The Controversy Over Internet Censorship
For many people, using the Internet has become practically a new way of life, especially for college students and the like. Various types of information can be accessed at the touch of a button: anything from encyclopedias, to surveys and essays, to articles from magazines, and adult sites. Anyone who pays for their Internet service is usually offered space for his or her own web page, and even many free services provide space for personal web pages. All of this available space can be used for any number of reasons: posting newsletters for community groups, advertising for businesses, or just voicing one’s opinion. For those of us who know how to use this information, or at least how to find what we need out of it, it’s a very good thing. But what about children? If adults can access this information with such ease, what’s stopping kids from checking it out too? Who decides what’s appropriate for kids and what’s not when their parents aren’t constantly leaning over their shoulders? And what about posting things that may be offensive to other people, no matter what age they might be?
With easy access to the Internet and the multitude of Internet services providing all this free web space, many people decide to take advantage. A person may have a very strong opinion about a subject and feel the need to voice that opinion on a personal web site, whether it is for the purpose of talking about his or her self, or informing others of a particular issue. What happens when it’s an opinion that some think is funny, yet others find hurtful and offensive? Can sites like this be censored in order not to offend people? But what about the people who find it amusing? Isn’t that infringing on their right to free speech?
Many people feel that if the Internet is censored, that is in strict violation of ones freedom of speech. Others feel that the government should step in and penalize anyone whose writings could be offensive. Many of these people have expressed their opinions on the Internet, and have made several good points.
Legislation on Internet Censorship
In a statement made by Senator Leahy in January 1997 suggesting legislation to repeal the Internet Censorship Provisions of the Communications Decency Act. The Communications Decency Act penalizes anyone who sends inappropriate material to a minor, or posts these materials where a minor might see it, with two-year jail terms and large fines (Leahy, 2).
Senator Leahy states, “The first amendment to our Constitution expressly states that ‘Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech.’” Leahy also expresses his fears that other members of Congress may not realize that the people at risk of committing a felony under the CDA are not child pornographers, sex offenders, and purveyors of obscene material. Legislation has already been passed in order to prevent the distribution of...