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					7 March 2008



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Your editor was:        Peter Collier
English style:          UK English
Referencing style:      Harvard Style

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Editor’s Comments
The word „internet‟ has traditionally been treated as a proper noun requiring
capitalization (ie Internet). However, this has typically been relaxed in more recent
times. For a more formal document, you may wish to consider capitalising the word.
                                                    1


                                            ESSAY




                      The voice of a nation:
                The case for censoring the internet.
                                         (1285 words)




                                                Abstract

The internet is the only form of mass media in the Western world that is not censored. Censorship involves
regulating the access to mass media dependant on its content. It deals with protecting society from content
such as extreme violence and sex. There is clearly a very strong case in favour of censoring the internet.
The government must introduce internet censorship for three main reasons. Firstly, it promotes decent
values and morals within society. Secondly, censorship protects minors from potentially harmful material.
Finally, censorship is necessary to maintain national security and reduce crime.
                                          2


Introduction:
Censorship of the internet throughout the Western world is essential in promoting
decent values and morals within society, for protecting minors, as well as for
maintaining national security. Currently, Australia‟s internet censorship laws are
close to non-existent, with the burden being put upon each individual state to
legislate. In a recent survey conducted by Freedom House, Australia ranked in
the top fifteen least censored countries in the world, ahead of the United States
and the United Kingdom (Karlekar, & Sussman, 2002, p. 9). Evidently, Australia
is lagging behind the Western world in censorship of the internet and much more
could be done by all countries to tighten control on the internet.


Promoting Decent Values and Morals:
Censorship is the process of banning or deleting material that is inappropriate for
the general public to see. This material is often vulgar, exceptionally violent,
sexually disturbing and has a tendency to “offend against the standards of
morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults”
(Armstrong & Hudson, 1998, p. 1). It is this material that must be withheld from
general public viewing to maintain decent values within society. In 1995,
Singapore‟s minister for information, the arts and health revealed that Singapore
practiced censorship of the internet, “…because the act of censorship is itself
symbolic and an affirmation ... of the values we hold as a community" (Cram,
1996, p. 13).

Freedom of speech is often voiced as a case against censorship. There is a fine
line between protecting society and impeding upon its democratic rights. Enid
Campbell and Harry Whitmore in their book, Freedom in Australia, (1973, p. 268)
wrote that:

          “Censorship … is a familiar battleground for the champions of freedom of
        speech on the one hand and the suppressors of harmful material on the
        other. Absolutist views are the norm and both sides accuse each other of
        illogicality, prurience and more deadly sins.”

In Australia, the National Crimes Act of 1914, section 85ZE specifically deals with
the issue of inappropriate transmissions across a telecommunications network by
stating that:

       “A person shall not knowingly or recklessly use a telecommunications
       service supplied by a carrier in such a way as would be regarded by
       reasonable persons as being in all the circumstances, offensive.”

Therefore, it is already legislated in Australia that offensive material cannot be
transmitted through the internet. While Australia is regarded as a democratic
nation whose right to freedom of speech is upheld, there is still a limit to what can
be said. This underlines the need to invoke censorship to uphold this legislation.
                                         3


Decent values and morals are thus promoted within society by the offensive
material being blocked by the government and not released into circulation.


Protecting Minors:
Minors are at even greater risk of being harmed by objectionable material found
on the internet. In 2001, two thirteen year old girls ran away from Clayfield
College boarding school in Brisbane. It was later discovered that they were
suffering from severe depression and other mental illnesses caused by
pornography they had viewed on their computer over the internet. On top of this,
they had also viewed news groups which contained extremely violent and
sexually vulgar information. If censorship had been imposed by the government,
the teenagers would never have viewed the pornography or read the damaging
information on the news groups.

