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Should There Be a Censor for the Internet?

Should There Be a Censor for the Internet?
The Internet has been the greatest invention in the digital age. It has been informed by the need to transform the world into a digital village. Since the internet invention, communication has greatly improved by allowing easier and faster transmission of information globally. The debate about whether to censor the internet or not continues to rage on as its popularity rises. This paper offers insight into the demerits of internet censorship and the vast array of internet benefits
America's First Amendment provisions on freedom of speech are an important reference point to opponents of the position that the “Internet should be censored.” The First Amendment forbids anyone from infringing on the freedom of the press and individual's freedom of expression.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Putting children's interests against those of adults have taken a center stage in the debate. The internet is not the only gateway to undesirable content for children. Alternative media that is capable of showcasing pornographic material include magazines, televisions, and radios. Concentrating on the internet is being one sided since it is not the only culprit known. Eliminating one medium does not solve the problem of children being exposed to pornographic sites. Instead of concentrating on the Internet, a mass campaign should be conducted to inform guardians and interested persons about the flipside of internet censorship. It is, therefore, proper for guardians and parents to be left choosing what is right and what is wrong for their children.
Various points have been raised for and against the debate. It is true that the Internet contains material that should not be viewed by minors, but it does not warrant censorship wholly. Thus, private regulation would sound more appropriate than public censorship. Companies have moved to close this gap by designing software that is meant to block kids from accessing certain sites. This software is manned in high security and undergoes upgrading in a bid to attract the public. Some of these are; NetNanny, Surfwatch, CyberSitter, and CyberPatrol. They work by blocking seemingly inappropriate sites.
Despite the hype this software has received, disabling software meant to unblock it has already been designed. The unblocking software bypasses all the security measures and enables free access to the internet. In essence, it can be deemed to be a waste of resources since the bypassing overtakes the reason for censorship.
The installation of censor applications requires time and resources. The cost of hiring a technician for installation always beats logic for small-scale companies. After installation, regular maintenance and upgrading are vital to keeping up with internet hackers. Internet hackers always find ways of hacking into the system of such applications rendering them useless over time. Instead of spending money on censorship, companies could utilize its budget for other developments. Sacrificing enormous amounts of resources for internet censorship only to be reduced by hackers is a major challenge to companies.
A landmark ruling was made by the Supreme Court in 1997 in the case of Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).The Communications Decency Act that Senate had passed suggested imprisonment and fines to persons using the internet inappropriately. For a country that advocates for democracy, the Communications Decency Act was held to be unconstitutional thus infringing on the freedom of speech. This was a breakthrough in the ongoing debate on internet censorship. Justice John Paul Stevens read the verdict and provided guidelines for future internet considerations.
America's First Amendment is a projection of a country that advocates for democracy in all dimensions. Therefore, all Acts should be consistent with the Constitution. The Commerce clause contained in the United States Constitution forbids criminalizing online conversations that promote interstate commerce. American states have been swift in passing internet censorship legislations. All these are engineered to regulate content viewed by the public on the internet. New York is among the first American states to formulate censorship laws. Its laws came under scrutiny in the case of ALA v. Pataki. The court held it illegal to form legislation that was a threat to the whole development of the internet. The law was ultra vires by requiring strict adherence by members of other states. Georgian censorship laws were held to be null and void in the case of ACLU v Mille.
Internationally, the freedom of speech is guaranteed under the many treaties and conventions that states are bound to. The International Convention on Civil and Political Rights is a treaty signed and ratified by many countries. Its object and purpose should be defended by all countries coerced into it. Key among its provisions is the right to freedom of expression, which applies to all states. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is another crucial international law that embodies freedom of speech. The right to freedom of expression is emboldened in its Article 19: "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers". Consequently, with all these international provisions, internet censorship would be an infringement of a fundamental human right.
