Essay, Research Paper: Control Over Internet


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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-fast 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 to
access information worldwide. Software that allows users with a sound card to
use the Internet as a carrier for long distance voice calls and video
conferencing is the key to the future of our society. Our democratic government
sensing the growing power of the Internet that is not so easy to control is
doing all it can to get on the top of the wild horse. The government is dreaming
to have the control: to view all the information circulating the web, to read
our private e-mails, to peek into chat rooms, and to restrict us, the Internet
people, in any way possible. The government wishes to be the next big brother
who will be watching you! No matter how small, any attempt at government
intervention in the Internet will stifle the greatest communication innovation
of this century. At present, the web is the epitome of the first amendment of
the constitution: free speech and right to privacy. Every American values
freedom of the speech and their privacy as something essential. “Freedom of
speech is one of our most precious rights” (Ferry 356). The key to the
worldwide success of the Internet is that it does not limit its users. The web
is a place where people can speak their mind without being reprimanded for what
they say, or how they choose to say it. Jim Exon, a democratic senator from
Nebraska, wants to pass a decency bill regulating the Internet. Exon’s bill
apparently would criminalize private e-mail. Why is it that government has the
need to read our private e-mails? If I call someone on the phone I can say
anything, but if I say it on the Internet, it’s illegal. Censorship threatens
to destroy freelance atmosphere of the Internet that the majority of us treasure
so much. If we allow the government to interfere with our lives so much, sooner
or later it will turn into Communism or Dictatorship. Our government wants to
maintain 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 laws
that will allow them to regulate and censor the Internet. Currently, there is
software being released that promises to block children's access to known
X-rated Internet newsgroups and sites. However, since most adults rely on their
computer literate children to setup these programs, the children will be able to
find ways around them. This mimics real life where these children would surely
be able to get their hands on adult magazines, alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, etc.
Regardless of what types of software or safeguards are used to protect the
children of the Information age, there will be ways around them. This
necessitates the education of the children to deal with reality. Altered views
of an electronic world translate easily into altered views of the real world.
Parents should teach their children that the Internet is just like the real
world, and show them how to enjoy the positive and avoid the negative.
Censorship is less important issue than good parenting. Raising well-disciplined
and intelligent children isn’t the government's responsibility; it’s ours as
parents. Congress, in their pursuit of regulations, seems to have overlooked the
fact that the majority of the adult material on the Internet comes from
overseas. Although many U.S. government sources helped fund Arpanet, the
predecessor to the Internet, they no longer control it. Many of the new Internet
technologies, including the World Wide Web, have come from overseas. There is no
clear boundary between information held in the U.S. and information stored in
other countries. Data held in foreign computers is just as accessible as data in
America; all it takes is the click of a mouse to access. Even if our government
tried to regulate the Internet, it has no control over what is posted in other
countries, and it has no practical way to stop it. The Internet's predecessor
was originally designed to uphold communications after a nuclear attack by
rerouting data to compensate for destroyed telephone lines and servers. Today's
Internet still works on a similar design. It allows the Internet to overcome any
kind of barriers put in its way. If a major line between two servers say in two
countries, is cut, then the Internet users will find another way around this
obstacle. This obstacle avoidance makes it virtually impossible to separate an
entire nation from indecent information in other countries. Even if it were
possible to isolate America's computers from the rest of the world, it would be
devastating to our economy. Only few years ago a major university attempted to
regulate what types of Internet access its students had. The outcome proved once
more that Internet is something that has to be left alone. A research associate
at Carnegie Mellon University conducted a study of pornography on the school's
computer networks. Martin Rimm put together a large picture collection (917,410
images) and he also tracked how often each image had been downloaded (a total of
6.4 million). It happened so that a local court had recently declared pictures
of similar content obscene; as a result the school feared they might be held
responsible for the content of its network. The school administration quickly
