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.(Wallace: 3)
A statement from a document that a group of individuals put together to ensure their own ideas and beliefs would never change. The group of people was the forefathers of the United States of America and that document: The United States Constitution. That phrase was put into the Constitution because our forefathers wanted to protect their freedom of speech. Something they cherished and something that in days previous was squashed by ruling government. Today our freedom of speech is in danger again.
The Government is now trying to censor what ideas go onto something we know as the Information Superhighway. The Internet is now supposed to be regulated so that it will be "safe" for everyone to enter. The Government passed a law known as the Telecommunications Act of 1996. In the TA there is a part called the Communications Decency Act or CDA. This part of the bill arose because of the recent surge of pornography on the Infobahn. The CDA criminalizes indecent speech on the Internet(Wallace: 1). The CDA describes indecent speech as anything "depicting or describing sexual or excretory acts or organs in patently offensive fashion under contemporary community standards."
First take the word "indecent". This word is used because of its vague definition. Not only does this word ban sexually explicit materials, it also bans sexually explicit words too. If this were applied to the real world some of the greatest novels would be taken off the shelf. For example there is the great lesbian novel The Well of Loneliness by Radcliffe Hall. In that book there is a line t hat states "And that night, they were not divided." Clearly that would be a sexually explicit phrase(Wallace: 2).
Now the words "depicting or describing". The word "describing" translates into anything with pure explicit text. That would include any book converted and placed on the Internet with outspoken words or phrases. This goes against the first amendment. Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer and James Joyce's Ulysses would not be able to possibly be posted online(Wallace: 2).
"Sexual or excretory acts or functions": This would relieve anything from sleazy bestsellers to 19th century classics, such as Zola's LaTerre and Flouber's Madam Bovary, to nonfiction books on disease, rape, health, and sexual intercourse from our shelves. This phrase is again
Another phrase in there is "Patently Offensive". This is very subjective. These words mean that a jury can decide on what is offensive and what is not (Wallace: 2). If there is a very conservative jury you get a very conservative verdict, but in the same respect if you get a very liberal jury you get a liberal verdict. Would that be considered a fair trial?
And last "Contemporary community standards". There is an easy example to understand under these words. In 1994 two California sysops [system operators] were found guilty of putting offensive material on their BBS [Bulletin Board System]. Their BBS was accessible by people all over the world as long as whoever wanted the information called the California number they had setup. Someone one day out of Memphis, Tennessee called the number and found something disturbing to themselves. The two sysops were convicted because of the community standards in Tennessee not the ones in California(Wallace: 3).
There is no reason to treat the electronic and written word different especially because of the big conversion(Wallace: 3). More and more often people are looking to the Internet to do reports and research. It is one of the biggest resources in the world today. If the TA bill stays in effect many of the books listed will not...
Cited: Bruce, Marty. "Censorship on the Internet." Censorship on the Internet. 1996.
(29 Jun. 1996).
(29 Jun. 1996).
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