Censorship on the Internet is a very controversial issue. Many agree that censoring violates the First Amendment of free speech. Yet many also believe that it is the government’s duty to censor to protect The EFA (Electronic Frontiers Australia Inc.) is an organization against Internet censorship. The EFA’s goals are “to advocate the amendment of laws and regulations in Australia and elsewhere, which restrict free speech… and to educate the community at large about the…liberties issues involved in the use of computer-based communications systems.” (President of EFA) The EFA shares similar goals with the USA’s EFF (Electronic Frontiers Foundation)
These organizations believe that free speech is a right and it will be taken away by censoring the Internet. n Does freedom of speech include pornography and “obscenity”? Some argue that obscenity is a matter of opinion and it cannot be defined. The truth is that it has been defined by the Supreme Court, and in 1957 in the Supreme Court case of Roth v. U.S. the Supreme Court decided that obscenity was “outside the protection intended for speech and press at the time during which the First Amendment was written.” (Roth v. U.S., 354 U.S., 476)
Therefore, the First Amendment does not protect it. So what about the children? Should they be subject to obscenities and pornography? People opposed to Internet censorship argue that it is a parent’s job to supervise what web sites their children are going to. But parents argue that it is almost impossible to always be there to watch their children, especially for single parents and families where both parents work. Most people aren’t even looking for obscene web sites. The sites are hidden and are targeted towards people who aren’t even looking for it.
In an interview with the Washington Times, Donna Rice Hughes says, “Children do need to be online. They have benefits there… for their future…But we can’t have a system where if you type in ‘dog’ you get a picture of a woman having sex with a dog!” (Goode.) And obscenities and pornography isn’t all of the harmful material on the Internet that children can access. There are sites on how to make a bomb, how to hijack a car, and how to use a gun, as well as almost anything and everything imaginable. This can lead Rebecca Fairweather, a high school graduate of 1999, does not agree with this.
In the Detroit News she wrote that “ Rather than trying to prevent these actions, adults must try to keep youth from feeling desperate enough to commit such acts.” She feels that instead of focusing on eliminating the negative, focus on promoting the positive- sports, music, art, writing, dance, community service, and math and science because, Fairweather says “as any parent can tell you, young people will find a way to get what they want no matter what obstacles adults put up against them.” (Fairweather) Many schools still are required to use a filtering program to censor the research that students do in school.
The Board of Education in New York City has installed a filter on its computer system that blocks students from gaining access to any web sites that include categories like news and sex education. Even those of major new outlets, policy groups, and scientific and medical organizations were even blocked. This blocking program makes it almost impossible for students to do sophisticated research projects on the Internet. Teachers and parents have complained to the Board of Education. “The blocking program sweeps far too broadly,” (Hartocollis) comments Morman Segel, Executive Director of the civil liberations group. Teachers and parents feel it would be more efficient to use a filtering program that allows the Board of Education to set the standards and decide what to block and what not to block instead of the current program they have called I-Gear, which does not allow this option.
The Internet should be censored, not by the government, but by the individual. If a parents feels the need to keep their child away from the dangers of the Internet, they can use a filtering program on their computer. Censoring the Internet for children is not as big a problem as a lot of people make it out to be. The Internet can be a very safe and helpful resource for children to learn and research. As Rebecca Fairweather said, adults should be more concerned with gearing children towards positive material, than trying to cover up.
- “Born-again Rice answers call to clean up the Net.” Insight on the News; Washington; December 21; 1998; Stephen Goode.
- “Policing the Wild Net.” Time Magazine. South Pacific; June 21, 1999; Nathan Tripp.
- “Board Blocks Student Access To Web Sites.” The New York Times. New York;November 10, 1999; Anemona Hartocollis.
- “Teens Need and Deserve Time From Adults.” Detroit News. Detroit, Michigan; August 18, 1999; Rebecca Fairweather.