Internet- A Medium of Social Interaction and Information Distribution
The creation of World Wide Web in the decade of 1990 has transformed the Internet from a simple communication tool into a creditably and commendably revolutionary technology. Internet may be described as a vast and enormous public web of computer networks linking users of all types around the globe to each other and also to a remarkably substantial information repository.
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The explosive growth of Internet continues in the twenty first century. In the United States, Internet penetration had reached almost sixty-three percent. There are one hundred and eighty five million Internet users and every month there is an increase of two million Americans using it for the very first time (Herumin 2004).
Even though, the dot-com crash in the year 2000 led to overall cutbacks in expenditures on technology. The growth of Internet around the citizens of world is expected to explode. The explosive growth in the usage of Internet forms the basis of new digital age.
Internet has, in fact, been the new millennium’s revolutionary technology, empowering general public, governments and businesses with blessings of connectivity. The information enables the members of world community to share and access huge amounts of information with a simple mouse click.
Aims and Objectives
Aim of the paper is to explore the general role of internet and its relationship with the society. Moreover, it also strives to differentiate what should be allowed and not allowed to display on the internet.
The research will primarily focus on analyzing the secondary data available in theoretical books, magazines and internet. On the basis of the exploration made, a deep analysis and an in-depth opinion will be presented supported by authentic resources.
Developing Theoretical Framework
While reviewing critically the literature in this paper it has been identified that there are many gaps in arguments regarding what should be allowed and not allowed to display on internet. It has been noted that some of the theoretical approaches that are designed by different authors have not been specifically addressed in the available literature about applicable issues that are related with highlighting relationship between internet and society and advantages derived from it.
In this paper the data collected through primary and secondary sources was assessed to perform analysis. The stage of analysis scrutinized the constructs for reliability, content validity, convergent validity and social desirability prejudice. The procedure of confirmatory element analysis is termed as a useful approach for the purpose of constructing validity. This procedure provides an exact view of dependency and is also a formal examination of uni-dimensionality of magnitude.
Censorship on Internet
The Internet commenced in the year 1969 as APPANET. The government of United States supported this project. By the middle of 1990s, the Internet exploded to more than twenty million users. The evolution and expansion of Internet places a continuous threat of government rules and regulations to become more practical. The primary concerns related to Internet focus on hate-speech and pornography and terrorists’ activities. (Herumin 2004)
Censorship is the legislative or moral process by which community concurs to limit what a person can say, see, think or do. (Herumin 2004) One target for censorship by different countries including Untied States has been the Internet. Censorship on Internet aims to focus on much wider spectrum of topics including hate speech, pornography and instructions of bomb-making.
The justification for censorship on the contents available on Internet is that it is directly related with the exigencies of society, even if people are restricted in their consumption on Internet. Presently, the movements of Internet censorship have taken two major forms; placing limitations on what can be posted or viewed on Internet. Several bills have been passed by United States Congress focusing on the Internet. (Owen 2000)
What should be allowed/Disallowed on Internet?
While hate speech, pornography and different other materials could be deemed to acceptable to some and offensive to others, the robust and strong desire to restrict access to this material by a majority of individuals is, in fact, at the core of discussion regarding what should be available and what should not be. The evolution of Internet has proved to be a significant platform not only for economic development, but also as a huge support for those advocates having desire to express their independent opinions (Ringmar, 2007).
Internet also work towards the development of democracy and has provided enormous opportunities for people to participate in different forums, involve in debates and discuss issues that specifically concern them. Different studies made about what should be allowed or not allowed on internet focus on the fact that Internet censorship is, in fact, a commonplace in most of the countries. United States, France, India, China and other nations, over last few years, have accelerated their endeavors either to close down or restrain activities on Internet. For instance, in China, the control level signifies a low value of Internet as a medium for independent and organized autonomous speech and its usage could create additional threats at personal level for different activists.
The attacks of September 11, 2001 have provided numerous opportunities for many countries including United States, France, India and China to promulgate preventive and restrictive policies that were previously opposed by most of their citizens. The governments around the world have accelerated legal authority for extra snooping of all types, especially involving Internet, form enhancement of activities to monitor email for retention of communications data and Web logs (Herumin 2004).
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The governments are more secretive about their own activities, reducing data that was available in the past and refusing to adhere to rules and regulations on freedom of information. Another common phenomenon found is the transfer of surveillance tools and technology. The developing or third world nations often rely on Western countries to supply them with the essential technologies of control and surveillance. These technologies include deciphering equipment, wiretapping equipment, bugs, scanners, computer intercept systems and tracking equipment (White, 2006).
A wide variety of methods are used by governments of United States, France, India, China and other nations to regulate and restrict Internet access especially to confront pornography, hate speech and terrorists’ activities. The common methods used by the countries include; content filtering, applying licenses and laws, surveillance and tapping, taxation and pricing policies, manipulation of telecommunication markets, manipulation of software and hardware and self censorship (Deibert, 2008).
