Essay about Freedom of Expression on the Internet

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I.Introduction

This paper addresses whether we should censor or block access to websites with controversial material. It looks at the issue from several sides: The relevant US laws that are in place, how censorship is used at the university and corporate levels, how other countries are attempting censorship, and finally what I feel about the topic.

Given all that I have read in preparing this paper, I have come to the conclusion that without a set of globally-accepted rules, we should not be censoring the Internet except where these rules are being broken. We could perhaps get agreement for those things that are obviously illegal and unethical (child pornography), but what about other areas such as gambling (is it legal but
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Print media has the least regulation and the most freedom of speech protection.[ii]

However, in terms of how freedom of speech applied to the Internet, the government is still struggling to come to grips with what they should or should not try to restrict.

One important point to remember is that while the First Amendment is specifically designed to protect offensive or controversial speech (because who needs to protect speech that no one disagrees with?), it does not protect libelous nor obscene material. Obscene material is defined as that which community standards finds offensive.[ii] So one question to consider is, within which community does the Internet live?

2.Communications Decency Act 1996

The Communications Decency Act, as part of a longer Telecommunication Act, basically states that anyone who uses the Internet to make any “patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards, sexual or excretory activities or organs” communication to someone under 18 is breaking the law and can be fined or jailed.[iii]

Much of the act was struck down in a 1997 Supreme Court decision due to it’s conflict with the First Amendment, although it left standing a section similar to that above but with the “intent to annoy or harass”. The judges indicated that the Internet should have those