vernmentThesis: The vast cyber-frontier is being threatend with censorship from the
government. Internet censorship should be left up to the individual not the
I. Censoring the Internet.
A. Clinton passes the C.D.A.
B. Our rights as Americans.
C. Exon’s victory.
D. What’s really online.
E. Strike to free expresson on Compuserve.
II. Where the Internet stands now.
A. Judges Panel.
B. Congress and other’s opinions.
C. Background information.
D. Other opinions.
A. Family’s responsibility.
B. Censorship Software.
C. Civil Rights.
After threatening the Communications Decency Act with a vetos of the past
versions, President Bill Clinton signed the bill into law on February 8, 1996.1
Before hand, congress approved the largest change of the nation’s
communications laws in 62 years. One of the largest controversial topics
included in the bill is the censorship of pornography, which now is a
strenuously enforced crime of distributing knowingly to children under 18. The
congress overwhelmingly passed the bill with a landslide 414-16 House vote and
a 91-5 Senate vote.2 It seems now that the wide bill might not be what it
cracked up to be, as it stands now, anyone who might upload James Joyce’s
Ulysses could be placed in jail for two years and have up to a $250,000 fine.3
Representatives of on-line services industries were concerned about the bill,
and feared they could be held criminally responsible for Internet
“We face a unique disturbing and urgent circumstance, because it is children
who are the computer experts in our nations families,” remarked a concerned
Rep. Senator of India Dan Coats.5 Although in reality, censorship would do
little to stop the pornography problems. The bill is a nation legislation
trying to control a international network, which is virtually impossible.
According to the First Amendment, Americans were granted to write anything they
please, whether it’s indecent or not, several series of judicial decisions also
helped the freedom down the road.6
Nebraskan Democrat James Exon, put together an informational binder known as
the Blue Book to show the Senate about the goings on within the Internet.7
Along the pages of the Blue Book were pictures of people bound and being burned
by cigarettes, people pierced with swords and people involved in sexual
activities with animals.8 The Senate, acknowledging their ignorance of the
Internet, passed Exon’s proposal after seeing the pictures in the Blue Book.9
Along with distribution of pornography, a person carries the chance of two
years in prison and a $250,000 fine which is a good reason to restrict much of
The Internet is extremely massive, filled with usenet newsgroups, web pages,
IRC channels, ftp sites, gopher sites and much more. The Internet is the last
and largest frontier of uncensored speech, anything from friendly chat to child
porn to bestiality goes on. Pictures of anything that can be imagined are most
likely available to the searcher. Some estimate that over 30 million people
are on the Internet. On IRC(Internet-Relay-Chat) a live time conversation can
be held along with trading files from illegal computer game trading called
warez to illegal picture trading goes on. ‘Cybersex’ is also a occupance that
happens more in live chat areas then others. MUDs or Multi-User-Dungeons, live
chat like IRC was first started for Role Playing uses like online Dungeons and
Dragons, now among the MUD servers there are sexual MUDs for people interested
in S&M along with other fetishes. Usenet newsgroups account for 11.5% of total
Internet traffic and is a major distribution of smut pictures.11 The WWW also
known as the World Wide Web is today’s largest portion of the Internet as well
as the fastest growing with well over 12 million pages accessible. Despite its
gargantuan proportions, it still remains fairly clean from hardcore smut
comparative to its size. BBSs seem to be the major uproar of censorship,
although BBSs are NOT part of the Internet, many of their pictures found in
them later become available to users via someone uploading them.12 Electronic
Bulletin-Board Systems(BBSs) require a user to dial that computer directly
thought the phone lines resulting in long distance charges and often monthly
In late December of 1995, a prosecutor in Munich struck a devastating blow to
Compuserve and the larger picture of freedom of expression.13 This prosecutor
was able to prevent the flow of information for 4 million people in 140
countries.14 By merely informing Compuserve that it was breaking Baravian law
by giving German residents access to sexual newsgroups, Compuserve removed any
newsgroup that had titles with “sex”, “gay”, or “erotic” which in turn denied
access to not only Germany users but all its users.15
On June 12, 1996, three federal judges in Philadelphia, PA, ruled that the 1996
Communications Decency Act violated the First Amendment to the Constitution.
The panel comprised of three dedicated judges Stewart Dalzell, Dolores K.
Sloviter, and Ronald L. Backwalter. They voiced their opinion about the
censorship and say that the bill is unconstitutional. The panel believes that
the Internet must be protected since it is an important form of expression and
free speech. The judges enacted a restraining order preventing enforcement of
the unconstitutional act.
