Government And Internet
During the past decade, our
society has become based solely on the ability to 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 even the common person to access information
world-wide. With advances such as software that allows users with a sound card
to use the Internet as a carrier for long distance voice calls and video
conferencing, this network is key to the future of the knowledge society. At
present, this net is the epitome of the first amendment: free speech. It is a
place where people can speak their mind without being reprimanded for what they
say, or how they choose to say it. The key to the world-wide success of the

Internet is its protection of free speech, not only in America, but in other
countries where free speech is not protected by a constitution. To be found on
the Internet is a huge collection of obscene graphics, Anarchists\' cookbooks and
countless other things that offend some people. With over 30 million Internet
users in the U.S. alone (only 3 million of which surf the net from home),
everything is bound to offend someone. The newest wave of laws floating through
law making bodies around the world threatens to stifle this area of spontaneity.

Recently, Congress has been considering passing laws that will make it a crime
punishable by jail to send "vulgar" language over the net, and to
export encryption software. No matter how small, any attempt at government
intervention in the Internet will stifle the greatest communication innovation
of this century. The government wants to maintain control over this new form of
communication, and 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,
while banning techniques that could eliminate the need for regulation.

Censorship of the Internet threatens to destroy its freelance atmosphere, while
wide spread encryption could help prevent the need for government intervention.

The current body of laws existing today in America does not apply well to the

Internet. Is the Internet like a bookstore, where servers cannot be expected to
review every title? Is it like a phone company who must ignore what it carries
because of privacy? Is it like a broadcasting medium, where the government
monitors what is broadcast? The trouble is that the Internet can be all or none
of these things depending on how it\'s used. The Internet cannot be viewed as one
type of transfer medium under current broadcast definitions. The Internet
differs from broadcasting media in that one cannot just happen upon a vulgar
site without first entering a complicated address, or following a link from
another source. "The Internet is much more like going into a book store and
choosing to look at adult magazines." (Miller 75). Jim Exon, a democratic
senator from Nebraska, wants to pass a decency bill regulating the Internet. If
the bill passes, certain commercial servers that post pictures of unclad beings,
like those run by Penthouse or Playboy, would of course be shut down immediately
or risk prosecution. The same goes for any amateur web site that features
nudity, sex talk, or rough language. Posting any dirty words in a Usenet
discussion group, which occurs routinely, could make one liable for a $50,000
fine and six months in jail. Even worse, if a magazine that commonly runs some
of those nasty words in its pages, The New Yorker for instance, decided to post
its contents on-line, its leaders would be held responsible for a $100,000 fine
and two years in jail. Why does it suddenly become illegal to post something
that has been legal for years in print? Exon\'s bill apparently would also
"criminalize private mail," ... "I can call my brother on the
phone and say anything--but if I say it on the Internet, it\'s illegal"
(Levy 53). 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