Internet Censorship: Protecting Citizens or Trampling Freedom? (USA TODAY’S DEBATE: Voices and Perspectives)
By: Christine Zuchora-Walske
Publisher: Twenty-First Century Books
Pubication Date: May 2010
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: January 2011
Many people are staunch believers in our right to the freedom of speech on the Internet as expressed in the First Amendment, while others see some of these freedoms as an affront to the basic moral compass of society. Debate has been in place ever since the advent of the Internet, but most are in agreement that harmful things such as child pornography and cyberbullying, both of which have been dealt with by law, should not be tolerated. Megan Meir unfortunately took her life when she was duped into believing that Josh Evans, who in reality was an adult neighbor, was the one who was mercilessly bullying her online. The result was the Megan Meir Cyberbullying Prevention Act of 2008. These two Internet offenses are clearly harmful, but what about other instances of so called free speech that tend to occur in rather gray areas? We as a society have many “sticky questions” that we need to ask ourselves.
One provision in this law, House Resolution (HR) 1966 essentially claims that, as the U. S. Supreme Court has ruled, “Words can be dangerous.” Perhaps, but many people feel the law is overly restrictive and in itself poses a danger and have dubbed it “the Censorship Act.” In this book you will be able to explore the history of censorship and then you can take a look at all facets of it in relation to the way we think about the Internet. “Censorship is suppressing (forbidding, silencing, or punishing) communications,” but how far can we go without violating our own first amendment rights while maintaining our safety? Once you learn about the First Amendment in regard to free speech and learn censorship basics, you will be well equipped to make up your mind and debate the issues.
Before you can even ponder the impact of censorship on the Internet you’ll receive a thorough overview of U. S. Censorship history beginning with the Declaration of Independence and the adaptation of amendments in 1791. You’ll be able to take a look at the Alien and Sedition Acts, limitations on freedom of the press, “moral crusaders” who encouraged censorship, you’ll learn about the Watch and Ward Society in Boston (“watch and ward off evil doers,”) political censorship in the early 1900s to modern day laws such as the PATRIOT Act, literary censorship, and you’ll learn many other fascinating historical vignettes that impact the way we look at Internet censorship. The simple days of cut and dried law are fast disappearing and “As each new medium developed, judges, lawyers, business people, and scholars methodically assessed whether it deserved constitutional protection. In this book, you too will be able to think about things such as privacy issues, morality, child safety, security, intellectual property, and you’ll learn about many other things that affect you even if you are unaware of their existence.
It is not an easy task to present both sides of this issue without appearing to land on one side or the other. Issues such as white supremacy advocacy as well as YouTube copyright infringement are discussed in an effort to diversify what the young student can take into consideration when debating our right to free speech as opposed to what one may consider to be intrusive censorship. Many laws and acts, historical and current, are discussed in detail. There are numerous USA TODAY news articles interspersed throughout the book that illustrate the topic at hand. For example we get to take a look at articles about parody in the press, online predators, social networking sites, and music piracy issues. I was impressed with the attention to detail and readability of this book as it was obvious that it was well-researched. In the back of the book is an index, a glossary, a timeline, detailed source notes, a selected bibliography, a listing of organizations to contact, and additional recommended book and website resources to explore.
Quill says: This is an excellent, well-balanced book on the divisive topic of Internet censorship.