A 43-year-old man from Boston was having a steamy cyber affair with who he thought to be a23-year-old woman. He later found out the “she,” to his dismay, was an 80-year-old man living in aMiami nursing home. Things like this happen everyday, people mask their sex and age to avoid orattract attention on the Internet.
This is only one of the reasons why the government wants tocensor the Internet. They claim they want to ?protect’ the children by limiting the amount of?reality’ they are allowed to view. But in order to do this they would need to censor the entireInternet, from everyone. This is why censorship on the Internet would be a violation of the firstamendment. Censorship itself is not what most people are concerned about. Instead, how far will it go? How faris too far? When will it stop? Can the Internet ever be censored? These questions need to beanswered before we can even think about censoring.
In order to fully understand censorship you have to know what the Internet is. The Internet is anopen interconnection of networks that enables computers to connect directly through phone lines. It allows people from around the world to communicate with the touch of a button. Its size is unimaginable, its content is uncountable. “In early 1995 more than 50,000 networks and 5million computers were connected via the Internet, with a computer growth rate of about 9percent per month” (Rutkowski, Encarta).
Is the Internet to large to be censored? Remember in the1940s people said radio was uncensorable. What is censorship anyway? Censorship is the official restriction of expression thought to be harmful. “Censorship restricts the flow of ideas, depriving people of information they need to maintain anopen society” (Steffens, 11). Censorship itself is by no means a new idea.
It has existed since thebeginning of mankind, Playboy magazine in the 1950’s, radio in the 1930’s, book burning in the1940’s, steamy celluloid reels in the 1920’s, and erotic pages coming off the Gutenberg press in the1350’s. People fear new technology, I believe this is the reason that people want to censor the Internet. Change is a frightening thing, but without it the human race would cease to exist. Taking over ourworld, computers can be good or bad depending on how you look at it. At this time there is moreinformation on the Internet than there is in any library and it is only a matter of years before booksthemselves will become obsolete.
By censoring the Internet the government will only be holding usback. Germany, China, Singapore, and several other countries have taken action and began to censorthe Internet. The United States is not far behind. On February 8th, 1996, President Clinton signed theCommunications Decency Act, which limits freedom of expression on the Internet. With this act, thevery same materials which are legally available today in book stores and libraries could be illegal ifposted on World Wide Web sites or Usenet newsgroups. Not only would it have made it a crime towrite provocative e-mail to your lover, it would also be a crime for your Internet provider.
“Censorship is never for those who have experienced it. It is a brand on the imagination that affectsthe individual who has suffered it, forever” (Nadine Gordimer, Microsoft Office). What business does the government have telling people what they can and can’t see anyway? Ifthe child’s parents are so concerned about what they are going to see on the Internet, there issoftware available that screens the Internet for just that computer. It isn’t very expensive, in fact,you can even download some software from the Internet. Yet, this software is no substitute for goodjudgment.
“If you have time on your hands, if your comfortable with computing, and you have an unflaggingcuriosity about sex – in other words, if you’re a teenager – you may think you’ve suddenly landedin pornography heaven” (Gleick, 26). Pornography is the only thing that you ever seem to hearabout the Internet, but there is so much more out there. Information on anything and everythingyou could possibly ever imagine. Most of the material that I gathered for this project was done byhours of Internet ?surfing’. Another large misconception about the Internet is that while surfing youcan just stumble on to pornography. Though it is possible, I highly doubt that you would, theInternet is not exactly known for being ?user-friendly.
‘ In fact it would probably be less of a hassleand much less time consuming to go to the bookstore in the mall to find nude pictures. Not that Iam saying that the Internet is hard to maneuver, on it just takes some time to get used to it. Let’s say that the United States was to censor nudity and profane swearing. The good to comefrom this is that children and teenagers will no longer be able to view pornography on the Internet. Instead, you could go to the local public library or bookstore. The point I am getting at, if you fail atfinding something at one place just move on to another.
The bad part about censoring is that itwould put a leash on the imagination and art such as Michelangelo’s David would be lost. Action against censorship is being taken in Cyberspace, on February 10, 1996, to show just howmany people will be affected by the Communications Decency Act. The Coalition to Stop NetCensorship had asked everyone, everywhere to turn their World Wide Web pages black until 11a. m. EST. Turnout was stupendous, thousands of web pages turned black for this occasion.
A blueribbon campaign has also started, the blue ribbon symbolizes freedom of speech. More and moreblue ribbons are being placed on home pages everyday. Internet users do this for only one reason,to protect their imaginations. Or as civil rights activist, Harry Belafonte put it, “You can cage thesinger but not the song” (Microsoft Office). John Goydan sued for divorce from his wife Diane after finding e-mail messages from her on-linelover, whom appeared to be a married man thousands of miles away. Untold thousands areflirting, courting, marrying, and even cheating on-line.