With the invention of technology, businesses have rapidly grown. Sometimes consumers check on the internet for products they could use saving on the cost of being at an establishment physically. It has a positive impact on businesses by increasing their returns. Competing on a global platform requires the use of the internet for a company's products and services to reach a wider clientele.
Internet censorship would disadvantage online businesses. These are the companies that do not have a physical address, but instead they rely on the internet to reach their consumers. These companies rely heavily on online advertisements to reach their target audience, which is only possible through the internet. The internet, therefore, gives equal opportunity to both the renowned and less known companies. Online companies also contribute to a country's overall economic performance. In a competitive society, it is every country's desire to have a stable economy which in turn attracts investors.
China has received criticisms on matters of internet censorship. Its use of the great firewall as a censorship tool has slowed innovation in the country. What is left is to try and mimic the existing innovations and produce the generic. The internet censorship mechanism has been blamed for the increase in fake products produced in China. The CEO of Chuangtouquan has expressed fears of the future of economic struggle in the country as they lag behind on the latest trends of the 21st century.
In 2010, the Australian government received massive protests over its proposal to introduce an internet filter. The government's intention was to block access to Parliament and the Department of Broadband, Communication, and Digital Economy. This act by the government was viewed as a way of escaping accountability to the public. A group going by the name “anonymous” launched a cyber-attack on the government's systems and disabled the whole operation. At this age in time, it is archaic for any government to sieve information relayed to its citizens for selfish gains. A government that caps the internet with vested interest has no place in this modern society.
Internet censorship can be used by the government to conceal corruption and fraud in the ministries. Governments across the globe have reported losing billions in corruption scandals that could have easily been exposed to the internet. Corruption is a vice that strains the taxpayers but benefits the policy makers. Censoring the internet presents a scenario where people ask for money to divulge information touching on various hot topics. Truth, justice, and accountability are the vices of any government that hold dear progressive ideals. Without accountability mechanisms, officers will not be answerable to anyone and will, therefore, turn legislation into a cash-minting project. As a result, information should be free and made available with the click of a button and not to undergo the rigorous procedure.
To follow the trends, schools introduce the Internet to students at an early age. This is geared towards having an all-round future generation. Tutors employ the internet as a supplement tool for the syllabus with the extra reading material. The hybrid model of education which has been embraced by many schools reduces the contact hours between the teacher and students, giving the latter an opportunity on the internet. This model of learning provides the student a hands-on approach to studies and hence a clearer understanding of concepts.
Co-operative knowledge sharing is the pooling of informative material through a common platform. Students utilize this aspect of the internet while doing research in various fields. The hustle that is associated with gaining access to libraries has been cut by the internet. The practice of libraries restricting some sites blocks vital information like terrorism and sex education material. Online encyclopedia provides a broad range of information on various topics easing research for students. In addition, prestigious universities like Yale and Harvard often post tutorials to be used by students.
With international boundaries, censoring the internet comes with hurdles that cannot suffice its intended goals. Internet material as a product of many countries makes it hard for any state to regulate its content. There are instances when a pornographic matter is disguised as a religious matter, and unsuspecting users find easy access to such sites. In this case, all censorship intended to prevent such access lacks its purpose.
In conclusion, while the internet contains inappropriate material for minors, Internet censorship should be left as a personal decision. One group of persons can not clearly dictate internet usage for the whole public. Therefore, the government and private entities should not bulldoze its way by passing legislations that seek to censor the internet. Millions of people with different personal intentions cloud the internet on a daily basis, and thus capping on their freedom would be unjust. It is a payable service and subscribing to any plan is free will. Moreover, various software is available that guardians can use when limiting the sites children access. Installing filters would be another effective way of regulating internet usage. The mandate of deciding what is acceptable and what is not will be the trickle-down effect on censorship. Any society that prides on being democratic should be left to employ self-regulation as an internet censorship mechanism. The government and private entities should not have a hand in self-regulation. The internet has been the hallmark of any liberal society; therefore, censoring defeats its purpose.

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