During the past decade, our society has become based solely on the ability tomove large amounts of information across large distances quickly.Computerization has influenced everyone's life. The natural evolution ofcomputers and this need for ultra-fast communications has caused a globalnetwork of interconnected computers to develop. This global net allows a personto send E-mail across the world in mere fractions of a second and enables toaccess information worldwide.
Software that allows users with a sound card touse the Internet as a carrier for long distance voice calls and videoconferencing is the key to the future of our society. Our democratic governmentsensing the growing power of the Internet that is not so easy to control isdoing all it can to get on the top of the wild horse. The government is dreamingto have the control: to view all the information circulating the web, to readour private e-mails, to peek into chat rooms, and to restrict us, the Internetpeople, in any way possible. The government wishes to be the next big brotherwho will be watching you! No matter how small, any attempt at governmentintervention in the Internet will stifle the greatest communication innovationof this century. At present, the web is the epitome of the first amendment ofthe constitution: free speech and right to privacy. Every American valuesfreedom of the speech and their privacy as something essential.
“Freedom ofspeech is one of our most precious rights” (Ferry 356). The key to theworldwide success of the Internet is that it does not limit its users. The webis a place where people can speak their mind without being reprimanded for whatthey say, or how they choose to say it. Jim Exon, a democratic senator fromNebraska, wants to pass a decency bill regulating the Internet.
Exon’s billapparently would criminalize private e-mail. Why is it that government has theneed to read our private e-mails? If I call someone on the phone I can sayanything, but if I say it on the Internet, it’s illegal. Censorship threatensto destroy freelance atmosphere of the Internet that the majority of us treasureso much. If we allow the government to interfere with our lives so much, sooneror later it will turn into Communism or Dictatorship. Our government wants tomaintain control over the new, greatest form of communication: the Internet.
They are trying to use the protection of children as a smoke screen to pass lawsthat will allow them to regulate and censor the Internet. Currently, there issoftware being released that promises to block children's access to knownX-rated Internet newsgroups and sites. However, since most adults rely on theircomputer literate children to setup these programs, the children will be able tofind ways around them. This mimics real life where these children would surelybe able to get their hands on adult magazines, alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, etc.Regardless of what types of software or safeguards are used to protect thechildren of the Information age, there will be ways around them.
Thisnecessitates the education of the children to deal with reality. Altered viewsof an electronic world translate easily into altered views of the real world.Parents should teach their children that the Internet is just like the realworld, and show them how to enjoy the positive and avoid the negative.Censorship is less important issue than good parenting.
Raising well-disciplinedand intelligent children isn’t the government's responsibility; it’s ours asparents. Congress, in their pursuit of regulations, seems to have overlooked thefact that the majority of the adult material on the Internet comes fromoverseas. Although many U.S. government sources helped fund Arpanet, thepredecessor to the Internet, they no longer control it.
Many of the new Internettechnologies, including the World Wide Web, have come from overseas. There is noclear boundary between information held in the U.S. and information stored inother countries.
Data held in foreign computers is just as accessible as data inAmerica; all it takes is the click of a mouse to access. Even if our governmenttried to regulate the Internet, it has no control over what is posted in othercountries, and it has no practical way to stop it. The Internet's predecessorwas originally designed to uphold communications after a nuclear attack byrerouting data to compensate for destroyed telephone lines and servers. Today'sInternet still works on a similar design. It allows the Internet to overcome anykind of barriers put in its way. If a major line between two servers say in twocountries, is cut, then the Internet users will find another way around thisobstacle.
This obstacle avoidance makes it virtually impossible to separate anentire nation from indecent information in other countries. Even if it werepossible to isolate America's computers from the rest of the world, it would bedevastating to our economy. Only few years ago a major university attempted toregulate what types of Internet access its students had. The outcome proved oncemore that Internet is something that has to be left alone. A research associateat Carnegie Mellon University conducted a study of pornography on the school'scomputer networks.
Martin Rimm put together a large picture collection (917,410images) and he also tracked how often each image had been downloaded (a total of6.4 million). It happened so that a local court had recently declared picturesof similar content obscene; as a result the school feared they might be heldresponsible for the content of its network. The school administration quicklyremoved access to all these pictures and “pulled the plug” on the sexnewsgroups where most of this obscenity was suspected to come from.
A total of80 newsgroups were removed, causing a large disturbance among the student body.The American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation feltthat the administration’s actions were unconstitutional. Students back firedby organizing a “Protest for Freedom in Cyberspace.” After only half a week,the college had backed down, and restored the newsgroups (Elmer-Dewitt 102).This is a tiny example of what may happen if the government tries to imposecensorship.
