The Communications Decency Act

Topics: Internet, First Amendment to the United States Constitution, Fraud Pages: 6 (1781 words) Published: October 8, 1999
The Communications Decency Act

The U.S. Government should not attempt to place restrictions on the internet. The Internet does not belong to the United States and it is not our responsibility to save the world, so why are we attempting to regulate something that belongs to the world? The Telecommunications Reform Act has done exactly that, put regulations on the Internet.

Edward Cavazos quotes William Gibson says, "As described in Neuromancer, Cyberspace was a consensual hallucination that felt and looked like a physical space but actually was a computer-generated construct representing abstract data." (1) When Gibson coined that phrase he had no idea that it would become the household word that it is today. "Cyberspace now represents a vast array of computer systems accessible from remote physical locations." (Cavazos 2)

The Internet has grown explosively over the last few years. "The Internet's growth since its beginnings in 1981. At that time, the number of host systems was 213 machines. At the time of this writing, twelve years later, the number has jumped to 1,313,000 systems connecting directly to the Internet." (Cavazos 10)

"Privacy plays a unique role in American law." (Cavazos 13) Privacy is not explicitly provided for in the Constitution, yet most of the Internet users remain anonymous. Cavazos says, "Computers and digital communication technologies present a serious challenge to legislators and judges who try to meet the demands of economic and social change while protecting this most basic and fundamental personal freedom." Networks and the Internet make it easy for anyone with the proper equipment to look at information based around the world instantly and remain anonymous. "The right to conduct at least some forms of speech activity anonymously has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court." (Cavazos 15) In cyberspace it is extremely uncommon for someone to use their given name to conduct themselves, but rather they use pseudonyms or "Handles". (Cavazos 14) Not only is it not illegal to use handles on most systems, but the sysop (System Operator) does not have to allow anyone access to his data files on who is the person behind the handle. Some sysops make the information public, or give the option to the user, or don't collect the information at all.

The Internet brings forth many new concerns regarding crime and computers. With movies like Wargames, and more recently Hackers, becoming popular, computer crime is being blown out of proportion. "The word Hacker conjures up a vivid image in the popular media." (Cavazos 105) There are many types of computer crime that fall under the umbrella of "Hacking". Cavazos says, "In 1986 Congress passed a comprehensive federal law outlawing many of the activities commonly referred to as 'hacking.'" (107) Breaking into a computer system without the proper access being given, traditional hacking, is illegal; hacking to obtain financial information is illegal; hacking into any department or agency of the United States is illegal; and passing passwords out with the intent for others to use them to hack into a system without authorization is also illegal.

"One of the more troubling crimes committed in cyberspace is the illicit trafficking in credit card numbers and other account information." (Cavazos 109) Many people on the Internet use their credit cards to purchase things on-line, this is a dangerous practice because anyone with your card number can do the samething with your card. Millions of dollars worth of goods and services a year are stolen using credit card fraud. No matter how illegal, many are not caught. With the use of anonymous names and restricted access to provider's data on users, it becomes harder to catch the criminals on-line.

The "[Wire Fraud Act] makes it illegal for anyone to use any wire, radio, or television communication in interstate or foreigncommerce to further a scheme to defraud people of money or goods."...

Cited: Cavazos, E. (1994) Cyberspace and the law: Your rights and duties in the on-line
Boston: MIT Press
Macdissi, K. (1995) Enforcement is the problem with regulation of the Internet.
Midlands Business Journal
Stone, E. (1996) A Cyberspace independence declaration. Unpublished Essay, (E-Mail address)
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