The Internet should, or should not, be regulated

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In this essay I will take the view point that the Internet should not be regulated. I intend to construct a coherent and logical argument based on a chain of premises. I will state each of my premises and give sensible reasons as to why the premises is valid while giving an example to act as back-up evidence where possible. I will also incorporate ethical theories to strengthen my argument. Having presented my argument fully, I will then go on to make a conclusion summarising what I have discussed and my overall view point on the subject matter.

One reason I think the Internet should not be regulated is in relation the great difficulty that would be involved in attempting to do so due to different countries laws around the world. “The Internet cuts across the territorial borders of sovereign nation states, which makes geographical boundaries as delineations of jurisdictions inadequate. Where as physical borders between countries have always determined which set of normative rules apply to individual behaviour, it is now unclear under which jurisdiction one’s actions fall and which laws apply to one’s actions. (Langford, 2000:129) The above quote describes how the Internet is a global form of media, unlike any other form of media before it. It is a huge network that spans across the globe covering too many countries to name. Obviously different countries have different laws and one country’s laws are often not compatible with other country’s laws.

As a result there have been many debates over which country’s laws should apply to many of the disputes that occur on the Internet. Langford gives us the example of a situation describing a U. S bookseller that sells books over the Internet and an Australian book purchaser that purchases a book over the Internet from the U. S book seller. If the purchaser and book seller have a dispute, then whose law is applicable to the situation? The U. S laws or the Australian laws? (Langford, 2000:123) I feel the Internet should not be regulated as no kind of regulation could cover all the laws of all countries in the world as the Internet crosses too many territorial boundaries.

Another reason I think the Internet should not be regulated is due to the fact that the Internet is too new to be able to make fair laws and pass fair regulations on it. The Internet is a too recent form of technology that we do not know enough about yet to be able to regulate it. My argument is that something has to have been established and used for a great amount of time before we can truly understand it, thus gaining the ability to regulate it fairly.

Langford explains how other areas of commerce can turn to historical traditions in order to help settle disputes and guide the development of laws. However, with the Internet, there is no significant history that can be looked at as is it is too modern. (Langford, 2000:96) “‘Internet law’ is instead being developed by judges, who must do their best to fit legal disputes about the Internet in to pre-existing legal frameworks, and legislators who struggle to understand the technology they govern. (Langford, 2000:96) As can be seen from the above quote, the people who are attempting to govern the Internet do not even fully understand it. This begs the question; how can these legislators govern the Internet fairly when they do not even fully understand it themselves? I feel that as a result of the Internet being a too recent form of technology, any attempt to regulate it at such an early stage will only result in unfair regulation; therefore the Internet should not be regulated.

I believe that the ethical theory of Consequentialism applies to this premise in that unfair regulation would be a consequence of people who do not properly understand the Internet trying to regulate it. Internet Anonymity is part of another reason why I don’t think the Internet should be regulated. It is thought by many that when using the Internet, an individual can be totally anonymous if they wish to be. “A second important feature of the Internet is that is provides a certain kind of anonymity. (Johnson, 2001:90) An argument in favour of Internet regulation that many would use could be that because you can be anonymous on the Internet, two or more terrorists could use it as a way of communicating with each other and arranging attacks thus putting people’s lives at risk. They would argue that because the Internet offers anonymity, these terrorists could do this and get away with it, therefore there is a need for some kind of Internet regulation that will prevent terrorists from doing such things or at least prevent them from making much progress.

My counter-argument for this is that the Internet is not actually as anonymous as many would think. One is unable to go on to the Internet and carry out an activity such as chatting or shopping and then come of off the Internet knowing that nobody knows it was them that went online and carried out that activity. If one was to really think this, then they are either hugely misinformed or in denial. “It is tempting to say that one can communicate anonymously on the Internet but that, on closer reflection, is misleading. (Johnson, 2001:90) Johnson describes how Internet Service Providers (ISP) have the ability to trace who we are and what activity we have carried out on the Internet if they wish to do so. (Johnson, 2001:90) There is technology in operation today that picks up any terrorism-related words that are said over the Internet, such as ‘bomb’, and identifies the person using the word. Through the use of such technology, terrorists attempting to communicate over the Internet because they think they can do so anonymously will be identified, and this is done without any regulation being put in place.

Of course, terrorists could use code words to try to not get identified. I have heard that terrorists recently used the word ‘flower’ as a code word for ‘bomb’. However, it is unknown how advanced this technology used to locate and identify people is, there is no reason to believe that it can be fooled so easily by things such as code words. I believe the fact that you are not really anonymous on the Internet is another reason why it does not need to be regulated. One would believe that the main reason regulation would or should be put into place is because of some of the content that can be found on the Internet.

It is true that because of the nature of some content, such as pornography, many would not wish to not view it ever, and as a result many believe that regulations should be put into place to stop us from viewing this kind of content. However a counter argument could be that these regulations to prevent us from seeing it have been put in place as a result of the actions of the people that put it on the Internet in the first place. Thus these people are ultimately controlling what we view and how we behave on the Internet as a result of the regulations put in place because of them.

Ray Wyre, an expert in combating paedophiles, has said: “People who offend should not be deciding how we should behave. ” (David Aaronovitch, The Independent) By this he means, the people responsible for putting this controversial content on the Internet are indeed offending us, but as a result we are then being told what we can and can’t do because of what these people are doing. I believe that it is these people that are acting irresponsibly or even illegally, not us, and so it should not be us that are put under regulations because of them.