“On-line affairs shift the emphasis in arelationship from outward appearances to inner thoughts and feeling. The result: a quick andintense intimacy” (Toufexis, 53). Al Cooper, a marriage counselor, said that, “It forces men to dosomething they don’t normally want to engage in: communication. You have to be able tocommunicate on the Internet” (Toufexis, 53).
Yet, most romances don’t seem to burn after theymove off screen mostly because you will never be able to live up to the mental image created byhim or her. In addition to reading magazine articles, World Wide Web pages, and books I conducted a surveyof people’s opinion on censorship. I gathered statistics via e-mail, chat rooms, and bulletin boards. Ifound that all the adults that replied were against censorship of any kind.
Teenagers, on the otherhand, were 50-50. This surprised me, I thought that teenagers would be against people censoringthe Internet. They tended to look at it from their parents point of view. I would like to ask you to think about censorship and what it stands for, think about where youstand and remember, only you can stop corruption. I shall now conclude with a statement fromBenjamin Franklin, “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safetydeserve neither liberty nor safety” (Steffens, 11).
Instead of asking?”How much damage will the work in question bring about?” Why notask?”How much good” How much joy?? Henry Miller, U. S. author (Microsoft Office)The media has over hyped sex on the Net? the situation is nowhere near as bad as people arelead to believe. ? “Zarniwoop,” 19 Bournemouth, England (E-mail)Censorship is very good, because I do not believe that their should exist a total freedom, a placewhere there is no law and maniacs are allowed to abuse their ?rights’ its like rotten morals? existno law to censor the indecent materials, its like allow crime to happen without anyone havingthe power to stop it. ? “UFO,” 18 South Africa (E-mail)When truth is no longer free, freedom is no longer real: the truths of the police are the truths oftoday.
? Jacques Prevert, French poet (Microsoft Office)We should have the right of free speech and we have the right to do ?whatever,’ we pay the bills,we shouldn’t be told what to say. ? “MJ,” 15 Peoria, Illinois (E-mail)I feel that without censorship we would be an over-run society of belligerent animals. It is too badpeople do not see beyond the benefit of it all. We should always have some form of censorship. Iwouldn’t like my children to be exposed to some of the lingo, or acts I see and hear everyday. There should be places where it isn’t restricted, like adult places, where there are not a lot ofchildren.
But as for schools, restaurants, and public buildings, censor away!? “Vera,” 16 Bowling Green, Ohio (E-mail)Censors tend to do what only psychotics do: they confuse reality with illusion. ? David Cronenberg, Canadian filmmaker (Microsoft Office)Personally, I think that censorship should be the parents responsibility, not the web servers. ? “Shroom,” 14 Barkansted, Connecticut (E-mail)I’m the mother of an 11 year old daughter. Bet you think you know what I’m going to say don’tyou. It might just surprise you.
For the most part I am against censorship of literature, TV, movie,and the net. What is obscene, offensive or distasteful for one person isn’t always the same foranother. I believe it is up to the individual to decide what should and what shouldn’t becensored. Parents should be the ones to determine what their underage children can and can’tread, watch or hear. We owe it to our children to provide them with a balanced view of theworld.
By allowing someone else to make the decision on what my daughter sees in my opinionseverely limits her education in all areas of life. It is a decision she and I should make jointly as toexactly how much ‘reality’ she is ready for. ? “Beth,” 36 Joplin, Missouri (E-mail)Woe to that nation whose literature is cut short be the intrusion of force. This is not merelyinterference with freedom of press but the sealing up of a nation’s heart, the excision of itsmemory.
? Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Russian novelist (Microsoft Office)Don’t join the book burners. Don’t think you are going to conceal faults be concealing evidencethat they ever existed. ? Dwight D. Eisenhower, U.
S. general, Republican president (Microsoft Office)Works Cited”Censorship. ” Microsoft Office Professional and Bookshelf. CD Rom. Microsoft1996.
Gleick, James. “Is This Sex?. ” The New York Times Magazine June 11, 1996: 26. Jones, Matt. “Censorship in Cyberspace. ” Home Office Computers November 1994: 18″Pulling the Plug On Porn, Can Germans Limit What We Say Over the Net?” Time January 8, 1996:62Rutkowski, Anthony M.
“Internet” Encarta 96 Encyclopedia. CD Rom. Microsoft 1996. Smith, Gena. “Peeper Madness.
” Popular Science January 1996: 44Steffens, Bradley. Censorship. San Diego, California: Lucent Books, Inc. , 1996Toufexis, Anastasia. “Romancing the Computer. ” Time February 19, 1996: 53Wildstorm, Steve and Toddi Gutner.
“Cyber Smut: How to Lock Out Kids.” Business Week February 12,1996: 98-99