removed access to all these pictures and “pulled the plug” on the sex
newsgroups where most of this obscenity was 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 felt
that the administration’s actions were unconstitutional. Students back fired
by 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 impose
censorship. Not all restrictions on electronic speech are bad. Most of the major
on-line communication companies have restrictions on what their users can
"say." However, they must respect their customer's privacy, and they
do. Private E-mail content is off limits to them, but they may act swiftly upon
anyone who spouts obscenities in a public forum. Self-regulation by users and
servers is the key to avoiding government imposed intervention. Many on-line
sites such as Playboy and Penthouse have started to regulate themselves. Both
post clear warnings that adult content lies ahead and lists the countries where
this is illegal. The film and video game industries subject themselves to
ratings as well. If we, the Internet users, want to avoid government-imposed
regulations then it is time we begin to regulate ourselves. It is natural for
men to want to know all and to be informed of everything that’s going on
around us. Governments all over the world seem to have the same interest. The
only problem is that it feels that this human curiosity can be applied to the
government more than the individual. After all, the one thing that we want to
know is how our computers run, so we can get the most out of them and to use
them more effectively. Sadly enough, the government’s goal is to use you more
effectively. No, our imagination has not gone out of control. Those huge spy
computer networks are not fiction and are not a thing to come; they are here
today gathering information on almost every citizen of every modern country.
Governments develop most technology, and in the case of computers and
communication this could not be more true. The spying programs of the cold war
and the technology it produced are what got us to where we are. Where is that
you ask? It seems the government has allowed us to have their leftover
technology; so that we may put our private lives on public display, where they
monitor 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 Menwith
Hill. It is the largest electronic monitoring station in the world. It is run by
the US National Security Agency (NSA), which monitors the world's communication
for US intelligence. NSA has had the ability to do speech to text translation by
means of computer for a long time, where its main use was to monitor
international and domestic phone calls and print the conversations that
interested them. This has now been expanded to include emails, faxes, and
general web surfing. Spy satellites, cables, microwave radio links provide the
needed information. Echelon is another secret organization that operates on the
same basis as the Menwith Hill does. Margaret Newsham, who helped designing the
Echelon system, stated: "We are spying on our own citizens and the rest of
the world - even our European allies. If I say 'Amnesty' or 'Margaret Newsham',
it is intercepted, analyzed, coordinated, forwarded and registered - if it is of
interest to the intelligence agencies"(Campaign to close Menwith Hill).
Government has built the network to monitor us and it does not want us to be
able 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 it
throws at us. Or it simply makes it a crime to ask, and one will be under a risk
of being labeled as anarchist, communist, anti-government, or terrorist. We are
in serious trouble. After all, maybe our government will get the pleasure of
riding that horse. Something has to be done fast. Don't rely on the government
to fix it because they will just get you to fund them so that they may better
hide it from us. As the Internet continues to grow throughout the world, more
governments may try to impose their views onto the rest of the globe 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 the Internet, as a tool, will become nearly useless; and
the Internet as a mass communication device and a place for freedom of mind and
thoughts, will become non existent. All users, servers, and people who love
Internet must regulate themselves, so as not to force government regulations
that may stifle the best communication instrument in history. The government
should rethink its approach to the censorship and its restrictions, allowing the
Internet to continue to grow and mature on their own.

Burian, Christopher. “Don’t Permit the Government to wreck the
Internet.” Electronic Engineering Times 21 Feb. 2000: 72. Campaign to close
Menwith Hill US Spy Base 10 Mar. 2000
Communication Intelligence 14 Mar. 2000
Emler-Dewitt, Philip. “Censoring Cyberspace: Carnegie Mellon's Attempt to Ban
Sex 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. New
York: Oceana Publications, 1978. Levy, Steven. “The Encryption Wars: Is
Privacy Good or Bad?” Newsweek 24 Apr. 1995: 55-57 Wilson, David L. "The
Internet goes Crackers." Education Digest May 1995; 33-36. Work Cited
Campaign to close Menwith Hill US Spy Base 10 Mar. 2000
Emler-Dewitt, Philip. “Censoring Cyberspace: Carnegie Mellon's Attempt to Ban
Sex 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. New
York: Oceana Publications, 1978.

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