Censorship of the Internet and the Tyranny of Our Government


"To curtail free expression strikes twice at intellectual freedom, for
whoever deprives another of the right to state unpopular views also deprives
others of the right to listen to those views," said Oliver Wendell Holmes,
Jr(Censorship and the U.S. Government 1). I completely agree with Mr. Holmes,
and when the question of censoring the Internet arises, I cringe. Governing the
Internet dominates many debates, censorship leading the fight. The Internet is
the largest and most accessible form of mass media available today. It allows
anyone with a few simple tools to consume, and produce, information and ideas to
hundreds of people at a practically non-existent cost. Numerous factors
indicate censorship of this force is not possible, and not the government\'s
place. It should be left up to the users to decide what is broadcast. Most
importantly, censorship of the Internet impairs the expression of ideas and
infringes against the First Amendment of the Constitution.
First of all, censoring the Internet as a whole is not possible, so why
even try? Cyberspace is the most decentralized form of communication today
making policing the Internet a virtually futile task. Unlike television or
radio, the Internet consists of thousands of individual computers and networks,
with thousands of speakers, information providers and information users, and no
centralized distribution point (ACLU vs. Reno Brief 1). No guards watch to see
who goes where and if that place is appropriate. The Internet has grown to be a
global network. Just because one country deems something inappropriate does not
mean that another will comply with the decision and follow the ruling. If
posting pictures of bestiality was banned in China, for example, someone in
Switzerland could post those pictures and the Chinese would have access to every
single bit of data. Another example, this being completely factual, occurred in
Ontario concerning the Karla Homolka/Paul Bernado trial. The courts decided
that in order not to influence the jurors outside of the courtroom that a gag
order would be put on media coverage of the trial. Conventional media complied,
but an Internet site appeared. This was in turn shut down by the police, but
still another appeared (Censorship and the Internet 1). There exists today no
way of effectively tracking and determining from where a bulletin was posted,
especially with the automatic dialing and encryption technology available. Thus
even trying to censor the Internet as a whole would be only an exercise in
futility.
Although pornography and potentially destructive material exist on the
Internet, not all potentially offensive material shows violent sex acts with
children or instructs one how to make bombs. Many users transmit important
health-related information about sex. Some relate their views using strong
language that may be considered unsuitable. Still, some convey news and
information about human rights and civil liberties(ACLU vs. Reno Brief 1).
Every user has the right to such communication. Recently, while doing a
presentation, for a history class, concerning the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), I accessed
the KKK home page. At this site I found a plethora of information detailed with
their beliefs. If censorship, such as that desired by some government officials,
was in effect, a site, such as above, would never have been available and my
most abundant source of information would have been gone. Hate literature and
pornography do exist, but it is insignificant to the legitimate applications of
the Internet. Banning of material that may be offensive to one, but may be quite
valuable to another, deprives people of their civil right to information.
Pro-censorship advocates argue that some child might unsuspectingly
stumble upon unsuitable information. This is not true. Online users are not
bombarded with grotesque pictures and hate groups\' paraphernalia. One has to
deliberately go into such a site, and there exists software to protect children
from such occurrences. Often times pornography sites will ask for a
registration and a major credit card number. Forms are sent in the mail and
logging onto a pornography site can be quite time consuming. Also, parents can
take an active part in the censoring of their own children\'s online activities.
They should manage their child\'s Internet usage as they would determine the
kinds of movies available to be watched. (Censorship and the Internet 1) This
can be done with software, not government intervention. As stated in
"Censorship and the U.S. Government," "Censorship, like charity, should begin at
home, but unlike charity it should end there" (Censorship and the U.S.
Government 1), technology makes this possible. Internet providers, such as,
America Online, Prodigy and CompuServe offer child functions to restrict sites
determined by keywords, subject matter, or specific