Should the Internet Be Censored? When the internet was conceived in the last century (boy, that sure makes it seem a lot older than it is, doesn’t it? ) it began as a free and open exchange of information. The original intent was to connect universities and military installations together to freely exchange data. The invention of the web continued that intention. This is supported by the lack of security in TCP/IP and in the early web specifications.
I know it seems strange now, but there was a time, not too long ago, when there was no pornography on the internet. In fact, all of the hate, pornographic and similar sites are actually rather new (less than half a dozen years in most cases).
There was no need or tolerance for this kind of material when the internet was young and of limited distribution. It was not until companies such as AOL, Compuserve, MSN and others succeeded in getting the common man (and woman) on the web that illicit materials began to become available. Once this kind of material appeared on the internet, it exploded so quickly that it absolutely boggles the mind. It seemed like one day there were normal educational sites and a few personal home pages, and the next there was pornography everywhere.
And I mean everywhere… I remember not too long ago it was absolutely impossible to perform a search in any search engine without running into hundreds of sex sites. It didn’t seem to matter what the search was about, the same kind of sites were returned. The search engines seemed to have largely solved this problem by making their robots and indexing schemes more intelligent.
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I’ve noticed that it appears to be safe to search again without having to sort through bi zillions of links that have nothing to do with what I was searching for. I tip my hats to the engineers and analysts who made this possible – good job. This does bring to mind, however, the ethics of allowing this kind of material to be available at all. There are many organizations (religious and otherwise) which will preach to you endlessly about the dangers of allowing anyone to view pornographic and hate related materials.
Many of them will tell you it should be illegal or at last severely restricted. One interesting fact to consider is the growth of the internet exploded as a direct result of the availability of this kind of material. Statistically, even today the vast majority of sites are of an adult nature, and by far most of the money made on the web is due to pornography. I sometimes wonder how quickly the internet would gave grown without this kind of material? Think about it for a moment. Pornographic theaters died because video became available (who wants to watch this kind of stuff in public anyway? ).
Now, with the advent of the internet, you don’t even need to be embarrassed at the video store – you can just call it up over your phone line! No one will know! The major problem is this material is available to anyone – even children. There are lame attempts to place restrictions (enter a credit card number, for example) but they don’t work very well and many sites simply do not care. Oh yes, they do pay lip service and pretend that they do not allow children to get into their sites – but it’s about as easy to get around as looking behind a curtain. Which brings us to the theme of this article? Should this material be available? And if so, should children be allowed to view it? To me the answer to the first question is obvious. Of course the material should be available. I do not believe in censorship at this level.
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I will concede that some censorship is necessary – people do not have the right to yell ‘fire’ in a crowded theater, for example. But wait a minute, you say? All of this material needs to be removed from the net? It’s the only moral and ethical thing to do! I agree with you, partially. Pornography is one of the things that is damaging this country. It weakens the bonds between family members, especially between husband and wife.
It makes people crazy (don’t believe me? Just observe a typical man after he watches an adult movie – he is not the same person as before for a brief time) and it is subtly damaging to the fabric of our society. However, our society is based upon a higher ethics – that all adults have the freedom to read (and by extension view) whatever we want. I still remember when I was in high school and went into the library to read Grapes of Wrath and found bits and pieces blacked out. When I asked the librarian what was going on, she informed me that these passages were not suitable for teenagers! This was only in the mid-1970 s in a high school in California, and it still shocks me to this day to remember how close this kind of censorship is.
How did I feel those years ago when I was only 16 years old? I felt like I was punched in the stomach! Man, I was old enough to make a rational decision about what to and not to read! This was a classic book, for heaven’s sake! However much we all believe (or not believe) that adult oriented materials or al types should be available to adults, virtually all rational people agree that access by children should be restricted. This begs the question: how? Currently, the law states is a credit card somehow proves a person is over the age of 18. I don’t know about you, but most kids I’ve met are clever enough to get their own credit cards or perhaps ‘borrow’ their parents for this small purpose. Technology has not yet reached the stage where a person’s age can be proven reasonably well.
A credit card will not do the trick (at least in my opinion) nor would a driver’s license for the same reason – you cannot be sure that the person on the other side of the screen is the same as the person owning the credit card. At least when someone purchases liquor or beer a person examines a driver’s license and compares the photo to the person. Even that small step doesn’t happen on the internet. Until we come up with a solution to this problem (and I have no idea what that solution will be), we are left with putting the burden on the parents.
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I am a parent myself, and it is important to me that my child (at least it was when he was younger) is not exposed to this kind of material. As a parent is it my responsibility to ensure that my child gains a sense of ethics and morals, and pornography (and the way women are generally treated in that material) is about as far from ethical and moral as you can get. Once the child starts to become an adult he, hopefully, will have gained a solid ethical and moral base on which to judge whether or not he wants to view the material. And if he does decide to view it, he will be able to differentiate between fantasy and reality. That’s one of my primary goals in raising children – to give them the ability to determine right from wrong and fantasy from reality.
Thus, to summarize, I believe the choice about what to view or not to view belongs with each adult. I am thankful that the search engines have done some work to keep people like me from viewing materials which are not desired. And, finally, while I do ask that sites with adult oriented materials take reasonable precautions to keep children from their sites, I understand that they cannot do a perfect job. Thus, it is my responsibility as a parent to ensure my children are properly educated so they can make their own decisions when they are older. Theme stream Comments ” Until we come up with a solution to this problem, … we are left with putting the burden on the parents.’ WHOA! What’s wrong with this picture? If you look at protecting your children as a ‘burden’, you shouldn’t of had them in the first place.
I am SO tired of people who can’t or won’t control their own children screwing up the freedoms of the responsible people in this world. – spider Spyder – thanks for the comments. I agree totally. I was using burden in the meaning ‘A responsibility or duty’, not ‘To weigh down; oppress’. Responsibility would have been a better word. Hope that helps clarify things.
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– richloweHi Richard, Great Article! I do have a difference of opinion with you, though. You state: ‘It (porn) weakens the bonds between family members, especially between husband and wife.’ I beg to differ. If a man who enjoys porn marries a woman who enjoys porn, it serves as an aphrodisiac as well as foreplay. One might as well say ‘People who engage in activities that their mates find distasteful are more likely to split up.’ Well, duh! That’s why you find someone who has similar interests.
As to your statement ‘It makes people crazy (don’t believe me? Just observe a typical man after he watches an adult movie’ I suppose I’ve never seen these typical men… I can’t think of a single one that’s acted strangely after watching a flick. Maybe aroused, but then that’s hardly ‘crazy’. Bottom line, great article. Thank you for sticking up for the right of people to choose. – anne Richard, this the best article I have read on this subject.
To the point of weakening the marriage. Most of these marriages were contracted before the advent of pornography on the internet when there could have been no discussion as to whether this was offensive to the wife. People who never would have dreamed of doing this in public are now neglecting their family responsibilities to spend all their non-work time there. Jean Leva ck – jlevackGreat article! I agree that parents need to take some responsibility for protecting their young children from some of the garbage on the internet — and on TV, for that matter. Judith McIntosh – Judith McIntosh Just the other day, I needed some medical info. So I set out to use a search engine.
I went to gynecology and I could not believe how many porno sites were listed along with my subject! These sites had nothing to do with the subject I was looking for, so why were they there to start with! I believe in freedom of speech, but these search engines need to subjects a little better. The porno sites were very vividly worded. What if my teenage granddaughter had a female problem and was trying to find an answer! This is a very confusing age to begin with, why should she be subject to these terrible sites? Something needs to be done with this problem, and quickly! – Deb Lawson.
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