Not all restrictions on electronic speech are bad. Most of the majoron-line communication companies have restrictions on what their users can"say." However, they must respect their customer's privacy, and theydo. Private E-mail content is off limits to them, but they may act swiftly uponanyone who spouts obscenities in a public forum. Self-regulation by users andservers is the key to avoiding government imposed intervention.
Many on-linesites such as Playboy and Penthouse have started to regulate themselves. Bothpost clear warnings that adult content lies ahead and lists the countries wherethis is illegal. The film and video game industries subject themselves toratings as well. If we, the Internet users, want to avoid government-imposedregulations then it is time we begin to regulate ourselves.
It is natural formen to want to know all and to be informed of everything that’s going onaround us. Governments all over the world seem to have the same interest. Theonly problem is that it feels that this human curiosity can be applied to thegovernment more than the individual. After all, the one thing that we want toknow is how our computers run, so we can get the most out of them and to usethem more effectively.
Sadly enough, the government’s goal is to use you moreeffectively. No, our imagination has not gone out of control. Those huge spycomputer networks are not fiction and are not a thing to come; they are heretoday gathering information on almost every citizen of every modern country.Governments develop most technology, and in the case of computers andcommunication this could not be more true.
The spying programs of the cold warand the technology it produced are what got us to where we are. Where is thatyou ask? It seems the government has allowed us to have their leftovertechnology; so that we may put our private lives on public display, where theymonitor it with their now more advanced technology, and we've paid for it all.One of the examples of organizations that of recently were a secret is MenwithHill. It is the largest electronic monitoring station in the world. It is run bythe US National Security Agency (NSA), which monitors the world's communicationfor US intelligence.
NSA has had the ability to do speech to text translation bymeans of computer for a long time, where its main use was to monitorinternational and domestic phone calls and print the conversations thatinterested them. This has now been expanded to include emails, faxes, andgeneral web surfing. Spy satellites, cables, microwave radio links provide theneeded information. Echelon is another secret organization that operates on thesame basis as the Menwith Hill does.
Margaret Newsham, who helped designing theEchelon system, stated: "We are spying on our own citizens and the rest ofthe world - even our European allies. If I say 'Amnesty' or 'Margaret Newsham',it is intercepted, analyzed, coordinated, forwarded and registered - if it is ofinterest to the intelligence agencies"(Campaign to close Menwith Hill).Government has built the network to monitor us and it does not want us to beable to hinder that monitoring. If we ask about it, the government will deny it;and we, in our turn, will exhale with great relief, swallowing every lie itthrows at us. Or it simply makes it a crime to ask, and one will be under a riskof being labeled as anarchist, communist, anti-government, or terrorist. We arein serious trouble.
After all, maybe our government will get the pleasure ofriding that horse. Something has to be done fast. Don't rely on the governmentto fix it because they will just get you to fund them so that they may betterhide it from us. As the Internet continues to grow throughout the world, moregovernments may try to impose their views onto the rest of the globe throughregulations and censorship. It will be a sad day when the world must adjust itsviews to conform to that of the most prudish regulatory government.
If too manyregulations are incited the Internet, as a tool, will become nearly useless; andthe Internet as a mass communication device and a place for freedom of mind andthoughts, will become non existent. All users, servers, and people who loveInternet must regulate themselves, so as not to force government regulationsthat may stifle the best communication instrument in history. The governmentshould rethink its approach to the censorship and its restrictions, allowing theInternet to continue to grow and mature on their own.BibliographyBurian, Christopher. “Don’t Permit the Government to wreck theInternet.
” Electronic Engineering Times 21 Feb. 2000: 72. Campaign to closeMenwith Hill US Spy Base 10 Mar. 2000 Communication Intelligence 14 Mar. 2000 Emler-Dewitt, Philip. “Censoring Cyberspace: Carnegie Mellon's Attempt to BanSex from its Campus Computer Network Sends A Chill along the Info Highway.
”Time 21 Nov. 1994: 102-105. Ferry, Dobbs, ed. An American Legal Almanac. NewYork: Oceana Publications, 1978. Levy, Steven.
“The Encryption Wars: IsPrivacy Good or Bad?” Newsweek 24 Apr. 1995: 55-57 Wilson, David L. "TheInternet goes Crackers." Education Digest May 1995; 33-36. Work CitedCampaign to close Menwith Hill US Spy Base 10 Mar.
2000 Emler-Dewitt, Philip. “Censoring Cyberspace: Carnegie Mellon's Attempt to BanSex from its Campus Computer Network Sends A Chill along the Info Highway.”Time 21 Nov. 1994: 102-105. Ferry, Dobbs, ed.
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