In the light of recent controversies regarding bills like the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act (PROTECT IP Act), Americans are having more discussions about the implications of a government-controlled internet. A reality in many parts of the world, regulated and heavily censored internet activity seems to be more of a possibility than ever for the United States as well.
Here are ten of the reasons why governments should not regulate the internet.
- To Protect the First Amendment – One of the most cherished rights granted to Americans, the right to free speech and freedom of the press, is protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution. Regulating and censoring online content would be in direct opposition of the Amendment.
- Encouraging Entrepreneurial Activity – An open internet also encourages another beloved aspect of the American Dream: the ability to create our own fortunes. The web allows entrepreneurs to fill any one of an endless array of niches, which stimulates economic activity.
- Facilitating Innovation – The internet as Americans know it today provides a variety of platforms for exploring emerging technology and even improving upon it, keeping the nation in the race of innovation and development of new areas.
- Complications of Regulating Legitimate Sites Under Sweeping Legislation – Broadly worded legislation could make it difficult to regulate legitimate sites, causing them to become lost in the shuffle of “objectionable” sites and depriving users of their potentially valuable information.
- Maintaining Citizens’ Right to Privacy – In our post-9/11 world, the concept of a citizen’s right to privacy has changed significantly. The Patriot Act and other similar bills have already increased the amount of surveillance the public endures; regulating the internet would be another step on a very slippery slope.
- “Offensive” is Arbitrary – The freedom of religion and the ability to make our own choices are key parts of the American cultural identity; what one person considers offensive may not be questionable in the least to another. In the event of a regulated internet, who would make the final call on web content and its level of offensiveness?
- Protecting Educational Value of the Web – While there are certainly dangers lurking in the darker corners of the internet, the vast stores of knowledge that can be accessed outweigh them greatly. Changing the functionality of the web could quite possibly make it more difficult to access educational material in an attempt to censor more controversial content.
- Preventing the Increase of Government Spending – The creation of a regulated internet would require an enormous amount of manpower in surveillance alone. Paired with the amount of money that would have to be spent on creating filters and sifting through the almost infinite amount of information available would be staggering.
- It Could Fan the Flames of Civil Unrest – The outrage of Egyptian people at their government’s disabling of the internet during a period of political upheaval should serve as a very strong example of why the government should not interfere with the web. An already-disillusioned populace can very quickly become mutinous when their ability to interact with the outside world is taken away.
- Savvy Hackers Will Defeat the System Anyway – If groups like Anonymous have proved anything, it’s that a keen mind and a determination to access information will inevitably lead to a back-door solution. Hackers would still be able to override the system to see the same content they do now; however, an already miserably overpopulated prison system would be immensely burdened by the influx of “criminals.”
These are only a few of the reasons why the government should not attempt to censor or filter the internet; like the proverbial iceberg, the bulk of the argument lies beneath the surface of what the average citizen sees.