Last Updated 05 Jan 2023

An Argument Against Internet Censorship in Today’s Society

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Anyone can load and display one of these pictures on his computer screen, and understandably many people have become concerned. These are not just a few pictures of unclothed women but also virtual databases of such things as child pornography, bondage, and bestiality that any child with a computer can get to with ease.

A couple of years ago it was Senator Exon from Nebraska who had taken the lead in proposing legislation that would ban certain types of things from being placed on the internet. Although at first it sounds like a good idea, I am opposed to censorship on the internet. So that my intentions are not misunderstood, let me first state that I do not condone pornography. I believe pornography is not only degrading to women and offensive but also morally wrong. I understand and support what Senator Exon and others were trying to accomplish, but I think the proposed method is misguided. There are much better and easier methods available.

One of the primary reasons why this legislation is a bad idea is because it will be difficult to enforce and therefore will raise the price of access to the internet. It is difficult to enforce any rules or standard on the internet because no one owns or manages it. The internet is essentially just many computers attached to each other and set up so that they can understand each other, and thus there is no one organization that operates it. Although people own the computers no one owns the connection. Individual service providers (who provide ordinary people with access with access to the internet) will have to take responsibility for and monitor the files their users post on the internet. This will be very time consuming and therefore expensive.

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Perhaps many servers will give up altogether, not wanting to risk fines for illegal material that was put online through their server. There will be fewer organizations providing individual access and those that do will cost more. Of course this will limit the number of people who can benfit from the internet. We shouldn't allow the improper activities of one group top hurt everyone.

For parents and schools who wish to protect their children from ein g exposed to such stuff it is comparatively easy to screen it out. Most of the sexually explicit images are located in news groups with names like alt.sex or alt.erotica clearly indicating their purpose. Many companies are presently putting out software that can detect and deny access to areas on the internet that are deemed inappropriate by the individuals who set up the program. Examples are Surfwatch and NetGuardian both by New View Inc. This "local censorship" at home and in institutions would be much cheaper and would not infringe on the constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech. Even within current laws much can be done without resorting to new laws. Any of the pictures available in the news groups on the internet were scanned into computer format from magazines like Playboy and Penthouse and uploaded in violation of copyright laws.

The most effective way to combat pornography is for parents to teach their children good taste and decency so that they will dislike and avoid such things. Admittedly this is not easy but in the end society will be better off. Censorship implies a certain attitude about mankind; that we cannot take care of ourselves.

It comes down to the fact that individuals must take responsibility for their offspring and not depend on and become virtual slaves of institutions and in particular the government. This will build stronger character and better human beings. It's the same principle that if parents don't like what their children are watching on TV they must shut it off. I am certainly not advocating pornography on television but I don't think the internet falls under the same category as television of books because it is much easier to screen out material on a computer than on TV thanks to the programs I have previously mentioned.

The internet and its successor, the so called "Information Super Highway" is the best chance that we have of creating the "Global Village", bringing the world together without the traditional barriers of nationality, race, economic status, etc. The knowledge and experience of mankind can be more easily collected and shared. We cannot afford in our troubled world to stifle or handicap such a blessing and government censorship, such as that proposed by Senator Exon, would do more bad than good.

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