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The internet is a medium of communication and is shaped by the people using it as a medium to pass their messages or receive. Like any other communication media, the internet is expected to be in agreement with the natural moral system. Information on the internet should be real, accurate, and honest so as to benefit all users. When the information carried on the medium contradicts these moral principles, then it creates confusion, causes harm and inequity (Huggins p.282). Spinello (p.44) looks at the issue of internet control as a choice of letting the private interests control the internet in a free market setting or the top-down approach of state control to factor in the social costs and to avoid the damage that might be caused by a bottom-up approach.
There is a need for regulation of the internet; however, the correct format of regulation is a disputed fact among various stakeholders of the internet. The internet has to have a regulative oversight to survive. Regulatory bodies are needed to handle technical matters like standards and management of internet resources. These regulatory bodies include the World Wide Web Consortium (WWWC) and the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) (Spinello p.44).
The case for regulation of the internet has been fuelled by the anonymity of the internet that makes the assumption of false identity very easy. Therefore, persons exploit the anonymity provision of the internet to behave unethically by publishing or distributing content that is not credible and whose owners cannot be accounted for. Therefore, on the grounds of moral and legal considerations, the internet, just like other mediums of communication, should be regulated (Huggins p.282).
Advantages of Internet regulation
Regulation of the internet will eliminate or reduce the anonymity of using the internet and therefore help to reduce the exploitation of women and girls. In addition, it will help establish a formidable guard against spam by fixing the identity of the originator of the spam. Regulation of the internet prevents the formation of information company monopolies that create segmented markets and exploit their customers just like in the physical business environment. Proper internet regulation increases the credibility of e-commerce, reduces the incidences of fraud, and to some extent guarantees users their money refunds when an internet site turns out to be illegitimate. Internet regulation allows states to prevent international crime like human trafficking and terrorism. The censorship of information passed on the internet allows states to investigate potential lawbreakers early and prevent the actual commitment of crimes (Reagle para.4-9).
Disadvantages of Internet Regulation
The current internet regulation involves government using its authority to compel service provides and network infrastructure providers to manage the kind of information and electronic files that pass through their networks and reveal any personal identity when requested, as long as it is possible to do so. This form of regulation is autocratic. While it ensures that a government protects its citizens against criminal and immoral users of the internet, it also serves as a censorship arm of a government to control the expression of views by its citizens to limit political opposition voices.
In legal terms, regulation of the internet in the format described above curtails an individual’s freedom of expression and obtaining information. This goes contrary to ancient common sense. Every person has a right to attend a crowded event, and the internet provides a means to do so. Everyone has a right to sound an alarm when there is an emergency, such as shouting ‘fire,’ and finally, everyone has no right to make fun of a non-existent emergency. Therefore, no one should advocate harm in his or her websites (Mallick para.1-4).
State regulation of the internet on the precept of ensuring equitability of informational resources may be detrimental to the innovativeness of individuals within the given country. Regulation puts limits to the level of interaction and exposure and that individuals can have. The blocking of a given type of content on the internet may also prevent the flow of necessary inspiration to develop citizens culturally and make them appreciative of their individual natures. Government regulation of the internet is bound to be bureaucratic given the various levels of government and the number of internet regulation stakeholders. The regulation might therefore become a victim of interested party political struggles and fail to provide a fair playing field. Allowing governments to regulate the internet is the same as curtailing international trade because internet interactions and business are global in nature (Caithness para.1-2).
Challenges of regulation
The internet is international and presents a dilemma to any state that tries to regulate its use laws through the existing laws of the country. Illegal matters in one country are legal in other countries, and the internet allows citizens from one country to access information from other countries just as it was coming from within their own borders. This has elevated the sovereignty of the individual and has curtailed the sovereignty of the state, as it is unable to effectively limit the amount of information and electronic material that its citizens access from outside the jurisdiction of the state.
Caithness, Ian. Google claims that internet censorship is the same as international trade barriers. 2008. Web.
Huggins, Jeff. The Obligations of Reason: exploring the existence, nature and implications of the natutal moral system. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, 2006.
Mallisk, Dave. Pros and Cons of Internet Censorship. 2009. Web.
Reagle, Joseph. “Why the Internet is Good, community governance that works well.” 1998. Web.
Spinello, Richard A. Cyberethics: moralkity and law in cyberspace. 3rd. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers, 2006.