Internet Censorship
Society has always struggled to protect the public from the inappropriate acts of a few people, who impose lower standards of morality on an involuntary basis to the general public. Society has monitored and set controls on mass media such as radio, television, magazines, and movies. However, another mass media has arrived which has virtually uncontrollable worldwide access. The censors are now in a dilemma of how to regulate this new media called the Internet.
Radio Stations have "kill buttons" that the producer and host can use to censor a callerís comments considered harmful from being heard by the listener. This is accomplished by delaying the call for several seconds, which allows the producer and host to censor the call. The "kill button" is used for complying with FCC regulations and for protecting from the consequences of even the briefest harmful comment. Lawsuits and FCC investigations are part of all controversial radio personalitiesí lives.
Some of the more controversial newsgroups on the Internet would cause a media producer to tremble. Most of the remarks and discussions on the Internet would never be allowed to go beyond a "kill button". Highly controversial statements made about well known individuals would cause a lawyer to celebrate, and the opinions made about the government and important groups within our community would make these groups mad. Currently, there is no way of regulating who is allowed to use the Internet or what they will say.
The public broadcast producerís nightmare of uncensored work is a paradise to most of the Internetís users. Tired of newspapers and broadcasters who must appeal to the FCC, the public, and advertisers, the Internet users can find material related to all their interests. The Internet is owned by no one and has no sponsors and editors, therefore the Internet is unlike any previous form of communication.
The government is attempting to regulate the Internet, but most of the politicians donít understand the Internet. The Internet has also caused many problems with offensive or sexually explicit material without any control. The general media declared war against the Internet this year, telling horror stories of the availability of bomb recipes that could threaten our existence. "There is the possibility that the Federal Government will introduce legislation on this matter in the future," said Geoff Slater. "The Senate has already conducted hearings into the matter."(47). Attempts to regulate the Internet, such as the infamous Communications Decency Act (CDA) in the United States, attempted to place similar conditions to those of a broadcast community and forbid the transmission of offensive content on the Internet. The CDA, sponsored by Nebraska Senator Jim Exon, criminalizes the transmission of Ďobsceneí material (without actually saying what Ďobsceneí is defined as) b!
y computer-based communications. In Connecticut there is a law that makes on-line harassment a misdemeanor unless you are a convicted felon then it is a felony. Virginia passed a law that makes the on-line service provider responsible for the acts of its users. Everyone is trying to censor the Internet, but nothing seems to be working.
Seeing the Internet being abused should be no surprise. Every form of communications that has ever existed has been used for corruption, beginning with speech. Pamphlets, books, magazines, video cassettes and broadcasting have been used to distribute offensive or sexually explicit material. Still, society spends billions to help insure that everyone is taught to read, write, and use all of these forms of communications.
If the Internet was similar to other forms of communication, it would be easy to regulate. The censorship of television and movies is accepted and regulated by the governments of the United States, Australia and other nations. These Nations are beginning to witness the introduction of the Net to many users and the need for some control. The Internet is like a telephone. Its use is determined by its subscribers and not its creators. When censoring the Internet, our leaders must make sure that their policies donít hurt the people that they are trying to protect.
Few users of the Internet would approve of the networks being used to carry offensive material, however the users of the Internet cannot support the calls for censorship from some politicians and reporters. The Internet simply cannot be treated the same as previous forms of communications, for technical and