The particular case Ray Wire was speaking on was of a regulation that is possibly going to be put into place, that there should be no images of children on the Internet what so ever in order to help stop child porn producers/creaters/downloaders. I believe this would be greatly unfair to people such as parents who possible wish to make website about their family with pictures of their children on it “There are “boy love” sites dedicated to early photographs of Princes William and Harry, to boy movie stars. (David Aaronovitch, The Independent) The mentioned ‘boy love’ sites are not morally doing anything wrong and are not breaking any laws, however they would also be affected and probably shut down as a result of the potential regulation Ray Wire was talking about. One must ask the question, would this be fair to them? I believe the answer is no and I think authorities should find other ways to combat paedophiles instead of putting in place over-bearing regulations that will affect even those that are not doing anything wrong.

I believe that the ethical theory of Consequentialism supports this premise. This is because many legal and harmless activities could end up being banned as a consequence of crimes related to them. For example, what if sexual intercourse was made illegal because of rapists? I think all would agree that this would be completely outrageous. Another issue I would like to use for my argument that the Internet should not be regulated is in relation to the more vulnerable members of society such as children.

We are all aware that children in chat rooms being approached by paedophiles is an extremely large issue and perhaps one of the most worrying aspects of the Internet, as the following quote shows. “Through these electronic arenas, the paedophile has something that before the Internet Age, he could only dream about: unlimited and unrestricted access to vulnerable children. Chat rooms make it much easier and less risky for them to interact with children. ” (http://www. heart-stricken. net/inferno/pedophiles. html)

Now many in favour of the Internet being regulated would probably use this as one of their arguments, that the Internet needs to be regulated in order to protect children from things such as paedophiles. However, I believe that there are ways to protect children without having to put in place regulations. My counter argument is that the responsibility of child protection on the Internet actually lies with the parents, not the Government. I believe that it is the parent’s responsibility to protect their children from paedophiles on the Internet.

Deontological theories of ethics support this statement in that the parents and the parents only have a duty to protect their own children, the human-beings they brought into this world, from such things. I am completely aware that parents can be very busy and are not able to be there all the time supervising their children’s Internet usage, but there are other methods they can use to supervise their children, and I would not be using this counter argument if there were none.

There are several different types of software available today that offer a parental lock on many of the Internet’s features such as websites displaying undesirable content. Once in operation, the child will be unable to access the things that the parent has blocked or barred, thus offering parental supervision even in the absence of the parent. Internet chat rooms can also be blocked using this software, meaning children will be protected from paedophiles using chat rooms as the children will be unable to enter them.

I believe this is way of protecting children on the Internet without the need for regulations being put in operation. I believe another reason why the Internet should not be regulated is in relation to the question of; who would regulate it? If the Internet was to be regulated or governed, then some kind of regulating or governing body would have to be found in order to carry this task out. Some kind of all-powerful yet non-biased person or group would have to be established. I do not believe that this would be possible.

There is no way that any one person or group or organisation could formulate rules and regulations for the Internet while not being biased to themselves or anyone else and while taking into account the needs and interests of all groups involved. I feel an attempt to find or form some kind of all-seeing, all-knowing, yet fair group would prove impossible. I think the ethical theory of Rawlsian Justice would support this premise in that anyone trying to regulate the Internet would be self-interested and would create rules that help themselves. “The problem is that we would each want rules that would favour us”. Johnson, 2001:49) My final premise is with regards to how far regulation would go if it were put into place for the Internet. One would have to ask the questions; where would regulation stop? Would it go too far? I will use an example to demonstrate my point. If regulation was put into place, then pornography, one of the most controversial things on the Internet, would no doubt be one of the first things to be regulated. One would think that there being so many disturbing forms of it eg. child, sadomasochism, woman degradation, bestiality, that this would be a fairly justified action.

However, I would produce the counter argument of what if this regulation went to far and totally legal and not necessarily morally incorrect websites started getting closed down in the name of ‘regulation? ‘ There are pornographic websites on the Internet today that display professional models that are over the age of 18, are aware of what they are doing, and are also being paid for what they are doing. These websites are not displaying any types of disturbing of pornography, such as the ones mentioned above, and they are not actually breaking any laws. Ultimately, they are lawful producers of the pornography industry.

Now if regulation for the Internet was put into place in order to shut down the aforementioned disturbing pornographic websites, and it was perhaps taken too far by possible power-hungry or biased officials then lawful and morally correct websites could end up getting shut down also in a false name of regulation. This would result in many legal models and producers being put out of jobs when they were not doing anything wrong. There is also the issue of there being some pornographic websites that are aimed at users that are more interested in younger looking females. However, they are not actually child-porn sites.

They have specifically hired models that are over the age of 18 and know what they are doing, but have a younger look to them. These models may look younger than they actually are but that is the idea as the website is directing its business at a certain part of the market. What would happen to these kinds of websites? Are they doing anything wrong? I feel the answer is no, however I think there is a large potentiality that they would get closed down anyway should regulation be put in place for the Internet, this would be unfair as the website is not ethically doing anything wrong.

To conclude, I believe that the Internet should not be regulated. I have based this conclusion on the many premises that I have already discussed such as there being far too many territorial boundaries to cross and the Internet being a too recent form of technology to be able to regulate fairly. Ultimately, the reasons why it should not be regulated outweigh the reasons why it should be. I feel that though there are many arguments that can be created against mine; there are also many counter-arguments that can be created in favour of my argument. Thus, the Internet should not be regulated.

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