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Censorship on the Internet
From Filters to Freedom of Speech
Ying Shi
Wendy Herumin
Exploring the Internet
Concerns on Cyberspace
Censorship on the Internet
Schools, Free Speech, and the Web
Exploring the Internet
• 20 years ago, only few people had access to computer
• In 2002, more than 605 million prople worldwide were
using the Internet.
• Researchers and scientists were the first to go online,
and needed certain amount of training.
• New services help more members of the general public
to use the Internet.
Exploring the Internet (cont.)
The World Wide Web links users to millions of different sites at the click of a mouse.
Exploring the Internet (cont.)
Regulations on differen media
• Broadcast vs. Print Media
– Radio and TV are more closely
regulated by government
– Over-the-air broadcasts reach the
public more easily
– for printed materials, people must be
literate and make effort to find them
– broadcasting industry must work to
protect children from inappropriate
language and images
Exploring the Internet (cont.)
• Internet
– In 1996, the court in philadelphia ruled that the Internet was
more like the print media than the broadcast media.
– The courts have given books, magazines, newspapers, and
other print media more freedom from regulation than other form
of mass communications
– Therefore, the Internet enjoys this high level of freedom
– First Amendment attorney Robet S. Peck wrote:
The U.S Supreme Court has concluded that cyberspace receives the
highest level of protection that the First Amendment affords. As a result,
the same considerations that apply to printed words and images apply as
well as the electronic word and the digital images.
Concerns on Cyberspace
• Concerns for young Internet users
– Inappropriate content
– Harmful strangers
– Invasion of Privacy
Concerns on Cyberspace (cont.)
Inappropiate content
• Pornography
• Bomb-making instructions
• Hate Speech
• Violence toward animals and humans
• Information about illegal drugs, gambling
• The sites promote religious cults, witchcraft
Concerns in Cyberspace
• Difficult to make definition
– According to NRC, pornography means sexually explicit
"materials that is used to create sexual arousal or desire."
– People use the term to mean both indecency and obscenity
– it is a subjective term
• Easy to find
Internet search
unsolicited e-mail, spam
use deceptive links to lead people to porn sites
Conflicts in Cyberspace (cont.)
• Online Bomb-Making instructions
Concerns on Cyberspace (cont.)
• Hate Speech
– exalts one group of people by denigrating another
– on the basis of race or religion
– the Council of Europe regard hate speech as a serious offense
and outlaw it on the Internet
– In America, free speech traditions protect offensive speech
"Even where the United States government finds the views expressed to
be misguided and repugnant-and surely those are appropriate words to
describe racism-our Constitution commands that we neither prohibit nor
regulate speech merely because we disapprove of the ideas expressed."
---Department of Justice
Concerns on Cyberspace (cont.)
Harmful Strangers
• According to a report from NRC, potentially harmful
strangers pose the greatest threat to children online
• Meeting a sexual predator through a chat room or e-mail
is far more dangerous than viewing inappropriate images
• A study found that one in five young peope aged 10-17
received an unwanted sexual solicitation on the Internet
• Some of them had been encouraged by people they met
on the Internet to run away from home.
Concerns on Cyberspace (cont.)
• Cyberpredators
– Use the Internet to disguise themselves and their intentions.
– Young users may put themselves in danger if they give away too
much information or plan to meet people they do not know.
– The Sexual Predator Punishment Act (1998)
– The act made it illegal to contact minors online for sexual
purposes or to transmit obscenity to them
Concerns on Cyberspace (cont.)
Invasion of privacy
• Children are giving away personal informations about themselves as
surfing the Web
• Young people leave their names and e-mail address in public place
like chat rooms
• In 1998, Federal Trade Commission surveyed 212 comercial
children's sites, 188 of the sites were building files of personal
informations. Less than 48 sites told visitors to ask for their parents'
permission before giving out informations.
Censorship on the Internet
How to censorship on the Internet
• Law enforcement
• Technology tools
– Filters
Censorship on the Internet (cont.)
– the Communications Decency Act (1996)
– made it a crime to send inappropriate material over the Internet
to a person under 18
– the act apply to all forms of Internet communication
• including e-mail, chat rooms, newsgroups, and WWW
– a person could be fined, sent to jail, or both while violating
– force Web site operators make effort to keep minors from finding
inappropriate material
• establish a credit card vertification scheme to screen out minors
Censorship on the Internet (cont.)
– The Child Online Protection Act (1998)
– " the son of the CDA"
– Differed from CDA in 3 improtant ways
• apply only to material on WWW, not to other services
• only commercial pornographers were targeted
• use a more precise legal definition to describe objectionable materials
– regulate content that is "harmful to minors"
Censorship on the Internet (cont.)
– the Children's Internet Protection Act (2000)
– Require schools and libraries to put technology protection
measures on their computer networks.
– Libraries and schools could lose federal funds unless they kept
minors from finding harmful material on the Internet.
– Adults in public libraries could not use library computers to find
inappropriate material.
Censorship on the Internet (cont.)
Technology Tools
• Filters: use one or more technologies to restrict
forbidden contents
– Use lists of Internet address to steer where you go online.
"white" lists vs. "black" lists
– Use keyword blocking.
eg. "sex", "satan"
– label recognition.
assign a rating, similar to movies', but not widely used
Censorship on the Internet (cont.)
• Over-block
– filters can block legal and useful informations
– why it happens?
• Rapidlly changing information on the internet
• Entire Web site is blocked because of a single page
• Different opinion may account for some over-blocking
• Under-block
– filters cannot block all objectionable material on the Internet
– Consumer Reports tested leading software filters in 2001, filters
allowed 20% of the objectionable sites through in their entirety.
Schools, Free Speech, and the Web
• Most schools now have
Internet access in the U.S.
• Students can use the
Internet to master skills,
perform research, and
connect with others
Schools, Free Speech, and the Web (cont.)
How schools protect students online
• Accoriding to a survey in 2002, 78% of school relied on
teachers to supervise online activities, 90% had installed
filtering software on school computer
• Filters regulate online user in several ways:
limit the amont of time
block controversial materials
keep students from visiting chat rooms or newsgroups
avoid giving out sensitive information such as address
Schools, Free Speech, and the Web (cont.)
Off-campus Web sites raise questions
• Students create Web pages at home
disturb school administrators
criticize teachers, school policies, and classmates
contain threatening words
Case: a Pennsylvania eighth grader treatened to kill his math
teacher in 1998
Schools, Free Speech, and the Web (cont.)
• A victory for students for free speech
Schools, Free Speech, and the Web (cont.)
An Ongoing debate
• Schools and students continue to debate freedom of
speech offline and in cyberspace
• Filters are controversial in school as in libraries
• School clamp down on activities when they threaten the
stability of the school environment
• Students challenge rules they believe to be unfair
• Still discovering how to best use the internet
A Final Note
• The free speech debate affects young people
• Filters on school and library computers limit not only pronographic
content but much useful and legal information, too.
• Children can be targets for cyberpredators and marketers.
• It is necessary to find a solution to protect minor online.
Education, public policy, and technology tools all have a role to play.
• Responsible thinking and acting is a important first step to help
young on the Internet
The end
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