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 every day, 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 per cent 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
1940’s, 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 a provocative e-mail to your lover, but 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 can’t see anyway? If the child’s 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 isn’t 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 you are comfortable with computing, and you have an unflagging curiosity about sex – in other words, if you’re a teenager – you may think you’ve 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.