Is Censorship Legislation the solution to regulating offensive material on the internet?
Internet censorship is a volatile issue surrounded by a great deal of discussion. Many user-groups feel it is the responsibility of the federal government to regulate offensive material on the internet, while others feel it is a parent's responsibility to monitor what is viewed in the home and deemed "offensive". Due to increasing numbers of online pornography, child pornography and online harrasment sites on the web, the Communications Decency Act was proposed by the United States Government in 1996, in order to regulate such material. As a group, we have examined both sides of the censorship debate, as well as the motivating factors behind the legislation.
Members of the US Government have attempted to impose legislation and government regulatory controls in the past (such as the Exon Ammendment of 1995), and yet the Communications Decency Act was the first regulatory bill to bring about such heated debate on the issue of censorship among internet users. Sharmila Ratnam explores the history of internet regulation and the future of the Communications Decency Act. Included in her study are ethical and legal aspects of the Act as well as criminal charges that accompany violations to the Act. Sharmila also uncovers some of the problems associated with regulatory legislation.
The internet is a useful tool that provides users with information, communication and entertainment. Unfortunately there are increasing numbers of sites on the web that contain pornographic material which is offensive and inappropriate for some audiences, including young people under the age of 18. Jennifer Lomas explores why pornographic sites need to be censored, and how we can go about regulating them online. Jennifer suggests that regulatory agencies such as "Cyber Angels" may help to remove various types of pornographic sites from the world wide web.
Internet user-groups such as Families Against Internet Censorship, the Citizens Internet Empowerment Coalition and the American Civil Liberties Union are against government regulated Internet censorship. Claire Fayers explores premises that motivate anti-censorship groups and ways in which these groups would like to self-regulate offensive material on the Internet. Claire looks at blocking software packages like Net Nanny and Safe Surf as possible alternatives to government censorship legislation.
Internet censorship is not an issue that has a right or wrong solution. If the government regulates offensive material on the web, some groups will feel as though their First Ammendment rights have been violated. On the other hand, a completely uncensored internet will increase the likelihood of children visiting pornographic sites. As a group, we have identified filtering software packages, and programs that search, locate and clean up internet cookies, as the most effective and unintrusive methods of regulating what one's child views in cyberspace. For further information about this type of cookie cleaner software, click here. As for regulating offensive material posted on the internet, agencies like "Cyber Angels" may serve as viable policing mechanisms for controling pornographic web sites. For further information on this debate, please visit our annotated bibliography.