Internet Censorship

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Everyone has heard of the Internet and how it is going to help set the world free. The Internet is the fastest growing form of communication and is becoming more and more common in the home. Companies these days do big business over the Internet, and online shopping has grown tremendously in the last few years. For instance, the online auction site eBay sells millions of items every year online. Many companies are making even more plans to expand their business to the Internet. Unfortunately, there have been numerous attempts lately to censor the Internet. If the Internet is controlled, regulated, restricted, or censored it will have harsh effects on its capabilities. In recent years, America's economy has become increasingly dependent on the need to instantly move large amounts of information across long distances. Computerization has changed everyone's life in ways that were never before possible. The global network of interconnected computers allows people to send electronic mail messages across the world in the blink of an eye and stay updated on world events as they happen; the world has become a much smaller place as a result of this global communication and exchange of ideas. There have also become thousands of online "communities" of people who share common interests through message boards, chat rooms, and electronic mailing lists (Wilmott 106). Right now, the Internet is the ultimate demonstration of the first amendment: free speech. A place where people can speak their mind without being punished for what they say or how they choose to say it. "The Internet owes its incredible worldwide success to its protection of free speech, not only in America, but also in countries where freedom of speech is not guaranteed. For some, it is the only place where they can speak their mind without fear of political or religious persecution". ("Cyberchaos"). The Internet is also one of America's most valuable types of technology; scientists use email for quick and easy communication. They post their current scientific discoveries on online newsgroups so other scientists in the same field of study all over the world can know in minutes. Ordinary people use the Internet for communication, expressing their opinions in the newsgroups, obtaining new information from the WWW, downloading all types of media files, or just "surfing" for their own personal enjoyment. Users of the Internet have the freedom to express anything they believe. The fact that the Internet has no single authority figure creates a problem about what kind of materials should be available on the Internet. (Hentoff 12) The largest controversy that surrounds censoring the Internet is what information should be considered "offensive". The Internet can be viewed in many different ways. It can be considered a carrier of common data, similar to a phone company, which must ignore what is broadcast for privacy reasons. Or, it can be considered a distributor and broadcaster of information, much like a television or radio station, which is responsible for what it broadcasts and has to conform to federal standards and regulations. This argument is the main concern of the censorship matter. "The Internet is a carrier of information, and not a broadcaster, since it only provides the basic structure for information transfer and sharing. ("Cyberchaos") But this angers lawmakers. The current laws existing today do not apply well to the Internet. The Internet cannot be viewed as one type of transfer medium under current broadcast definitions ("Muzzling the Internet"). One large difference that sets the Internet apart from a broadcasting media is the fact that one can't stumble across a vulgar or obscene site without first entering an address or following a link from another page. There are exceptions, of course, but for the most part, if one wants to find "dirty" material on the Internet, they have to go out and look for it. "The Internet is much more like going into a bookstore and...
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