In 1969, the Advanced Research Project Agency Network (ARPANET), a division of the government, was working with a small microchip company called Intel. Together, they created a rough prototype of what we know now as “The Internet.” This first communications network was originally designed for fast computer communication between air force bases in case of a nuclear attack. After the nuclear crisis was over, other uses for the network were presented. In the 1980’s, the National Science Foundation (NSF) created a computer ARPANET for communication among institutions in the foundation. The NSF network is most closely related to what we know as the Internet today. The Internet today serves as a mass communications network in which most computers in the world are hooked up to. There is no one individual or company who has control of the Internet and because of that, anything and everything can, and is, on the Internet. It was only a matter of time after the Internet was created that someone would test the boundaries of it.
When people started to use the Internet as a source of information and commerce, someone saw that there was an industry for pornographic material. A few sites went up and since there was no one to censor what they put up. Soon there were sites that had what most people consider offensive material. Certain groups saw the opportunity and then sites started to go up that had other offensive material, i.e. hate sites against abortion and site that show anyone how to make destructive devices. Many people are debating now whether to censor what can and can’t be put on the Internet. Other want to regulate how much material will be allowed. Unfortunately, these people decided to do this too late.
While all of these people are debating whether to censor or not, or regulate or not, they never stopped to think if it could be done or not. The problem is deciding which of the 500 million sites are ok to be up and which of them should come down. Doing this once isn’t impossible. What makes it impossible is that 50 million of the sites up are changing everyday and you would have to do it all the time, all day, everyday, and there is no way any committee could keep up with that. These groups should have thought about what they want on the Internet before it got so saturated. Most people didn’t know that the Internet was going to be such a huge structure in everyday life but they have let it get too big to make decisions about censorship now.
Another argument that has arisen from the Internet discussion is whether or not it is legal to censor the Internet. The first amendment says, ” Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of speech”, but does this fall into the category of the Internet? No. When the constitution was written, there was no way they could have foreseen and institute that has such an impact on the United States, and since the Internet does, a new verse should be added to the constitution that ends the debate once and for all. There have been books written in the past that are offensive but they were much easier to regulate because they were not being distributed as quickly as the internet puts out sites. There is no reason, for any excuse, that there should be a site, that shows anyone who views it, how to make a pipe bomb. Sites like that serve no purpose except for people too more easily access terrorist material.
The Internet was created for the transaction of information, not for the joy use of idiotic people who really have no business being on the on the Internet in the first place. When people sign on to use the Internet, they don t want to be bombarded with advertisements for sexually explicit sites. It really makes it an unpleasant trip through cyberspace and one that no one should have to put up with. Even if the sites are going to remain up, advertising them should, and can, be regulated. This is where the liability of the Internet Service Provider (ISP), or any other third party, comes into question.
ISP’s have often claimed that there is nothing they can do about the web sites being up in their server. There are some that disagree but for the most part, it’s true. It would be just as hard for them to regulate what sites they run, however they can regulate what is sent on the service. This where a lot of people get confused. An example of this is America Online’s (AOL) service. When you sign onto AOL, you join a community of other users and are able to do various activities. One of the activities you are able to do is browse the Internet. AOL has no control over what the user views on the Internet and so they shouldn’t be held responsible for that. An example of what they should be held responsible for is what takes place inside their community. While it may be confusing to users where the line is, it isn’t for AOL technicians. One of the programs set up in their community is called “Buddy Chat.” This is where one user is able to invite another to a chat room to talk in a more private setting, but there is a problem with this program. The problem is a loophole that people who run pornographic sites found. While you can invite a “buddy” to a chat room, you can also invite them to a certain web site. Another program you can use is the member directory. This program lets you search through AOL and find other users with your characteristics to chat with. When you put the two programs together, it causes many problems. The people who want to promote their site(s) search through the member directory to find people who are online and they send out a “buddy chat” to all of them trying to get them to go to the web site. While the users are able to decline the buddy chat, when hundreds of people are out there sending out these invitations, you seem to get them over and over when you don’t even want them in the first place. AOL is able to regulate this by not letting “buddy chat’s” be directed to web sites, but they haven’t done that yet. AOL has tried to regulate the interaction among their users but are ridiculed when they do by users claiming they have infringed the first amendment. From the reactions of the users, AOL would look better in the eyes of users if they were to put their foot down and not allow this to happen on their service.
The Internet is very new and there are many ideas going around about what to do with it and how to keep it under control. It will take many of these ideas put together to accomplish this. The Internet should be a place where people feel comfortable going to, and it is increasingly not, so something has to be done.