“It’s virtually impossible [to regulate the Net] because of the global nature
of this communications device. It would mean monitoring every phone call [into
the Internet], which is impossible to do,” stated David Ellington, the C.E.O.
of NetNoir.16 “My boss supports First Amendment Freedoms, but is also
supportive of protection of decency,” the legislative assistant to Rep. Ed
Towns (D-NY), Khalil Munir responds.17 “As the most participatory form of mass
speech yet developed, the Internet deserves the highest protection from
governmental intrusion,” judge Stewart Dalzell offered.18 Dalzell believes
that the Internet is a good place which allows its users the largest
environment for free expression and speech.19 Dalzell assure that the Decency
Act is not required to protect children from pornography.20
The July 3 report, “On a Screen Near You: Cyberporn,”[Time] was based on a
Carnegie Mellon University study. Led by student Martin Rimm, researchers said
they found more then 900,000 sexually explicit images and text files online,
but neglected to point out that most came from privately owned adult bulletin
boards with no connection to the Internet.[School Library Journal, October,
After hitting the newsstands, the magazine quickly found its way to the floor
of the U.S. Senate. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) asked to have the entire
article entered into the Congressional Record in support of his bill S.892, the
Protection of Children from Computer Pornography Act of 1995. “There is a
flood of vile pornography,” Grassley told fellow senators, “and we must act to
stem this growing tide, because . . . it incites perverted minds.”[School
Library Journal, October, 1995, EBSCO-CD]
In a seven week period the Smithsonian Institution’s web site gathered a total
of 1.9 million visits, and in a seven day time during June, Playboy took in 4.7
million visits.21 Most of the pictures available on the Internet were at some
point in time scanned from a magazine or other places which photos as such are
found. Many private BBSs do business in taking free photos to scan for people
then keep a copy of the picture for their site. Pornographic images only
represent about 3% of all messages on the Usenet newsgroups although Carnegie
Mellon found that 83.5% of Usenet newsgroup pictures were pornographic.22
The Usenet itself is extremely small compared to other portions of the Internet
and only consists of 11.5% of overall traffic. The Carnegie Mellon team
surveyed 917,410 sexually explicit pictures while doing their research on the
Internet.23 98.9% of the online porn seekers are men according to private BBS
operators, the same operators which require fees to gain entrance.24
Researches say that even though the 83.5% of images in usenets were
pornographic that still only represents less the one-half of one percent of all
traffic on the Internet.25 Only nine out of 11,000 Web pages contained
anything obscene yet Time still said, “There’s an awful lot of porn online.”26
“[Cyberspace] is a safe space in which to explore the forbidden and taboo. It
offers the possibility for genuine, unembarrassed conversations about accurate
as well as fantasy images of sex,” said Carlin Meyer, a professor at New York
Law School.27 “It is clearly a violation of free speech and it’s a violation
of the rights of adults to communicate with each other,” House speaker Newt
In a Time/CNN poll conducted by Yakelovich Partners, 1000 people were involved
and 42% were for FCC-like control over sexual content on the computer networks,
but 48% were against it. Towns supports the effort which Reps. Christopher Cox
(R-Calif) and Ron Wyden(D-Ore) are working for. Cox and Wyden encourage
development of smart programs such as SurfWatch, which restricts access to
files at home. The Cox-Wyden proposal would make individuals responsible for
censorship, this would prohibit the governments interaction. Based on a poll
takes in Black Enterprises 32% of those in the poll think the a new Internet
governing body should control online services while another 32% say the users
should followed by 16% saying a private enterprise should, and 15% saying none
should, then lastly 6% believe the government is the right system for the
job.29 The MIT media Lab’s Webhound project allows World Wide Web users to
assign a number which rates each Web page seen. Webhound can then point
someone toward Web pages of their own interests. The Home Net project which
started February and goes until June 1997, gave computers to 50
Pittsburgh families and monitors their use. Out of 157 people surveyed, less
then 20% viewed anything sexually oriented more the twice.30 “Places that
provide erotica on the Internet are wild about the idea of voluntary ratings,
they don’t want to sell to kids,” Nathaniel Borenstein the designer of Kid Code
stated.31 The government itself is the largest buyer of pornograp! hic
magazines in the form of sales to military bases and also requires sex
education on children in public schools.
