Censorship on 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
ultra-fast communications has caused a global network of interconnected
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
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
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
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
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
encryption software. No matter how small, any attempt at government
in the Internet will stifle the greatest communication innovation of this
century. The
government wants to maintain control over this new form of communication,
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
the need for government intervention.

The current body of laws existing today in America does not apply well to
Internet. Is the Internet like a bookstore, where servers cannot be expected
review every title? Is it like a phone company who must ignore what it
because of privacy? Is it like a broadcasting medium, where the government
monitors what is broadcast? The trouble is that the Internet can be all or
none of
these things depending on how it's used. The Internet cannot be viewed as
type of transfer medium under current broadcast definitions.

The Internet differs from broadcasting media in that one cannot just happen
upon a
vulgar site without first entering a complicated address, or following a
link from
another source. "The Internet is much more like going into a book store and
choosing to look at adult magazines." (Miller 75).

Jim Exon, a democratic senator from Nebraska, wants to pass a decency bill
regulating the Internet. If the bill passes, certain commercial servers that
pictures of unclad beings, like those run by Penthouse or Playboy, would of
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
some of those nasty words in its pages, The New Yorker for instance, decided
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
has been legal for years in print? Exon's bill apparently would also
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
they no longer control it. Many of the new Internet technologies, including
World Wide Web, have come from overseas. There is no clear boundary between
information held in the U.S. and information stored in