to do something they dont normally want to engage in: communication. You have to be able to communicate on the Internet” (Toufexis, 53). Yet, most romances dont seem to burn after they move off screen mostly because you will never be able to live up to the mental image created by him or her.
In addition to reading magazine articles, World Wide Web pages, and books I conducted a survey of peoples opinion on censorship. I gathered statistics via e-mail, chat rooms, and bulletin boards. I found that all the adults that replied were against censorship of any kind. Teenagers, on the other hand, were 50-50. This surprised me, I thought that teenagers would be against people censoring the Internet. They tended to look at it from their parents point of view.
I would like to ask you to think about censorship and what it stands for, think about where you stand and remember, only you can stop corruption. I shall now conclude with a statement from Benjamin Franklin, “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety” (Steffens, 11). Instead of asking”How much damage will the work in question bring about?” Why not ask”How much good” How much joy? Henry Miller, U.S. author (Microsoft Office) The media has over hyped sex on the Net the situation is nowhere near as bad as people are lead to believe. “Zarniwoop,” 19 Bournemouth, England (E-mail) Censorship is very good, because I do not believe that their should exist a total freedom, a place where there is no law and maniacs are allowed to abuse their rights its like rotten morals exist no law to censor the indecent materials, its like allow crime to happen without anyone having the power to stop it.
“UFO,” 18 South Africa (E-mail) When truth is no longer free, freedom is no longer real: the truths of the police are the truths of today. Jacques Prevert, French poet (Microsoft Office) We should have the right of free speech and we have the right to do whatever, we pay the bills, we shouldnt be told what to say. “MJ,” 15 Peoria, Illinois (E-mail) I feel that without censorship we would be an over-run society of belligerent animals. It is too bad people do not see beyond the benefit of it all. We should always have some form of censorship.
I wouldnt like my children to be exposed to some of the lingo, or acts I see and hear everyday. There should be places where it isnt restricted, like adult places, where there are not a lot of children. But as for schools, restaurants, and public buildings, censor away! “Vera,” 16 Bowling Green, Ohio (E-mail) Censors tend to do what only psychotics do: they confuse reality with illusion. David Cronenberg, Canadian filmmaker (Microsoft Office) Personally, I think that censorship should be the parents responsibility, not the web servers. “Shroom,” 14 Barkansted, Connecticut (E-mail) Im the mother of an 11 year old daughter.
Bet you think you know what I’m going to say don’t you. It might just surprise you. For the most part I am against censorship of literature, TV, movie, and the net. What is obscene, offensive or distasteful for one person isn’t always the same for another. I believe it is up to the individual to decide what should and what shouldn’t be censored. Parents should be the ones to determine what their underage children can and can’t read, watch or hear. We owe it to our children to provide them with a balanced view of the world.
By allowing someone else to make the decision on what my daughter sees in my opinion severely limits her education in all areas of life. It is a decision she and I should make jointly as to exactly how much ‘reality’ she is ready for. “Beth,” 36 Joplin, Missouri (E-mail) Woe to that nation whose literature is cut short be the intrusion of force. This is not merely interference with freedom of press but the sealing up of a nations heart, the excision of its memory. Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Russian novelist (Microsoft Office) Dont join the book burners. Dont think you are going to conceal faults be concealing evidence that they ever existed.
Dwight D. Eisenhower, U.S. general, Republican president (Microsoft Office) Works Cited “Censorship.” Microsoft Office Professional and Bookshelf. CD Rom. Microsoft1996.
Gleick, James. “Is This Sex?.” The New York Times Magazine June 11, 1996: 26. Jones, Matt. “Censorship in Cyberspace.” Home Office Computers November 1994: 18 “Pulling the Plug On Porn, Can Germans Limit What We Say Over the Net?” Time January 8, 1996: 62 Rutkowski, Anthony M. “Internet” Encarta 96 Encyclopedia.
CD Rom. Microsoft 1996. Smith, Gena. “Peeper Madness.” Popular Science January 1996: 44 Steffens, Bradley. Censorship. San Diego, California: Lucent Books, Inc., 1996 Toufexis, Anastasia.
“Romancing the Computer.” Time February 19, 1996: 53 Wildstorm, Steve and Toddi Gutner. “Cyber Smut: How to Lock Out Kids.” Business Week February 12, 1996: 98-99.