Government Intervention of the Internet

During the past decade, our society has become based solely on the ability to
move large amounts of information across large distances quickly.
Computerization has influenced everyone\'s life. The natural evolution of
computers and this need for ultra-fast communications has caused a global
network of interconnected computers to develop. This global net allows a person
to send E-mail across the world in mere fractions of a second, and enables even
the common person to access information world-wide. With advances such as
software that allows users with a sound card to use the Internet as a carrier
for long distance voice calls and video conferencing, this network is key to
the future of the knowledge society. At present, this net is the epitome of the
first amendment: free speech. It is a place where people can speak their mind
without being reprimanded for what they say, or how they choose to say it. The
key to the world-wide success of the Internet is its protection of free speech,
not only in America, but in other countries where free speech is not protected
by a constitution. To be found on the Internet is a huge collection of obscene
graphics, Anarchists\' cookbooks and countless other things that offend some
people. With over 30 million Internet users in the U.S. alone (only 3 million of
which surf the net from home), everything is bound to offend someone. The
newest wave of laws floating through law making bodies around the world
threatens to stifle this area of spontaneity. Recently, Congress has been
considering passing laws that will make it a crime punishable by jail to send
"vulgar" language over the net, and to export encryption software. No matter how
small, any attempt at government intervention in the Internet will stifle the
greatest communication innovation of this century. The government wants to
maintain control over this new form of communication, and they are trying to
use the protection of children as a smoke screen to pass laws that will allow
them to regulate and censor the Internet, while banning techniques that could
eliminate the need for regulation. Censorship of the Internet threatens to
destroy its freelance atmosphere, while wide spread encryption could help
prevent the need for government intervention.

Jim Exon, a democratic senator from Nebraska, wants to pass a decency
billregulating the Internet. If the bill passes, certain commercial servers that
post pictures of unclad beings, like those run by Penthouse or Playboy, would of
course be shut down immediately or risk prosecution. The same goes for any
amateur web site that features nudity, sex talk, or rough language. Posting any
dirty words in a Usenet discussion group, which occurs routinely, could make one
liable for a $50,000 fine and six months in jail. Even worse, if a magazine that
commonly runs some of those nasty words in its pages, The New Yorker for
instance, decided to post its contents on-line, its leaders would be held
responsible for a $100,000 fine and two years in jail. Why does it suddenly
become illegal to post something that has been legal for years in print? Exon\'s
bill apparently would also "criminalize private mail," ... "I can call my
brother on the phone and say anything--but if I say it on the Internet, it\'s
illegal" (Levy 53).

Congress, in their pursuit of regulations, seems to have overlooked the fact
that the majority of the adult material on the Internet comes from overseas.
Although many U.S. government sources helped fund Arpanet, the predecessor to
the Internet, they no longer control it. Many of the new Internet technologies,
including the World Wide Web, have come from overseas. There is no clear
boundary between information held in the U.S. and information stored in other
countries. Data held in foreign computers is just as accessible as data in
America, all it takes is the click of a mouse to access. Even if our government
tried to regulate the Internet, we have no control over what is posted in other
countries, and we have no practical way to stop it.

The Internet\'s predecessor was originally designed to uphold communications
after a nuclear attack by rerouting data to compensate for destroyed telephone
lines and servers. Today\'s Internet still works on a similar design. The very
nature of this design allows the Internet to overcome any kind of barriers put
in its way. If a major line between two servers, say in two countries, is cut,
then the Internet users will find another way around this obstacle. This
obstacle avoidance makes it virtually impossible to separate an entire nation
from indecent information