Censorship



During the last decade, our society has become based on the sole ability to move large amounts of information

across great distances quickly. Computerization has influenced everyone's life in numerous ways. The natural

evolution of computer technology and this need for ultra-fast communications has caused a global network of

interconnected computers to develop. This global network allows a person to send E-mail across the world in mere

fractions of a second, and allows a common person to access wealths of information worldwide. This newfound

global network, originally called Arconet, was developed and funded solely by and for the U.S. government. It was

to be used in the event of a nuclear attack in order to keep communications lines open across the country by

rerouting information through different servers across the country. Does this mean that the government owns the

Internet, or is it no longer a tool limited by the powers that govern. Generalities such as t!

hese have sparked great debates within our nation's government. This paper will attempt to focus on two high profile

ethical aspects concerning the Internet and its usage. These subjects are Internet privacy and Internet censorship.

At the moment, the Internet is epitome of our first amendment, free speech. It is a place where a person can speak

their mind without being reprimanded for what they say or how they choose to say it. But also contained on the

Internet, are a huge collection of obscene graphics, Anarchists' cookbooks, and countless other things that offend

many people. There are over 30 million Internet surfers in the U.S. alone, and much is to be said about what offends

whom and how.

As with many new technologies, today's laws don't apply well when it comes to the Internet. Is the Internet like a

bookstore, where servers can not be expected to review every title? Is it like a phone company who must ignore

what it carries because of privacy; or is it like a broadcast medium, where the government monitors what is

broadcast? The problem we are facing today is that the Internet can be all or none of the above depending on how it

is used.

Internet censorship, what does it mean? Is it possible to censor amounts of information that are all alone

unimaginable? The Internet was originally designed to "find a way around" in case of broken communications lines,

and it seems that explicit material keeps finding its "way around" too. I am opposed to such content on the Internet

and therefore am a firm believer in Internet censorship. However, the question at hand is just how much censorship

the government impose. Because the internet has become the largest source of information in the world, legislative

safeguards are indeed imminent. Explicit material is not readily available over the mail or telephone and distribution

of obscene material is illegal. Therefore, there is no reason this stuff should go unimpeded across the Internet. Sure,

there are some blocking devices, but they are no substitute for well-reasoned law. To counter this, the United States

has set regulations to determine what is categori!

zed as obscenity and what is not. By laws set previously by the government, obscene material should not be

accessible through the Internet. The problem society is now facing is that cyberspace is like a neighborhood without

a police department. "Outlaws" are now able to use powerful cryptography to send and receive uncrackable

communications across the Internet. Devices set up to filter certain communications cannot filter that which cannot

be read, which leads to my other topic of interest: data encryption.

By nature, the Internet is an insecure method of transferring data. A single E-mail packet may pass through hundreds

of computers between its source and destination. At each computer, there is a chance that the data will be archived

and someone may intercept the data, private or not. Credit card numbers are a frequent target of hackers. Encryption

is a means of encoding data so that only someone with the proper "key" can decode it. So far, recent attempts by the

government to control data encryption have failed. They are concerned that encryption will block their monitoring

capabilities, but there is nothing wrong with asserting our privacy. Privacy is an inalienable right given to us by our

constitution.

For example, your E-mail may be legitimate enough that encryption is unnecessary. If you we do indeed have