Internet Censorship: Pro & Con

Against CENSORSHIP

Practical Concerns:

This isn't a matter of protecting children, it's a matter of preserving the free speech of adults.

The internet is a public forum, accessible to anyone; you can be arrested for indecent exposure, etc., in any other public arena, it should be the same for the internet.

If you begin to censor the internet, where will it stop? Eventually no one with an "unacceptable" veiwpoint will be allowed to communicate their ideas (slippery slope).

Every "slippery slope" argument is inherently flawed, due to measures that exist to counter it. There is no way it could go that far. The First Amendment would prevent censorship from growing to that point.

Precedent:

In the case of Miller v. California, the standard for obscenity is defined as "matter, taken as a whole, the predominant appeal of which to the average person, applying contemporary standards, is to prurient interest, i. e., a shameful or morbid interest in nudity, sex, or excretion; and is matter which taken as a whole goes substantially beyond customary limits of candor in description or representation of such matters; and is matter which taken as a whole is utterly without redeeming social importance." In this case, the "contemporary standard" is set by the "average person" on the Internet, and judging by the sheer amount of pornography available, the evidence is overwhelmingly in favour of pornograohy as "allowable."

The "contemorary standard" as defined by Miller does not include every denizen of the Internet. It is meant to represent the current American standard, as determined by the average person. Most people don't want their children exposed to pornography, so this clearly falls under the Miller standard.

In the recent case of Ashcroft v. ACLU, the United States Supreme Court maintained a ban on the enforcement of the Child Online Protection Act (COPA), an Internet censorship law passed by Congress in 1998.

The fact that Congress passed this law in the first place shows that there is a grave need for regulations on the Internet to prevent abuses.

Finally, In Reno v. ACLU, the Supreme Court found the Communications Decency Act (CDA) - Congress' first attempt at censoring the Internet - to be in violation of the First Amendment, because it all "indecent transmissions." Duo to the broadness of it's scope, the CDA was struck down.

The CDA would have been a good way to once and for all eliminate obscenity from our airwaves and phone lines. However, the fact that it was followed by the COPA (which only restricts the Internet) shows that the urgency of keeping the Internet safe for children is of utmost concern to our government.

Constitution:

The First Amendment is there to protect all speech, not just speech that we agree with, or find acceptable.

"All speech" is not protected by the First Amendment, and it never has been. The 1st Amendment has never protected obscene, hateful or defamatory speech.


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