CIS 302 - Information Systems I
John J. Doe
March 12, 1997
During the last decade, our society has become based on the sole ability to move large amounts of information across great distances quickly. Computerization has influenced everyone's life in numerous ways. The natural evolution of computer technology and this need for ultra-fast communications has caused a global network of interconnected computers to develop. This global network allows a person to send E-mail across the world in mere fractions of a second, and allows a common person to access wealths of information worldwide. This newfound global network, originally called Arconet, was developed and funded solely by and for the U.S. government. It was to be used in the event of a nuclear attack in order to keep communications lines open across the country by rerouting information through different servers across the country. Does this mean that the government owns the Internet, or is it no longer a tool limited by the powers that govern. Generalities such as these have sparked great debates within our nation's government. This paper will attempt to focus on two high profile ethical aspects concerning the Internet and its usage. These subjects are Internet privacy and Internet censorship.
At the moment, the Internet is epitome of our first amendment, free speech. It is a place where a person can speak their mind without being reprimanded for what they say or how they choose to say it. But also contained on the Internet, are a huge collection of obscene graphics, Anarchists' cookbooks, and countless other things that offend many people. There are over 30 million Internet surfers in the U.S. alone, and much is to be said about what offends whom and how.
As with many new technologies, today's laws don't apply well when it comes to the Internet. Is the Internet like a bookstore, where servers can not be expected to review every title? Is it like a phone company who must ignore what it carries because of privacy; or is it like a broadcast medium, where the government monitors what is broadcast? The problem we are facing today is that the Internet can be all or none of the above depending on how it is used.
Internet censorship, what does it mean? Is it possible to censor amounts of information that are all alone unimaginable? The Internet was originally designed to "find a way around" in case of broken communications lines, and it seems that explicit material keeps finding its "way around" too. I am opposed to such content on the Internet and therefore am a firm believer in Internet censorship. However, the question at hand is just how much censorship the government impose. Because the Internet has become the largest source of information in the world, legislative safeguards are indeed imminent. Explicit material is not readily available over the mail or telephone and distribution of obscene material is illegal. Therefore, there is no reason this stuff should go unimpeded across the Internet. Sure, there are some blocking devices, but they are no substitute for well-reasoned law. To counter this, the United States has set regulations to determine what is categorized as obscenity and what is not. By laws set previously by the government, obscene material should not be accessible through the Internet. The problem society is now facing is that cyberspace is like a neighborhood without a police department. "Outlaws" are now able to use powerful cryptography to send and receive uncrackable communications across the Internet. Devices set up to filter certain communications cannot filter that which cannot be read, which leads to my other topic of interest: data encryption.
By nature, the Internet is an insecure method of transferring data. A single E-mail packet may pass through hundreds of computers between its source and destination. At each computer,...