Freedom of Speech vs. Censorship on the Internet

Topics: Obscenity, Freedom of speech, Censorship Pages: 6 (2113 words) Published: October 8, 2008
Freedom of Speech Vs. Censorship:
Children on the Internet
The internet is a very controversial communication device in today’s society. If desired, one could find information on nearly any topic they choose. Censorship and free speech is a widely discussed topic when dealing with the current freedom of the internet especially when dealing with young minds. Should the internet have censored topics which would be illegal to post and/or view freely by children? Should the internet be a free-for-all arena in which anyone could do as they wish without judgment of others opinions and views imposing on their own? So far in class and in the text Gift of Fire by Sara Baase we have seen many issues dealing with Freedom of Speech and the internet. Dealing with issues such as access of children to controversial material like pornography hate speech, and weapons making has increased the debate in society today. I pose to look into this debate and explain my thoughts and opinions on each side of the issue.

Freedom of speech has been an integral part of the United States since the ratification of the Bill of Rights in 1791. The First Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech or of the press…” (Mount, 2007). However, this does not protect speech that harms the wellbeing, security, or welfare of people in society (Leonard, 2008). Therefore, should certain regulations be lawful to stop communication that encourages violence, obscenity, defamation, or possibly harmful outcomes still be protected under the First Amendment? This question has been posed in the many different forms of communication throughout the history of the US. With the relatively recent rise and evolution of the internet, freedom of speech is closely being looked at to make out what is legal and ethical. The internet currently is a grey area when it comes to free speech in America and much of the world. While in the physical world people are usually wary of freely sharing controversial ideas due to social norms and community standards, the technological world of the internet allows people to anonymously share these ideas with little fear of consequences. Anyone with a connection and a computer can freely set up websites devoted to the topic of their choosing. With the current boom in free social networking sites, personal blogs (short for web logs: personal diaries or journals posted by individual users hosted by a third party website), vlogs (video logs much like blogs), and podcasts individuals are able to communicate and exchange their thoughts and ideas on any topic they wish. The number of blogs alone passed 50 million in 2006 and some are being as widely read as newspapers (Baase, 145). These new mediums are allowing people to reach large audiences easier, faster, and cheaper than ever before. From print to television, the First Amendment is continuously being looked at to distinguish the limitations and freedoms allowed by the government in particular mediums. This is accomplished through regulations and licenses based on government standards. Licensing boundaries are held to a range of degrees in different mediums. Due to the various types of mediums and the differing problems between them, each medium must be examined as unique (Rotenberg, 2002). While printed word such as books and newspapers have relatively few regulations in the U.S. (with government restraints in decline), other forms such as television and radio have many more regulations on content. For example, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) which regulates communication by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable in the U.S., set standards citing that cigarette advertisements are illegal in electronic mediums (Baase, 146). Seeing that these mediums are covered under the FCC we can look closer into the attempts to censor material on the internet.

Internet regulation has been attempted many times. Due to the nature of the internet it is hard to...

Cited: Baase, Sara. A Gift Of Fire. New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc, 2008.
Simmons, Charlene. "Protecting Children While Silencing Them: The Children 's
Online Privacy Protection Act and Children 's Free Speech Rights." Communication Law and Policy 12.2 (2007): 119-142
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