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Essay on Internet Censorship

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Internet Censorship

You are at work and the phone rings. It is the school principal from the high school your daughter attends. He politely tells you that your daughter is being suspended from school and asks that you please come pick her up. After digging a little deeper, you find out that she is being punished for posting to the internet, a book report based writings of James Joyce. The reason for the suspension is not because the material was plagiarized, but because the content of the material was considered "objectionable" or "indecent" according to new standards mandated by the government.

The above story could have easily happened under the 1996 Communication Decency Act (CDA), whose objective was, according to class notes,
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Each of these clauses--indecent, depicting or describing, patently offensive, and contemporary community standards--hides a landmine threatening the future of freedom of speech in this country." How could this law cause such a problem? The issue is with the words themselves. Depending on where a person is from, how they were raise, what their religious beliefs were, as well as other factors, different people have very different views on what they think is meant by each clause. The reason is that each term is ambituous and vague. Also, according to Spectable.org, "the CDA does not differentiate or contain any exceptions for speech with scientific, literary, artistic or political value." Under the 1996 CDA, many books considered to be important literary works, including the Bible, would be banned, but only if posted on line!

What about the "community standards" wording? Well, according to this law, 'community standard' means that any material placed on the Internet, anywhere, must be able to pass the same ambiguous standards for all communities that have Internet access, anywhere in the United States. What this boils down to is that the standards of the most conservative community would apply. There are two issues that I have with the 'community standards' wording. First, the Internet has no borders and is accessible by people all over the world, with many countries having standards that are very different from ours. Under the CDA all of those websites would be banned
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