Information And The Freedom To View It
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Information And The Freedom To View It
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 electronic mail (e-mail) to register, so that it may monitor their activities.(9) 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 Intern et with respect to these issues.(10) Laws intended for other types of communication will not necessarily apply in this medium. Through all the components of the Internet it becomes easy to transfer material that particular governments
might find objectionable. However, all of these means of communicating on the Internet make up a large and vast system.
For inspectors to monitor every e-mail, every article in every Newsgroup, every Webpage, every IRC (Internet Relay Chat) channel, every Gopher site and every FTP (File Transfer Protocal) site would be near impossible. Besides taking an extraordinary amount of money and time, attempts to censor the Internet violate freedom of speech rights that are included in democratic constitutions and international laws.It would be a breach of the First Amendment. The Constitution of the United States of America declares that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances" 12
Therefore it would be unconstitutional for any sort of censorship to occur on the Internet and affiliated services. Despite the illegality, restrictions on Internet access and content are increasing worldwide under all forms of government. In France, a country where the press generally has a large amount of freedom, the Internet has recently been in the spotlight. A banned book on the health history of former French president Francis Mitterrand was republished electronically on the World Wide Web (WWW). Apparently, a court that ruled that the printed version of the book unlawfully violated Mitterrand’s privacy didn’t ban the electronic reproduction of Le Grand Secret by a third party.
To enforce censorship of the Internet, free societies find that they become more repressive and closed societies find new ways to crush political expression and opposition.(13) Vice - President Al Gore, while at an international conference in Brussels about the Internet, in a keynote address said that "[Cyberspace] is about protecting and enlarging freedom of expression for all our citizens ... Ideas should not be checked at the border".(14) Another person attending
that conference was Ann Breeson of the American Civil Liberties Union, an organization dedicated to preserving many things including free speech. She is quoted as saying, "Our big victory at Brussels was that we pressured them enough so that Al Gore in his keynote address made a big point of stressing the importance of free speech on the Internet."(15)
Many other organizations have fought against laws and have succeeded. A prime example of this is the fight that various groups put on against the recent Communication Decency Act (CDA) of the U.S. Senate. The Citizens Internet Empowerment Coalition on 26 February 1996 filed a historic lawsuit in Philadelphia against the U.S. Department of Justice and Attorney General Janet Reno to make certain that the First Amendment of the U.S.A. would not be compromised by the CDA. The sheer range of plaintiffs alone, including the American Booksellers Association, the Freedom to Read Foundation, Apple, Microsoft, America Online, the Society of Professional Journalists, the Commercial Internet eXchange Association , Wired, and HotWired, these are all very powerful companies, especially Microsoft, as well as thousands of netizens (citizens of the Internet) shows the dedication that is felt by many different people and groups to the cause of free speech on the Internet. (16) "Words like shit, fuck, piss, and tits. Words of which our mothers (at least some of them) would no doubt disapprove, but which by no means should be regulated by the government. But it's not just about dirty words. It's also about words like AIDS, gay, and breasts. It's about sexual content, and politically controversial topics
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