age of cyber technology rules and regulations about how to control such a vast
and widely available source of information as the internet are widely debated.
In many countries, such as Australia, freedom of speech is limited to exclude
threats to national security and defamation of others (1). Regardless,
discriminatory behaviour occurs off line as well as online (1). In one
instance, a discriminatory memes page on Facebook was reported as violating
ethical standards and was not removed, instead being called “controversial
humor” (1). Cyber bullying can infringe upon human rights such as
the right to the most attainable standard of mental health and rights to fair
working conditions (1). Bullying can also lead to a decline of the victim’s
rights as they may now be afraid to express themselves (1).
Regardless of such problems in a non-censored internet, the costs of a censored
internet vastly outweigh the benefits and an act utilitarian perspective on
such costs and benefits will be discussed below.
recent times, the United Kingdom Prime Minister has announced the need for a
censored internet to remove platforms whereby terrorist groups communicate and
recruit new members, an act that on the surface seems to be good (2).
A law such as this is likely to warrant international agreements enforcing this
standard against terrorism (2). However, complete censorship in the
internet age is impossible and the propaganda of these terrorist groups will
move underground (2). This has been shown to be the case with
anti-Semitism, as laws have not stopped its more recent rise in Europe (2).
small increases in internet censorship comes fear in civilians that we are
inching closer to countries with extreme censoring, and simultaneously farther
from freedom of speech. Saudi Arabia has some of the strictest policies for
censoring the internet (3). They block two distinct sets of
information: immoral sites, and other sites based on what a security committee
deems unsuitable (3). With this comes trouble among the people
however, as bloggers use pseudonyms to hide their identity (3), in
fear of arrest, detentions, flogging, and being labelled a terrorist (4).
Saudi Arabian government will go to the lengths of dispatching government
officials to warn people to stop blogging while simultaneously threatening
their family; they will even hack activists accounts (4). The Saudi
government will launch websites to depict a better situation in the country
(4). In China all media is regulated by the government to prevent the
spread of democracy (5). The censorship here, known as the “Great
Firewall of China”, blocks social media sites, foreign news sites and much more
(5). While there are ways to get around the censorship in China, the
information on how to do this is blocked and it requires a foreign credit card,
which may also be hard to attain (5). The hacktivist group Anonymous
has pledged to remove China’s censorship screening and expose Chinese military
personnel who have hacked US computers (5).
United States has placed helping Chinese internet users get around censorship
as a goal (5). But the recent exposé of the United States
surveillance activities online has hurt the image of the United States, and the
Chinese looking to evade censorship may be fearful to trust the United States
(5). President Trump has talked about keeping ISIS members off the
internet, leading to questioning about boundaries of who then will the
government be allowed to ban from the internet (6), while still
going against the notion that terrorism may be better fought through an
uncensored internet (2). YouTube has attempted to remove terrorists
and Nazis from their platform, only to be met with backfire as they are then
limiting freedom of speech (6). OpenNet Initiative has called the
United States one of the “most aggressive states in the world” for monitoring
online conversations (7, 8). The surveillance used by the United
States expanded with Bush in power after the 9/11 attacks (8).
Surveillance began in the 1990’s as explicit material was available to minors
(8). Debates continue over the safety of the internet for children using
social networking which may allow them to encounter sexual predators and cyber
bullies, and the potential access gambling sites (8). Laws have
passed in the United States that require internet filtering in public schools
that wish to receive funding (8). Similarly, seventeen states now
have legislation against cyber bullying (8). Canada has combatted
these issues by restricting hate speech publication and voluntary filtering
(8). With sites like WikiLeaks publishing classified documents, the
United States shows more fear towards the internet, worrying civilians of
potential free speech restrictions in the future (7).
neutrality, a concept aimed to protect Americans and their right to freedom, is
currently in question, despite it being accepted by the vast majority of
Americans (9). In a cost benefit analysis of this, roughly 76% of
American’s wish to keep net neutrality, and thus the act utilitarian view would
be to preserve freedom and go with the decision that would benefit the most
people, therefore keeping net neutrality.
of the internet also creates issues between countries, as it has already been seen
in examples between American companies abroad (7). In the case of
Yahoo! vs La Ligue Contre Le Racisme et L’Antisemitisme in France, Yahoo!
argued it could not censor French citizens from Nazi propaganda being sold on
its platform (7). As Yahoo! is an American company, the United
States court ruled against the French courts ruling stating it was not able to
rule over an American company (7). Yahoo!, Microsoft and Google have
been criticized for complying with China’s censorship laws but run the risk of
being pushed out of China’s market otherwise (7), raising an
important question of whether to do the moral thing and not agree to comply but
lose business of millions to billions of users (7). The laws of
China conflict with international laws on censorship, so determining who is in
the right in these types of cases are impossible (7), a debate that
would not be had if censorship of the internet did not exist in any country.
internet censorship may help in situations regarding children’s access to cyber
bullies, gambling, and online predators, the majority of internet censorship
would be classified as a cost in an ethical debate using act utilitarianism.
The internet being censored leads to freedom of speech conundrums. A censored
internet could, and has, been used against the people of a country in
situations of civil unrest, such as the internet being cut off in Egypt in
times of protest of the government (10). Giving the power to governments such as the
United States to censor the internet for any reason (including leaked
government documents or terrorism), blurs the line of when they are allowed to
censor and could lead to similar situations as in Egypt during times of uncertainty.
Developers are currently, and rightfully, creating a system to allow us to
connect directly with each other rather than through big companies so we will
no longer have to trust our data among the prying eyes of governments helping
make censorship increasingly difficult (11).
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