Pornography and Internet
The censorship on Internet by many governments focuses on pornography and place restrictions in this regard. However, according to Kant; loved person is, in fact an object of sexual appetite. He is of the view that the focus of sexual desire is primarily on body and not on complete person. Entire sexual gratification specifically outside marriage is wrong. Kantianism provides support to the policies of governments for imposing censorship on Internet when it comes to pornographic activities. Utilitarianism also encourages governments to combat with the issue of pornography on Internet through censorship. The utilitarianism signifies that pornography tends to reduce dignity of life, harming each and every one. It increases specific crimes like rape (Kant, 1999).
Pornography reduces level of sympathy for the victims of rape and is like pollution that ultimately poisons the environment. Industry of pornography diverts resources from socially redeeming activities. These arguments justifies the actions taken by the countries like United States, France, India, China etc to impose censorship on Internet (Schneider, 1997).
The ‘Child Internet Protection Act’ (CIPA) provides that libraries receiving networking funds from federal government should filter pages containing child pornography or obscenity. According to utilitarian evaluation; it depends on how harms and benefits are weighed. Social contract theory asserts that freedom of conscience must be given precedence (Nakaya, 2005).
Basic Themes to Forbid and Permission
There are two basic themes regarding access to available information which are; everything that is not permitted explicitly is forbidden; and everything not forbidden explicitly is permitted. Moreover, these are also referred to as whitelists and blacklists. As websites appear and fade swiftly on the Internet, it is a full time job to maintain list on Internet of either type.
Both these types are generally used at the domestic level. For instance, Australia has enforced a law that requires entire ISPs to block undesired access to such materials which seems to be harmful for minors. It also comprises pornography involving animals, children, or excessive violence and certain information about violence, crime and drug use. On the other hand, Burma has almost blocked all the activities on Internet. In that country, it is not legal to own even a fax machine or a modem without the related license, Burma also limited access to Internet to just eight hundred whitelisted international sites and also a few dozen on the internal network of the country.
Use of Internet for Social Interaction
One significant implication of the Internet’s access to homes and its continuous increasing use for communication is that it could alter social interaction of people with their closed associates. Social interaction with friends and family is regarded as the most pleasant experience of people. It supports in fulfilling the needs of people to belong and mostly leads to emotions of closeness, to perceptions of support by society, and also increases in the possibility of receiving community support (Abbot, 2006).
Social interaction is also related to the commitment by people to groups, organizations and neighbors with their feelings of meaning in life, and with their compliance to social norms. It has been argued by some researchers that Internet is successful in improving the ability of people to form new relationships and improve them over time. Some studies have suggested that Internet facilitates growth of group ties, and also establishing new organizations and groups. Internet has evolved to serve as the significant platform not just for commerce and economic development; but also as a help for proponents who wish to state their opinion freely and also to work towards the democracy development. This medium has provided opportunities for people to participate in different forums and to debate and discuss issues directly or indirectly related to them (Contrada, 2006).
Internet should be used to facilitate a multi-way process of communication providing the chance for anyone to express their views and opinions. Internet should be allowed for vertical and horizontal communication. Censorship and control has a considerable impact on the Internet as it challenges trust and confidence in the medium and restrain critical flows of data. As mentioned in the paper, attacks of September 11, 2001 have provided governments the opportunity and chance to promulgate different policies regarding certain restrictions that in the past were opposed by most of the citizens. Governments should further accelerate their legal authorities for more snooping of all types, especially involving the Internet.
It is necessary to monitor emails as well as retention of communication data and Web logs. Governments are required to increase safety and secrecy about their activities. They should reduce providing such information that was available in the past. Moreover, they should refuse to comply with the policies on freedom of information due to the reasons already presented in the paper.
The evolution and expansion of Internet places a continuous threat specifically on governments to become more practical and assume their responsibilities to distinguish as to what should be allowed and not allowed to display on the Internet. For this purpose governments can focus on certain areas such as terrorism, child pornography, hate speech etc for managing internet i.e. balancing freedom and regulations. It can be concluded, on the basis of arguments presented, that contents on internet should be allowed to display only if they are related with the exigencies of society. Moreover, people should be restricted in their consumption on Internet. Future research is recommended to focus on the areas like more legislation, managing cultural differences, and role of ISPs.
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- Contrada, J, 2006, Reno V. Aclu Internet Censorship: Reno Versus Aclu, Benchmark Books.
- Deibert, R, 2008, Access Denied: The Practice and Policy of Global Internet Filtering. MIT Press
- Herumin, W, 2004, Censorship on the Internet: From Filters to Freedom of Speeches, Enslow Publishers.
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- Ringmar, E, 2007, A Blogger’s Manifesto: Free Speech and Censorship in the Age of The Internet, Anthem Press.
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