Depending on whether or not you’re a net geek like me, you probably know either everything or nothing about Senate bill 314, the Communications Decency Act. (I’m a huge net geek: I’ve already received at least three copies of an on-line petition against it.) Senate bill 314, proposed by Senator Exon and currently under consideration in the Senate, would ban obscenity on-line, making it a federal crime to transmit or make available over the internet anything determined to be “obscene…regardless of whether the maker of such communication placed the call or initiated the communication.” This ban includes all forms of electronic communication, from telephone calls to file transfer protocol sites (computers on the internet that contain files available to the public for copying) to private e-mail messages. In the original version of the bill, penalties also applied to internet service providers (including universities) whose facilities were used for “obscene” communications; however, after heavy lobbying by CompuServe, America On-Line, and other large internet services, those portions of the bill were stricken. Even in its weakened form, though, Senate bill 314 poses a significant threat to the continued growth of the internet and to constitutional rights.
Perhaps the first problem with the law is that it is completely unnecessary, and its authorship clearly indicates that its authors are unfamiliar with the nature of the internet. Pornography on the internet is accessible, but only to those who go looking for it. Images do not appear unsolicited on the personal computers of internet users, so this law will not do anything at all for the user who does not actively seek pornographic mate…
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…among other things, an experiment in anarchism: a group of independent, free individuals acting without coercion and defining their own rules. The internet is exciting because there is no central authority to decide what is and is not allowed, who can talk and who cannot. This freedom is one of the intangible features that makes the internet a wonder of the modern world. Senate bill 314 seeks to destroy that freedom with artificially imposed guidelines; it seeks to impose an authority where there has been none and where the citizens do not want or need one. This is perhaps the most destructive feature of Senator Exon’s proposal: it would corrupt the atmosphere of freedom that many net users find so enticing. If Senator Exon spent some time on-line, perhaps he could understand how precious this experiment really this, and perhaps he would not be so quick to end it.
The Internet as an Abstraction of Reality
The Internet as an Abstraction of Reality
The extensive number of hours spent on computers today is “masking” many human needs. In the United States today, over 57 million people are using these hours by getting Online (Telesys). Information can be accessed through 320 million different web pages with a single push of a button. Hours are spent receiving and giving information. People are now, more than ever, able to communicate with others by using the World Wide Web. Someone once said, what is one mans gain is another mans loss. The computer age, especially the new use of the Internet has caused a drastic loss of personal, face to face human interaction. People feel more secure typing a hello rather than saying a hello. Understanding that throughout the day, people are still communicating in many ways, the numbers suggest that human interaction will only continue to drop through the use of the Internet. The Internet has interfered and substituted a main facet of communication that is imperative for a human’s psychological and physiological needs. Everyone understands that humans need interaction with one another on a daily basis. Without it, we become withdrawn from society and from others. Although the World Wide Web offers opportunities to communicate, this new form of human interaction is simply a substitution for the psychological and physiological needs of humans. Our computer screens are simply masks for representing human interaction. These masks are showing others a façade of our true selves.
Abraham Maslow developed a biological sketch of the human hierarchy of needs. In this hierarchy he describes five personal characteristics a human being needs for survival. Each contains specific elements that are critical for one to achieve and maintain a high self-esteem as well as a physical wellness. These needs include physiological, safety, belonging, esteem, and self-actualization (Huitt). In society today, especially here at the University, the number of hours spent “online” is astonishing. The University of Texas Internet server, Telesys, has over 3100 lines for outside students to use. These lines are constantly being used throughout the day and night. What time of day are the students using the Internet the most? According to Telesys, from around ten o’clock at night until two-thirty in the morning, all lines are in use (Telesys). These are times that are spent in “chat rooms” and browsing throughout the web.