Internet Censorship Two Case Studies: Australia And The United States

2829 words - 11 pages

I. Introduction

Internet censorship laws started appearing around the world in 1995. These laws covered content already illegal in existing laws for non-internet content, as well as for content that is not suitable for minors. Worldwide, four different approaches were taken with internet censorship. 1) The government encouraged user self-regulation, and voluntary use of content filters by their citizens. 2) Laws were implemented that penalized content providers who made censored material available online. 3) Some governments instituted country wide blocking of censored material. 4) The most restrictive censorship implemented by some governments was complete blocking or restrictive access to the internet. 1

This paper will show whether the ethics of censoring internet content depends on the culture and laws of the country. I personally believe that internet censorship is not ethical and internet users should decide for themselves what they can and cannot see. This paper will prove the ethical implications of internet censorship through two case studies: the United States' Communications Decency Act, and Australia's Broadcasting Services Amendment (Online Services) Act 1999. The United States and Australia have both taken two different approaches to internet censorship. However, both countries started out with similar censorship laws. The United States in 1996 passed the Communications Decency Act. This law was later found to be unconstitutional and in violation of first amendment rights to freedom of speech. The US currently has no internet censorship laws. The Australian government uses the Broadcasting Services Amendment (Online Services) Act 1999 to censor internet traffic to this day.

II. US and the Communications Decency Act

In 1996 the United States passed the Communications Decency Act (CDA). "The CDA prohibits U.S. citizens from transmitting over any form of electronic network 'any comment, request, suggestion, proposal, image, or other communication which is obscene or indecent knowing that the recipient of the communication is under 18 years of age.' (Because Web pages and Usenet newsgroups are public, the law would apply to any material in these venues.) The CDA imposes fines of up to $200,000 and jail terms of up to two years for violators." 2

Opponents of the CDA argued that the Act was too vague, and would lead to subjective rulings. There were no definitions of what indecency meant legally. They also considered it unconstitutional, violating Americans first amendment rights. In 1997, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed with the opponents, and ruled that the CDA was unconstitutional. "Regulation, where required, of the Internet should promote freedom of expression, personal and technological innovation, and ubiquity of access to online services. Clearly, adults and children should not have access to obscene material. It is not protected by the First Amendment. However, governmental regulation of...

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