A new development being worked on now is Kid Code. This would allow a rating
system for each web-page, the user then would be allowed to set the ratings of
the pages allowed to their children.32 Other protective programs are also
available such as The Internet Filter, which sends e-mail to the parents if a
child enters a sex site.33 Cyber Patrol is time sensitive and allows restraint
on certain times of use and total time online can be set by parents not wanting
their kids be on the Internet all day instead of doing their homework, or not
allowing them to be on after 9pm.34 SurfWatch comes with a list of sites
containing sexual material that may not be changed. With CyberSitter, parents
can add to the menu to unwanted sites but not remove any.35 SurfWatch denies
access to sites such as Hustler automatically, it also restrains newsgroups
with words like “porno”, “xxx”, or “sex” in their topic.36 Microsystems
Software’s CyberPatrol program filters 12 content subjects such as sex,
violence, and hate speech, then parents can add sites to a “CyberNet” list.37
Indecent material is protected by the First Amendment, much of the materials
printed in America including articles from Cosmopolitan magazine or James
Joyce’s Ulysses could be called indecent. Many civil-rights groups were
involved in calling the bill unconstitutional and prevents the citizen’s rights
to free speech and privacy. If the U.S. succeeds in censoring the Internet,
they will be in a position to mediate much more then just porn. Anything they
wished could be controlled such as private conversations to each other.
Porn, sex, smut isn’t only found on the Internet, it can be found in books,
magazines, films, television, music video, newspapers and many other places.
People can walk into a corner video store and walk out with a pornographic
video at only $4 a night. A team at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh,
Pennsylvania, conducted an extremely detailed study of online porn.38 Some of
their findings resulted in their conclusion in which the trading of sexually
explicit pictures is one of the largest recreational past times of Internet
users.39 At one unnamed university, 13 of 40 most frequently visited
newsgroups had names like “alt.sex.stories”, “rec.arts.erotica,” and
“alt.sex.bondage.”40 71% of sexual images on the Internet originally can from
the thousands of privately owned BBS’s whose operators sell their contents at a
mere $10 to $30 a month(long distance call not included), the largest of these
take major credit cards and make up to an excess of $1 million a year.41 The
team found consumers in more then 2,000 cities in all 50 states and 40
countries, also in China, where possession of pornography can be a capital
The censorship of the Internet should be the responsibility of the child’s
parents and not the governments responsibility. There are many options for a
parent to use when restraining their child such as informing themselves better
about what’s in the Internet and taking precautions before hand. The average
adult with children on the Internet might very well likely not know as much as
Perhaps a reason people want the government to censor it is because they don’t
want to take the time it takes to learn about the Internet and find a private
censor program. A parent’s laziness is no reason to restrict others who enjoy
spending their time collecting ‘indecent’ pictures or reading medical documents
about sex. The government admitted to being Internet ‘dumb’ and not knowing of
the goings on held within a person’s computer screen, when one person could be
skimming for subjects like fantasy role-playing games, another person might be
secretly trading child porn. With over 30 million users on the Internet, no
one can guarantee that no pornography will stray down from someone.
1. “Background Information,” Editorial On File, June 16-30, 1995, p.728
2. “Background Information,” Editorial On File, February 1-15, 1996,
3. John Barlow, “Thinking locally, acting globally,” Time, January 15,
4. E.O.F., June 16-30, 1995.
5. Philip Elmer-Dwitt, “On a screen near you: Cyberporn,” Time, July 3,
6. Julian Dibbell, “Muzzling the Internet,” Time, December 18, 1995,
7. Steven Levy, “No place for kids?” Newsweek, July 3, 1995, EBSCO-CD
10. E.O.F., June 16-30, 1995
16. Fonda Lloyd, “Is it wise to censor the net?” Black Enterprise, December,
18. E.O.F., June 1-15, 1996
25. Renee Olson, “Critics say Time exaggerated cyberporn threat,” School
Library Journal October, 1995,
36. Robin M. Bennefield, “When kids prowl the net, parents need to be on
guard,” U.S. News;Report, April 29, 1996, EBCSO-CD
“Background Information.” Editorial On File, Vol 27, Number 3, February 1-15,
1996, p 148.
“Background Information.” Editorial On File, Vol 26, Number 12, June 16-30,
1995, p. 728.
Elmer-Dwitt, Philip. “On a Screen Near You: Cyberporn.” Time July 3, 1995,
Lloyd, Fonda. “Is it Wise to Censor the Net?” Black Enterprise, December, 1995,
Dibbell, Julian. “Muzzling the Internet.” Time December 18, 1995, EBSCO-CD.
Levy, Steven, and others. “No Place for Kids?” Newsweek, July 3, 1995,
“Background Information.” Editorial On File, Vol. 27, Number 11, June 1-15,
1996, p. 700.
Barlow, John, “Thinking Locally, Acting Glabally.” Time, January 15, 1996,
Sirico, Robert A. “Don’t censor the Internet.” Forbes, July 29, 1996, EBSCO-CD.
Olson, Renee, and others. “Critics say Time Exaggerated Cyberporn Threat.”
School Library Journal, October, 1995, EBSCO-CD.
Spertus, Ellen. “Filtering the Net.” Technology Review, October, 1995,