Not only will this material have a more profound impact upon minors, but they are
also more likely to come into contact with the material on the internet than in any
other form. This is due to the fact that children surf the internet largely
unsupervised, in the privacy of their homes. This could lead to the child either
deliberately or unknowingly being exposed to objectionable material without the
knowledge of any adults and without any social restraints being placed upon
them. For example, a child under eighteen years of age is unable to enter a
newsagency and buy a pornographic magazine. However, the same child could
quite easily, without leaving his home, look up similar sexual material that is
freely available on the internet. The latter option is significantly easier from the
child‟s perspective as well as being completely achievable given the current
censorship laws. In relation to internet censorship, Heins (2001, p. 11) states
that:

       “The argument here is not that commercial pornography, mindless media
       violence, or other dubious forms of entertainment are good for youngsters
       or should be foisted on them. Rather, it is … defining what it is we want to
       censor.”

While the challenge does lie with the censor as to what is defined as
inappropriate, the current state of inaction is markedly worse. CompuServe, an
internet service provider in Germany has taken the bold step of banning all
sexual material on the internet available through their service. This is the first
step that needs to be taken by many other Western internet providers and
governments to protect our children.


Maintaining National Security:
Not only is censorship necessary for protecting the individual, it is also necessary
for protecting national security and reducing crime.
                                          4


       The internet, as in the case of television, not only becomes a method of
       structuring the problem of crime, law and order and more regulation but
       also as a contributory factor to the problem itself. (Spencer, 1999, p. 246)

After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States of America, it
was revealed that there was an increase in “chatter” on internet bulletin boards
and newsgroups between terrorist organisations. When this news hit the press,
thousands of curious Americans searched the internet for these newsgroups and
were able to view many of these terrorist discussions. While the FBI was able to
shut down many of these sites because of the weak censorship framework that
existed, many Americans were not able to view the information. (Consider re-
phrasing this last sentence to improve clarity.)

In the months following the Oklahoma City bombings of 1995, it was revealed
that bomb making instructions similar to that used, were readily available on the
internet. Shortly after news of this went public, American Senator Dianne
Feinstein stated that:

       “I have a problem with people teaching others how to build bombs that kill.
       The First Amendment doesn’t extend to the protection of that kind of
       information, especially when it resides in electronic format so easily
       available.” (Availability of bomb making instructions on the internet, 1995)

More than five years later, neither Australia nor the United States are any closer
to censorship of the internet. Given the continuing terrorist threats, it is obvious
that now is the time to start censoring the internet – just like all other forms of
mass media.

Conclusion:
The Western world must introduce censorship of the internet. Firstly, censoring
the internet will ensure correct moral and social values are upheld within society.
Secondly, censorship will protect minors from inappropriate and potentially
damaging material. Finally, censoring the internet will aid the government in
restricting access to information that could be used by potential terrorists and
other criminals.
                                        5


List of References:
ARMSTRONG, M., & HUDSON, M.(1998). Internet content: Balancing
     community values. Sydney: RMIT University

Availability of bomb making instructions on the internet (May, 1995). Retrieved
     June 5, 2003 from
     http://courses.cs.vt.edu/~cs3604/lib/Censorship/Terrorism.html

CAMPBELL, E., & WHITMORE, H.(1973). Freedom in Australia. Adelaide: The
   Griffin Press

CRAM, J.(1996). Censorship of the Internet: Guardian of public morals or
   wakeup call for public libraries? inCite, 17(8), 12-13

HEINS, M.(2001). Not in front of the children: Indecency, censorship, and the
    innocence of youth. New York: Hill and Wang

KARLEKAR, K., & SUSSMAN, L.(2002). The annual survey of press freedom
   2002. Retrieved June 2, 2003, from http://www.freedomhouse.org

National Crimes Act. (1914). [Legislation]. Canberra, Australia

SPENCER, J.(1999). Crime on the internet: Its presentation and representation.
   The Howard Journal, 38(3), 241-251. Retrieved June 2, 2003, from
   http://web7.epnet.com:80/citation.asp?tb=1&_ug=dbs+0+ln+en%2Dus+sid+
   B615A0B3%2DFD3F%2D42FB%2DA8FF%2D1121D9F32FEC%40Session
   mgr6+BC06&_us=bs+anti%2Dcensorship+ds+anti%2Dcensorship+dstb+ES
   +fh+0+hd+0+hs+0+or+Date+ri+KAAACB2A00217728+sm+ES+ss+SO+101
   D&fn=1&rn=6.

				
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