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Internet Censorship - Just Say No Essay

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Internet Censorship: Just Say No

 
In December of 1994, a young college student named Jake Baker posted one of his fiction pieces in an alt.sex newsgroup. Usually, his contributions to this widely-read site consisted of short stories about rape, torture, and murder of women. In this particular newsgroup post, he continued with his usual contributions; however, he took it a bit further by writing about one of his fellow classmates, using her name and identity in the piece. Faculty members at the University of Michigan discovered his story and later expelled him from school. Federal agents then raided his house, arrested him, and discovered copies of e-mail Baker had exchanged with a Canadian, mapping out his and the Canadian's plan to meet in Ann Arbor the following summer to commit rapes and murders together. Baker was indicted in federal court for threatening his classmate, but the indictment was later revised to drop the charges based on the newsgroup posting and to rely on the threats to unspecified "victims" made in the e-mails Baker exchanged with the Canadian. Late in June, a federal judge dismissed charges against Baker, holding that his acts were not a federal crime (http://www.spectacle.org/).

Now, four years later, the questions still remain: Did Baker cross the line when he used the victim's name and personal description? Did he violate the free speech/free press rights? Did Baker abuse his posting privileges, and did he commit a crime via the Internet? My answer is no, that his newsgroup posts didn't constitute a real threat. Baker may have written hard-core pornography and offensively viscious articles, but he had the freedom to do so. Many would disagree with me, arguing that Baker was way out of line when ...


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...the Internet: Allow people to publish their own work on the Internet and in newsgroup posts. Don't try to regulate something that's almost impossible to regulate. And if you're a concerned parent, get Surfwatch or some other kind of Netfiltering program -- it's up to you to protect your own child's innocence. If you're offended by something you read on the Internet, keep going and don't look back. And finally, I'd leave the person with a statement that I read on the Internet itself: "Censor yourself, not others....The internet is the largest gathering of human beings ever assembled....One of the ground rules is that there is No-One-In-Charge, which means there is no censorship....This freedom is the prime reason that the Internet has become so important and why there are so many diverse resources" (http://www.trifectanet.com/safety.html). What a powerful statement.


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