Internet - A Medium of Social Interaction and Information Distribution
The creation of World Wide Web in the decade of 1990 has transformed the Internet from a simple communication tool into a creditably and commendably revolutionary technology. Internet may be described as a vast and enormous public web of computer networks linking users of all types around the globe to each other and also to a remarkably substantial information repository. The explosive growth of Internet continues in the twenty first century. In the United States, Internet penetration had reached almost sixty three percent. There are one hundred and eighty five million internet users and every month there is an increase of two million Americans using it for the very first time. (Herumin 233-245)
Even though, the dot-com crash in the year 2000 led to overall cutbacks in expenditures on technology. The growth of Internet around the citizens of world is expected to explode. The explosive growth in the usage of Internet forms the basis of new digital age. Internet has, in fact, been the new millennium’s revolutionary technology, empowering general public, governments and businesses with blessings of connectivity. The information enables the members of world community to share and access huge amounts of information with a simple mouse click.
Censorship on Internet
The internet commenced in the year 1969 as APPANET. The government of United States supported this project. By the middle of 1990s, the Internet exploded to more than twenty million users. The evolution and expansion of Internet places a continuous threat of government rules and regulations to become more practical. The primary concerns related to Internet focus on hate-speech and pornography and terrorists’ activities. (Herumin 233-245)
Censorship is the legislative or moral process by which community concurs to limit what a person can say, see, think or do. The world community has joined to create different forms of censorship, exclusively effective with sufficient severity and threats of punishment for violating the rules of censorship. Religious and political organizations restrict the deeds and performances of individuals, for instance civilized societies place censorship on premeditated murder. (Herumin 233-245)
One target for censorship by different countries including Untied States has been the Internet. Censorship on Internet aims to focus on much wider spectrum of topics including hate speech, pornography and instructions of bomb-making. The justification for censorship on the contents available on Internet is that it is directly related with the exigencies of society, even if people are restricted in their consumption on Internet. Presently, the movements of Internet censorship have taken two major forms; placing limitations on what can be posted or viewed on Internet. Several bills have passed United States Congress focusing on the Internet.
Government Censorship and Common Phenomena among Different Countries
While hate speech, pornography and different other materials could be deemed to acceptable to some and offensive to others, the robust and strong desire to restrict access to this material by a majority of individuals is, in fact, at the core of Internet censorship discussion. The evolution of Internet has proved to be a significant platform not only for economic development, but also as a huge support for those advocates having desire to express their independent opinions. (Ringmar 188-189)
Internet also work towards the development of democracy and has provided enormous opportunities for people to participate in different forums, involve in debates and discuss issues that specifically concern them. The development and growth of Internet has led to less vertical and more horizontal communication. Keeping in view of the phenomenon that Internet is a source of social interaction and disseminates huge information, the censorship and control has a substantial impact on the Internet as it undermines trust and confidence in the inhibits and medium vital flows of data.
Different studies made in this regard focus on the fact that Internet censorship is, in fact, a commonplace in most of the countries. United States, France, India, China and other nations, over last few years, have accelerated their endeavors either to close down or restrain activities on Internet. For instance, in China, the control level signifies a low value of Internet as a medium for independent and organized autonomous speech and its usage could create additional threats at personal level for different activists. The attacks of September 11, 2001 have provided numerous opportunities for many countries including United States, France, India and China to promulgate preventive and restrictive policies that were previously opposed by most of their citizens.
The governments around the world have accelerated legal authority for extra snooping of all types, especially involving Internet, form enhancement of activities to monitor email for retention of communications data and Web logs. Moreover, the governments are more secretive about their own activities, reducing data that was available in the past and refusing to adhere to rules and regulations on freedom of information. (Herumin 233-245)
Another common phenomenon found is the transfer of surveillance tools and technology. The developing or third world nations often rely on Western countries to supply them with the essential technologies of control and surveillance. These technologies include deciphering equipment, wiretapping equipment, bugs, scanners, computer intercept systems and tracking equipment.
A wide variety of methods are used by governments of United States, France, India, China and other nations to regulate and restrict Internet access especially to confront pornography, hate speech and terrorists’ activities. The common methods used by the countries include; content filtering, applying licenses and laws, surveillance and tapping, taxation and pricing policies, manipulation of telecommunication markets, manipulation of software and hardware and self censorship.
Internet Censorship and Kantianism, Utilitarian and Social Contract theories
The censorship on Internet by many governments focuses on pornography and place restrictions in this regard. However, according to Kant; loved person is, in fact an object of sexual appetite. He is of the view that the focus of sexual desire is primarily on body and not on complete person. Entire sexual gratification specifically outside marriage is wrong. Kantianism provides support to the policies of governments for imposing censorship on internet when it comes to pornographic activities. (Kant 383-386)
Utilitarianism also encourages governments to combat with the issue of pornography on Internet through censorship. The utilitarianism signifies that pornography tends to reduce dignity of life, harming each and every one. It increases specific crimes like rape. Pornography reduces level of sympathy for the victims of rape and is like pollution that ultimately poisons the environment. Industry of pornography diverts resources from socially redeeming activities. These arguments justifies the actions taken by the countries like United States, France, India, China etc to impose censorship on Internet.
The ‘Child Internet Protection Act’ (CIPA) provides that libraries receiving networking funds from federal government should filter pages containing child pornography or obscenity. According to utilitarian evaluation; it depends on how harms and benefits are weighed. Social contract theory asserts that freedom of conscience must be given precedence. (Nakaya 54)
Herumin, Wendy. “Censorship on the Internet: From Filters to Freedom of Speeches.” Enslow
Publishers, 2004, p. 233-245.
Kant, Immanuel. “ Correspondence. (The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Immanuel Kant in
Translation.” Cambridge University Press, 1999, p. 383-386
Nakaya, Andrea. “Opposing Viewpoints Series- Censorship.” Greenhaven Press. 2005, P.54
Ringmar, Erik. “A Blogger’s Manifesto: Free Speech and Censorship in the Age of the Internet.”
Anthem Press. 2007, p. 188-189
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IELTS Essay prompt
Some people believe that the internet should be regulated. Others are against any forms of internet censorship. Discuss both views and give your opinion.
The internet gives us access to limitless amounts of information. There is no denying the fact that it exposes us to both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ content. Some people believe that the internet should be regulated and censored. Others disapprove of any kind of censorship because they feel that the internet is a vent through which the oppressed can express their opinion.
Supporters of internet censorship argue that the internet has content that might be inappropriate for certain people. For example, they don’t want children to be exposed to the online terrorist propaganda or pornographic materials. This is indeed a valid point. The internet does host lots of materials that are inappropriate for young children.
However, many people do not regard this argument as legit. In their opinion there are several ways to block inappropriate content. Parental control software is one of them. It is quite effective and allows parents to control the content their children access online. In fact, parents can exercise the best form of control by simply moving the computer to the living room. This way they can keep a tab on their children’s online activities.
Some totalitarian governments use the inappropriate content argument for their benefit. They censor the internet to suppress their opposition. In my opinion, this cannot be tolerated at all. Governments that control the internet are merely demonstrating their inability to manage their affairs. They are afraid of their people and don’t want their opinions to be heard. National security is important but it cannot be at the expense of freedom.
To conclude, I firmly believe that there are no valid grounds for internet censorship. I sincerely hope that governments around the world will understand this and stop censoring the internet.
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