Virtual Controversies Essay Research Paper It was

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Virtual Controversies Essay, Research Paper It was once forcasted that computers in the future would weigh no more than 1.5 tons. Of course, in today?s technologically savvy times, it?s a common occurrence to see people holding their computers in their lap, or even in their hand. There?s no doubt about it: the computer already plays an important role in our lives and that role is likely to expand as more advancements are made. However, new innovations mean new controversies. The Internet, for example, has transformed the way people communicate, conduct business, learn, and entertain themselves. With a simple click of the mouse key, one can do things that were thought science fiction just a few decades ago. For all the benefits associated with the Internet, the presence of

pornography, hate groups, and other distasteful topics has lead to a nationwide debate on first amendment rights and censorship. The goal for the Internet should not be total freedom for unsavory groups to deliver their message to whomever they can, but a balance between the freedom of those who want this material and the freedom of those who do not. When President Clinton signed the Communication Decency Act into law on February 8, 1996, he effectively approved the largest alteration of national communication laws in 62 years. In order to elicit a response from web creators who published ?indecent? sites, the bill instituted criminal penalties. However, the emphasis in the bill was on ?decency? and not ?obscenity?- which had long been established as the method to determine what

was supported by the first amendment and what was not. The CDA was eventually overthrown in Reno vs. ACLU because of the unconstitutionality vague wording and the noted importance in keeping the Internet a hospital arena for free expression and speech. In 1998, another piece of legislation was approved called the Child Online Protection Act, or COPA, that is considered less stringent than the Communication Decency Act, but is currently undergoing the same analysis of its adherence to the Constitution by the ACLU. Even if the Child Online Protection Act managed to pass the court?s high standards, there exists no way for a national piece of legislation to control an international network. The Internet is massive and chaotic in nature since it is technologically infesible for any

one group to own or organize it. According to latest estimates, more than 40 percent of US households own a computer and 90 million adults use the Internet regularly (?Cyber Eyes?). Users can access the are many wonders of the online world like email, gopher sites, IRC (Internet Relay Chat) channels, newsgroups, and web pages. The idea that censorship could restrict this freedom, a trademark characteristic of the Internet, would altogether defeat the purpose of it. Once a person places information on a Web page or bulletin board, there is little control over, or knowledge of, who gains access to it. The government has no right infringing on the rights and freedoms of adult individuals in order to make the Internet ?safe? for children. The hallmark of a democratic society is

allowing a variety of ideas and information to be accessible to its citizens. If that means allowing hate groups to post a site on the Internet, then so be it. Journalist Howard Rheingold predicts that “Heavy-handed attempts to impose restrictions on the unruly but incredibly creative anarchy of the Net could kill the spirit of cooperative knowledge-sharing that makes the Net valuable to millions” (Rheingold n.p.). Perhaps the reason why government censorship is so attractive is because some people are not willing to learn about the Internet and take the initiative to seek alternatives that better suit their needs. Blatant laziness should not excuse the right of government to interfere in people?s lives and repress certain individual liberties that are sacred. Internet users