The Internet censorship controversy – the Threefold Advocate
Pornography. Extremism. Fake news. Few words have such a visceral effect on a person as these. Together, these three elements embody almost everything that is wrong with American society. And how did the government react to their increase? By inviting them as guests of honor through Internet servers across the country.
Since its inception, the Internet has been an almost universal hub of information and activity. Everything from debates, auctions and photo albums is shared across the web for public view. Unfortunately, the Internet contains much more sinister files than these. Pornography, drug trafficking and explicit content are just a few clicks away from anyone with access to a computer. At this age, parents are compelled to protect their children’s eyes from graphic content and sexual innuendo from the moment they touch their first device. Sex addictions and crime rates across the country are on the rise, and the vulgarity of the Internet bears the brunt of the blame.
For years there has been an ongoing debate regarding the subject of internet censorship. Many groups claim that any content someone wants to put on the web should be allowed to be posted. Others firmly believe that the Internet has become too explicit and harmful to be able to continue unchecked.
I think there is a difference between restricting useful information that can be applied and evaluated freely by consumers and restricting material which has little or no positive application. To be clear, I don’t think the Internet should be dismantled. It is a wonderful tool with unlimited potential for the betterment of mankind. But, I also believe that it is a tool that can easily be misused. Evil was not born the day the Internet was created, but it has been given a new home. In the days of newspapers and encyclopedias, evil things were still captured and mass produced, but not on the scale the internet allows them to be.
Much of the content on the Internet, including pornographic websites, falls into this category of harmful material. These are things that have no potential to improve society and are a stumbling block for many who are exposed to them. We are becoming a more dependent, sexualized and indifferent culture than ever before, and this is happening at a younger age than we have seen before. Left unchecked, this exposure could lead to a radical shift in the moral values of American youth. When exposure to explicit content becomes normalized, other more socially unacceptable acts become more acceptable. Several researchers and studies have established the link between acceptance of rape and exposure to pornography. Pornography is not just pictures or videos; it is the cradle of complacency and the acceptance of odious acts.
Another more controversial element requiring internet censorship is that of websites and forums that promote extreme or criminal views. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has released a document that lists many examples of how the Internet has been used to promote terrorism around the world. One of the main ways that these groups use the Internet to reach people is through propaganda, including messages, videos or games intended to get people to adopt a more extreme mindset.
This topic becomes surprising when we realize that none of this is really forbidden. The UNODC states that “the dissemination of propaganda is generally not, in itself, a prohibited activity”. How is this not illegal? Criminal groups are embedding dangerous messages on the Internet, and the law can do nothing to stop them.
The last common thread on the internet that needs to be regulated is fake news. As Internet users, we are practically drowned in a flood of news. I understand that plots differ depending on the perspective from which they are told, but a problem arises when two stories become irreconcilable. We are correct in assuming that a narrative contains multiple plots, but these lines should not contradict each other.
Somehow, individuals and the media manage to transform a single-threaded story into a web of self-contradictions and errors. Often only a few of these accounts are reasonably factual, leaving the rest as pure fiction, written to elicit an emotional response from indiscriminate people. It has become increasingly difficult to find cultural common ground with the people around us due to the amount of mistakes we are fed. Humanity demands that a standard be set for internet news if groups are to begin mending bridges and restoring broken relationships.
But my point of view is unusual. Overall, the general American consensus is that freedom of expression should not be violated. They cry out that the First Amendment protects our freedom and prevents the government from influencing our lives. The US Constitution clearly states that information must be free for all and that it cannot be restricted by the government.
There is certainly a justification in their fears. Governments should not be allowed to abuse their power to subjugate their citizens by cleaning up the internet. Many people fear what could happen to America if internet censorship is allowed. They fear that their freedom of expression will be infringed and they will not be able to express their doubts and concerns to the public. In the opinion of many, Internet censorship is the first step towards the eventual loss of freedom for Americans. Without freedom, innovation and progress will stop, leading to the collapse of American society.
The discussion about internet censorship is just one example of a larger ongoing debate. The heart of this problem lies in the question of man’s moral compass. If a man is born good, then there is no need to regulate content on the Internet or elsewhere. But if man is inherently evil, regulation is imperative. Without guidance, humanity will slowly drift away from moral righteousness and we will begin to suffer the consequences of our arrogance.
The question also remains, who exists who is good enough to regulate us? Certainly not the government. They are also human and have shown that they fall victim to the same mistakes as the public. The regulator should be a group with objective goals and moral righteousness. I don’t know if such a group exists. But if humanity has proven anything, it is that we are a people in dire need of regulation if we are to stay on the path to improvement.