Control Over Internet 3428 - Essay Example

During the past decade, our society has become based solely on the ability to

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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.

Bibliography

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.