Net Censorship

Most of us have used it. Most of us find it useful, Some of us find it entertaining. Some of us
find it offensive.
“It” is the Internet. The Internet has dramatically changed our society. It brings together people
and their ideas from all around the world in a short amount of time. It is expanding daily to allow new
ideas and thought s to be transmitted quickly and easily with the single click of a button. One can find
information on almost any subject there. Yet many people are trying to censor it. The Internet contains
racist thoughts, sexually explicit material and much more inappropriate material. But who is it
inappropriate for and why should it be censored?
In 1996 the Communications Decency Amendment was passed by congress. This amendment
imposed a $100,000 fine or a 2-year jail term on anyone who used the Internet to annoy, abuse, threaten or
harass anyone else. Pro-censors believed the act to be necessary in order to extend the standards of
decency to the new telecommunications device. Anti-censors thought the amendment was acting like the
“thought police.”
Recently though the Supreme Court overturned the Communications Decency Act in the civil case
of Reno v. ACLU. This new law states that the Internet deserves the same level of speech protection as
books or other printed material.
Even with this new law in effect many people are still trying and some are succeeding at censoring
the Internet. They are creating schemes to block and rate the net. A meeting recently took place at the
White House about this subject. Several industry leaders and the government agreed to try to originate a
variety of systems to block and regulate controversial online speech. Despite the Supreme Court these
leaders are inching toward the dangerous and incorrect understanding that the Internet is like television and
should be rated and/or censored.
During this meeting many announcements took place. Netscape, a major online server,
proclaimed their plans to join Microsoft, a major computer company, and adopt the Platform for Internet
Content Selection (PICS). PICS is a rating standard that established a consistent way to rate and block
online content. IBM also had an announcement: They have decided to make a $100,000 grant to
Recreational Software Advisory Council (RSAC), another rating system. They did this in hopes of
encouraging it’s use. Senator Patty Murray of New York announced of a proposed legislation that would
tax civil and ultimately criminal penalties on those who mis-rate a website.
What will be the result of all these actions? The Internet will become bland and homogenized.
The major commercial sites will still be readily available but those who circulate quirky and idiosyncratic
speech, those who create their own home pages or post to controversial news groups will be the first to be
blocked by filters and made invisible by the search engines. They will still be there but available only to
those with the know how and the tools.
Does this material deserve to be censored anyway? Internet users know best what they are looking
at. If it offends them, they should move on. The primary responsibility for determining what speech to
access and what speech not to access should remain up to the Internet user not filters.
Many parents have a problem with their children and the Internet. There are many suggestions
and ideas for controlling what they are viewing. The parents should also have they computer in a room
where they can look over the child’s shoulders every once in a while to check up on them. The parents
should put time restrictions on usage of the computer. There are many solutions to this problem.
In conclusion the Internet is a quickly growing addition to our culture., It informs, entertains and
can possible offend. But with the Supreme Court’s ruling, no one should be allowed to censor it. The
Internet is a never-ending worldwide conversation that deserves the highest protection from government