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Gov Internet Intervention


The Internet is a method of communication and a source of
information that is becoming more popular among those who are interested
in, and have the time to surf the information superhighway. The problem
with much information being accessible to this many
 people is that some of it is deemed inappropriate for minors. The
government wants censorship, but a segment of the population does not.
Within this examination of the topic of, Government Intervention of the
Internet, I will attempt to express both side s of this issue.
 During the past decade, our society has become based solely on the
ability to move large amounts of information across large distances
quickly. Computerization has influenced everyone's life. The natural
evolution of computers and this need for ultra-fas t communications has
caused a global network of interconnected computers to develop. This
global net allows a person to send E-mail across the world in mere
fractions of a second, and enables even the common person to access
information worldwide. With th e advances with software that allows users
with a sound card to use the Internet as a carrier for long distance voice
calls and video conferencing, this network is the key to the future of the
knowledge society. At present this net is the epitome of the F irst
Amendment: freedom of speech. It is a place where people can speak their
mind without being reprimanded for what they say, or how they choose to
say it. 
 Recently, Congress has been considering passing laws that will
make it a crime punishable by jail to send "vulgar" language over the net.
The government wants to maintain control over this new form of
communication, and they are trying to use the protect ion of children as a
smoke screen to pass laws that will allow them to regulate and censor the
Internet, while banning techniques that could eliminate the need for
regulation. Censorship of the Internet threatens to destroy its freelance
atmosphere, while
 methods such as encryption could help prevent the need for government
 The current body of laws existing today in America does not apply
well to the Internet. Is the Internet like a bookstore, where servers
cannot be expected to review every title? Well, according to an article
written by Michael Miller "Cybersex Shock." In
 the October 10, 1995 issue of PC Magazine (p.75) "The Internet is much
more like going into a book store and choosing to look at adult
magazines." Although the Internet differs from other forms of media in
that one cannot just happen upon a vulgar site without first, either
entering a complicated address following a link from another source, or by
clicking on the agreement statement at the beginning of the site
acknowledging that one is of the legal age of 18.
 This lawless atmosphere bothered many people, one such person is
Nebraska Senator James Exon (D), who is one of the founding fathers of the
Telecommunications Decency Act of 1996, Section 502, 47 U.S.C Section 223
[a], which regulates " any obscene or in decent material via the Internet
to anyone under 18 years of age. Exon's bill would also according to an
article written by Steven Levy in an April 1995 issue of Newsweek magazine
(p.53) "criminalize private mail," Levy also stated emotional "I can call
m y brother on the phone and say anything-but if I say it on the Internet,
it's illegal."
 One thing that Congress seems to have overlooked in its pursuit of
regulations is that there are no clear bountries from information being
accessed over the Internet from over countries. All it takes is a click of
a mouse to access, even if our governmen t tried to regulate information
accessed from other countries, we would have no control over what is
posted in those countries, and we would have no practical way to stop it.
Today's Internet works much like that of our own human brains, in that if
one ba rrier or option is taking your brain tries to find an alternate
route or option. Today's Internet works on a similar design, if a major
line between two servers say in two countries, is cut, then the Internet
users will find another way around this obstac le. This process of
obstacle avoidance makes it virtually impossible to separate an entire
nation from indecent information in other countries. If it were physically
possible to isolate America's computers from the rest of the world, in my
opinion it woul d be devastating to our economy.
 In an article published In Time magazine, written by Philip
Emler-Dewitt titled "Censoring Cyberspace: Carnegie Mellon's attempt to
Ban Sex from its Campus Computer Network Sends A Chill Along the Info
Highway." Nov. 1994, (p.102) "Martin Rim put togethe r quite a large
picture collection (917,410 images) and he also tracked how often each
image had been downloaded (a total of 6.4 million). A local court had
recently declared pictures of similar content obscene, and the school felt
they might be held resp onsible for the content on its network. The school
administration quickly removed access to all these pictures, and to the
newsgroups where this obscenity is suspected to come from. A total of 80
newsgroups were removed, causing a large disturbance among the student
body, the American civil Liberties Union, and the Electronic Frontier
Foundation, all of whom felt this was unconstitutional. After only half a
week, the college had backed down, and restored the newsgroups." This is
only a tiny example of wha t may happen if the government tries to impose
censorship. Regardless of what types of software or safeguards are used to
protect the children of the information age, there will always be ways
around them. As stated in an article printed in PC Magazine on
 Oct. 10, 1995, written by Michael Miller on (p.76) titled "Cybersex
Shock." "When it comes to our children, censorship is a far less important
issue than good parenting. We must teach our kids that the Internet is an
extension and reflection of the real world, and we have to show them how
to enjoy the good things and avoid the bad things. This isn't the
government's responsibility. It's ours."
 Until the development of the Internet, the U.S. government
controlled most of the new communication techniques. With the development
of faster personal computers and the addition of the worldwide web, they
had no control over the vast range of this style
 of communication. To stop the spread of data the U.S. government has
imposed strict laws on the exportation. This is explained in an article by
Phil Zimmerman entitled " Pretty Good Privacy" found online at Ftp:
net-dist.mit.edu "To send a encoded messag e to someone, a copy of that
person's 'public' key is needed. The sender uses this public key to
encrypt the data, and the recipient uses their 'private' key to decode the
message." As with any new technology, this program has allegedly been used
for ille gal purposes, and the FBI and NSA are believed to be unable to
crack this code. Zimmerman's reply to his knowledge of this rumor was
quoted in Steven Levy's article published in the Apr. 1995 issue of
Newsweek titled "The Encryption Wars: Privacy Good or Bad?" (p.56) "If I
had invented an automobile, and was told that criminals used it to rob
banks, I would feel bad, too. But most people agree that the benefits to
society that come from automobiles-taking the kids to school, grocery
shopping and such-outw eigh their drawbacks."
 As the Internet continues to grow throughout the world, more
governments may try to impose their views onto the rest of the world
through regulations and censorship, It will be a sad day when the world
must adjust its views to conform to that of the most
 prudish regulatory government. If too many regulations are incited, then
the Internet as a tool will become nearly useless, and the Internet as a
mass communication devise and a place for freedom of mind and thoughts,
will become non existent. The govern ment should rethink its approach to
the censorship and the encryption issues, allowing the Internet to
continue to grow and mature. The users, parents, and servers of the world
need to regulate themselves, so, as not to push the government into
forcing th ese types of regulations on what might be the best
communication instrument in history. 

Works Cited

Emler-Dewitt, Philip. "Censoring Cyberspace: Carnegie Mellon's Attempt to Ban Sex from it's Campus Computer Network Sends A Chill Along the Info Highway." Time 21 Nov. 1994; 102-105.

Levy, Steven. "The Encryption Wars: is Privacy Good or Bad?" Newsweek Apr. 1995; 55-57.

Miller, Michael. "Cybersex Shock." PC Magazine Oct. 10, 1995; 75-76

Zimmerman, Phil. (1995). Pretty Good Privacy v2.62, [Online]. Available Ftp: net-dist.mit.edu Directory: pub/pgp/dist File: 262dc.zip


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