Internet Censorship


For centuries governments have tried to regular materials deemed
inappropriate or offensive. The history of western censorship was said to have
begun when Socrates was accused "firstly, of denying the gods recognized by the
State and introducing new divinities, and secondly of corrupting the young." He
was sentenced to death for these crimes. Many modern governments are attempting
to control access to the Internet. They are passing regulations that restrict
the freedom people once took for granted.

The Internet is a world wide network that should not be regulated or
censored by any on country. It is a complex and limitless network which allows
boundless possibilities and would be effected negatively by the regulations and
censorship that some countries are intent on establishing. Laws that are meant
for other types of communication will not necessarily apply in this medium.
There are no physical locations where communications take place, making it
difficult to determine where violations of the law should be prosecuted. There
is anonymity on the Internet and so ages and identities are not known this makes
it hard to determine if illegal activities are taking place in regards to people
under the legal age. As well, it is difficult to completely delete speech once
it has been posted, Meaning that distributing materials that are obscene are
banned becomes easy

The American Library Association (ALA) has a definition that states
censorship is “the change in the access status of material, made by a governing
authority or its representatives. Such changes include: exclusion, restriction,
remove, or age/grade level changes.” This definition, however, has a flaw in
that it only recognizes one form of censorship-governmental censorship.

Cyberspace, a common name for the Net, has been defined by one author as
being "made up of millions of people who communicate with one another through
computers. It is also "information stored on millions of computers worldwide,
accessible to others through telephone lines and other communication channels
"that" make up what is known as cyberspace." The same author went on to say "
term itself is elusive, since it is not so much a physical entity as a
description of an intangible."

The complexity of the Internet is demonstrated through its many
components. The most readily identifiable part is the World Wide Web (WWW).
This consists of web pages that can be accessed through the use of a web browser.
Web pages are created using a basic programming language. Another easily
identified section of the Internet is e-mail. Once again it is a relatively
user-friendly communication device. Some other less publicized sections of the
Internet include: Internet Relay Chat (IRC), which allows real time chatting to
occur among thousands of people, Gopher, which works similarly to the WWW but
for a more academic purpose, and File Transfer Protocol (FTP), Which allows the
transfer of files from one computer to another. Another service that is not
Internet but is carried along with it in many instances is Usenet or News. In
Usenet there are many newsgroups which center their conversations on varied
topics. For example, rec.music.beatles would focus the discussion on the
Beetles. This would be done through posts or articles, almost like letters sent
into a large pot where everyone can read and reply. Many controversial
newsgroups exist and they are created easily. It is possible to transfer
obscene and pornographic material through these newsgroups. There is no
accurate way to determine how many people are connected to the Internet because
the number grows so rapidly everyday. Figures become obsolete before they can
be published. "[The Internet] started as a military strategy and, over thirty
years later, has evolved into the massive networking of over 3 million computers
worldwide”. One of the most prominent features of the young Internet was it had
freedom. It is “ a rate example of a true, modern, functional anarchy...there
are no official censors, no bosses, no board of directors, no stockholders". It
is an open forum where the only thing holding anyone back is a conscience. The
Internet has "no central authority" and therefore it makes it difficult to be
censored. As a result of these and more, the Internet offers potential for a
true democracy.

The freedom of speech that was possible on the Internet could now be
subjected to governmental approvals. For example, China is attempting to
restrict political expression, in the name of security and social stability. It
requires users of the Internet and e-mail to register, so that it may monitor
their activities. In the United Kingdom, state secrets and personal attacks are
off limits on the Internet. Laws are strict and the government is extremely
interested in regulating the