The Communications Decency Act calls for two years of jail time for anyone caught using "indecent"
language over the net; as if reading profanities online affects us more dramatically than reading them on
paper. Our First Amendment states, "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...." The Act takes away this right. The Internet Censorship Bill of
1995, also known as the Exon/Coats Communications Decency Act, has been introduced in the U.S.
Congress. It would make it a criminal offense to make available to children anything that is indecent, or to
send anything indecent with "intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass". The goal of this bill is to try to
make all public discourse on the Internet suitable for young children. The issue of whether is it necessary
to have censorship on the Internet is being argued all over the world. Censorship would damage the
atmosphere of the freedom to express ideas on the Internet; therefore, government should not encourage
censorship.
The Internet was originally a place for people to freely express their ideas worldwide. It is also one of
America's most valuable types of technology. Ordinary people use the Net for communication, expressing
their opinions, or obtaining up-to-date information from the World Wide Web (WWW). The Internet has
no president, chief operating officer, or Pope. The networks may have presidents and CEO's, but that's a
different issue; there is no single authority figure for the Internet as a whole. "On an information
superhighway driven by individuals, there are no cops preventing users from downloading". Internet users
can broadcast or express anything they want. The fact that the Net has no single authority figure sets forth
a problem about what kind of materials could be available on the Net.
One campaign against the Communications Decency Act is the Blue Ribbon Campaign. A blue
ribbon was chosen as the symbol for the preservation of basic civil rights in the electronic world. The blue
ribbon is inspired by the yellow POW/MIA and red AIDS/HIV ribbons. The Blue Ribbon is a way to raise
awareness of censorship issues, from locally to globally, and for the quiet voice of reason to be heard. "The
voice of reason knows that free speech doesn't equate to sexual harassment, abuse of children, or the
breeding of hatred or intolerance." They insist that any material that's legal in bookstores, newspapers, or
public libraries must be legal online.
The U.S. government is now trying to pass bills to prevent misuse of the Net. The Internet Censorship
Bill of 1995 was introduced to the U.S. Congress. Under the Censorship Bill, a person breaks the law if
he/she puts a purity test on a web page without making sure children cannot access the page. Also, if a
person verbally assaults someone, he/she breaks the law. If a university, where some students may be
under 18 years old, carries the alt.sex*. newsgroups, which contains adult material, it breaks the law. A
censorship bill was passed by the Senate 84-16 in July, and an anti-censorship bill was passed by the House
420-4 in August. There are now four different sets of censorship and anti-censorship languages in the
House and Senate versions of the Telecomm reform bill, which contradict each other and will have to be
reconciled.
Pornographic pictures, however, are not the only material to be found on the net which can raise
questions of censorship and control: discussion and posting of racial, political, and religious topics all run
the risk of offending someone. A crucial Internet crime is the theft of credit card numbers. Companies do
business on the Net, and credit card numbers are stored on their servers; everyone with the necessary
computer knowledge could hack in and obtain such databases for illegal purposes. To cite an instance, the
most infamous computer terrorist, Kevin Mitnick, "waived extradition and is now in jail in California,
charged with computer fraud and illegal use of a telephone access device. The list of allegations against
him include theft of many files and documents, including twenty-thousand credit card numbers from
Netcom On-Line Services, which provides thousands with access to the Internet". Many experts have
pointed out that government censorship is