Regulating The Internet: Who\'s In Charge

James H Huff English 111G Fall 1996

The internet was started by the military in the late forties, and has since
grown to an incredibly large and complex web, which will no doubt effect all of
us in the years to come. The press has recently taken it upon themselves to
educate the public to the dark side of this web, a network which should be
veiwed as a tremendous resource of information and entertainment. Instead, due
to this negative image, more and more people are shying away from the internet,
afraid of what they may find there. We must find a way to regulate what is there,
protect ourselves from what is unregulatable, and educate the general populace
on how to use this tremendous tool.
"The reality exists that governance of global networks offers major
challenges to the user, providers, and policy makers to define their boundaries
and their system of govenment" (Harassim, p84)
The intemet is a group of networks, linked together, which is capable of
transmitting vast amounts of information from one network to another. The
internet knows no boundaries and is not located in any single country. The
potential the internet has of shaping our world in the future is inconceivable.
But with all its potential the internet is surrounded by questions of its usage.
The intemet was named the global village by McLuhan and Fiore in 1968, but
recently the internet has been more properly renamed the global metropolis.
Robert Fortner defines the internet as a place where people from all different
cultures and backgrounds come together to share ideas and information.
"Communication in a metropolis also reflects the ethnic, racial, and sexual
inequalities that exist generally in the society. \'\' (Fortner, p25)
When a person enters into a global metropolis to engage in communication
they do not know who they will interact with nor do they know what information
that they may come across. Which brings an important question to mind. If this
is a community, a global metropolis, should it not be governed to protect the
members of the community? But more importantly, can a community that knows no
boundaries and belongs to no country, be regulated? And who can or should
regulate it?
With the vast amounts of information transmitted through network to network,
with some information remaining at sites temporarily or disappearing within
seconds, how can one regulate it? In a meeting of the Senate Select Committee on
Community Standards in Australia, iiNet, an Australian intemet provider,
presented facts on how much information passes through their server daily.
"Our own network sees over 200,000 items of email between individuals every
day of the year, and this is increasing. In USENet news, the ‘discussion areas\',
iiNet sees 150Mb of typed data every day, over 100,000 pages. This includes
people chatting idly, informational postings, questions, answers and anything
else that the committee can imagine people wishing to talk about.\'\' (Senate
Committee).
This is an example of one server, the information that passes through it
originates from all over the world. The point is that this one provider can not
possibly be able to review everything that passes through its server.
Should the internet be regulated? We know that it can\'t and never will be
perfectly regulated and therefore the user will always need to be aware that he
is entering a global community and he may find some information offensive.
For example, one of the hottest issues which has been in the news is the
internet transmitting pornography. Individuals and companies do upload and
download pomography. It ranges from pictures of nude men and women to child
pornography.
Many schools have adopted the idea of bringing computers into the classrooms.

"In the classroom, where youngsters are being introduced to the machines as
early as kindergarten, they astound-and often outpace-their teachers with their
computer skills." (Golden, 219) Educating students about computer literacy is an
important aspect for the upcoming generation. Computer literacy will become just
as important for people to understand as reading, writing and arithmetic are.
With this increased ability at such a young age comes the the abilty to
access the net, and the places on the net that we as parents don\'t want our
children going. Much the same as the ability to walk enables them to go places
they don\'t belong.
The United States has laws which regulate pornography with a clear
understanding of the First Amendment, allowance for freedom of speech. There is
a difference between obscenity which is not protected by the First Amendment and
indecency