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Freedom of Expression on the Internet Essay

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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 unethical or visa versa?). There would be very few rules we could agree upon if 100% global agreement is a requirement, and I believe it is.

II. America's View

A. The Laws

The United States government has enacted (or attempted to enact) several laws regarding freedom of speech and the internet. A short overview of these follows.

1.The First Amendment

Given how short the First Amendment is, it has caused a surprising amount of controversy and an untold number of new laws and regulations. The text simply states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”[i]

The First Amendment has been enforced at different levels depending on the type of media itself. Television and radio are both broadcast media and are under strict government regulation as to cont...


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[xxxi] Ministry of Information, Communication and the Arts, Working Together Towards a Responsible and Vibrant Society, 2003, 08 Feb 2004, http://www.mita.gov.sg/pressroom/press_030908.pdf

[xxxii] Amnesty International, People's Republic of China Controls tighten as Internet activism grows, 28 January 2004, 08 Feb 2004, http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGASA170012004

[xxxiii] Julie Hilden, The First Amendment and the Internet, Why Traditional Legal Doctrines Apply Differently In Cyberspace 2002, 24 Jan 2004, http://writ.findlaw.com/hilden/20020416.html

[xxxiv] Tina Inzerilla, “Re: hello there”, email to the author, Feb 2004

[xxxv] Jennifer Rast, The UN Plan to Take Over the Internet, Contender Ministries, 10 Jan 2004, 11 Feb 2004, http://www.contenderministries.org/UN/wsis.php


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