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Freedom Of Speech And The Internet Essay, Research Paper
The United States of America was founded over two hundred years ago on the basis of freedom. Freedoms, which were wrote into, and are yet a part of the Constitution of the United States. Under the First Amendment of the Constitution, many freedoms are granted to the citizens of this great nation. Such freedoms as those of speech, religion, press, petition, and assembly are granted to all free citizens. But, where do our freedoms begin and end when it comes to the Internet? How can a small group of individuals regulate an entity that is much larger than its jurisdiction? Who is responsible for deciding what is considered ?proper for viewing? to users? With so many regulations and rules governing the Internet, what happened to that right granted to us in the First Amendment? With all these rules and codes of conduct, one begins to wonder if the First Amendment gives us the freedoms it so justly states, or if we are just too ignorant to stand up and fight for the rights granted to us by the Constitution (Constitution).
Freedom of speech, on the Internet, has endured several battles throughout its recent history. In 1997, the Supreme Court has once already ruled in favor of freedom of speech in cyberspace. This ruling was in response to charges, which were brought up to a federal judge, involving the Communications Decency Act (CDA). The federal judge found for the defendant, stating that the CDA was unconstitutional. After appealing to the Supreme Court, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) took to the defense once again, fighting for the freedom of speech in the matter at hand. With their primary defense centered on the First Amendment, the Supreme Court ruled the act unconstitutional by a majority vote. This landmark decision sets the stage for future fights for the freedom of speech on and off of the Internet (Supreme Court).
The Internet has also been of controversy when it comes to monitoring or blocking sites, which are deemed dangerous to minors. In another recent court case, a public library offering public Internet access had blocking software installed, restricting sites considered harmful to minors, limiting perfectly good resources for more experienced and older users. The Courts found that the software was limiting the freedom of speech, by hindering resources that could be obtained without the software, and forced the libraries to remove the software. This ruling, also setting a standard for our perception of the freedom of speech, was another landmark ruling involving the ACLU (Judge Sets).
Even though the Supreme Court has made several rulings, and several lower courts are standing up for the freedom of speech, our government politicians tend to continually ignore the laws written in the Constitution. Recently, Congress passed another act regulating the Internet. The Child Online Protection Act (COPA), which would make any organization or company, associated with doing business on the World Wide Web, to make provisionary steps to keep minors from their site if it was deemed harmful to minors. This act would also force Internet Service Providers (ISP?s) into monitoring users WebPages and e-mail, which is designed and trusted to be private. Also, sites that sell socially unacceptable items, such as condoms, would have to place age verification items on their sites, making it less appeasing to customers. They would have little or no choice, for they would suffer outrageous fines otherwise. COPA hinders the freedom of speech for vendors, individuals, and others who rely on the Web on a regular basis for information or supplies (Kinnersley 119).
Instead of trying to police the Internet, we need to consider monitoring our children?s surfing habits. If parents are so worried about what their children ramble onto online, maybe they should take a look at their neglect and lack of attention. Parental guidance and teacher supervision will defer children from improper sites. And Since the Internet is designed for a world of people, good, bad, short, tall, and of many different makes, who has the right to make a decision for the entire world. If we start limiting the content of the Internet to be suitable for our children, then what is the purpose of this vast resource of information available to scholars and students alike? With this being the beginning of the information age, limiting the content of sites would not only decrease the quality of information, but also hinder the growth of the Internet in years to come. We should stop and consider the communicational value of the Internet as it is today. Drawing people from opposite sides of the world together into one medium that has no boundaries, restrictions, or limits, but instead an environment designed to accommodate learning, understanding, and free will. Yeah, some countries, like Iraq, are blocking materials from their users, but they are only being deprived of valuable resources, instead of being protected.
With our future depending on the freedoms given to us by our Constitution, lets hope that our government wakes up and realizes that regulation of this freedom land called cyberspace, will be unsuccessful as long as our Constitution and the First Amendment stands true. And, if the day comes when we must stand up and fight for our freedoms, I do believe that freedom will prevail, as long as we keep our minds and spirits free, and fight for what we believe in. Our freedoms are a sacred part of our lives. They have allowed us to develop a great society, of which is based on the freedoms listed in the First Amendment of the Constitution. Freedoms which need to be protected at all costs, whether it be over-ruling a congressional act, or fighting for them in war, we must preserve or rights to be free?
?Judge Sets Highest Legal Hurdle For Using Blocking Software in Libraries.? American
Civil Liberties Union: n. pag. Online. Internet. Apr. 7, 1998. Available at
Kinnersley, Hannah. ?Censorship Bill Could Cost Internet Service Providers Money.?
Computer Shopper Feb. 1999: 119.
?Supreme Court Rules: Cyberspace Will be Free! ACLU Hails Victory in Internet
Censorship Challenge.? American Civil Liberties Union: n. pag. Online. Internet.
June 26, 1997, Available at http://www.aclu.org/news/n062697a.html
United States. Continental Congress. The Declaration of Independence and The
Constitution of the United States. New York: Bantam Books, 1998.
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