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In today’s society, there is not much that is more prevalent and utilized than the internet and its resources. The internet offers a wealth of information and an enormous number of opportunities for communication and interaction. This wealth of information raises a number of questions pertaining to what should be available, what should be filtered, and the amount of control the government should have, if at all. This issue has been discussed by many with numerous solutions and different views on what should be implemented here in the United States.
Net neutrality, according to Google, is the principle that Internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications, regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites. The term was originally coined by Tim Wu, a law professor, who explained net neutrality as giving the FCC the ability to shape “media policy, social policy, oversight of the political process, and issues of free speech.” Previously, the internet was a virtually unregulated, private system of networks. The FCC and net neutrality supporters recognize that the ability to monitor and control the distributors of speech they can, essentially, control mass culture and politics. This tactic is seen in many nations to control what information is available to the public. The internet has never been ‘owned’ or controlled by one person or organization. Government control would defeat the purpose of and reduce the trust of internet sources and providers and, therefore, these regulations supporting net neutrality should not be implemented by the United States government.
According to an article by Drew Armstrong on Net Neutrality, over the past 20 years, internet privacy has been protected quite effectively by laws implemented by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). In March of 2017 Congress voted 215-205 to eliminate the Internet privacy rules previously passed by the FTC. The Senate had also voted this way. Legislation was then signed by President Trump in April of 2017. These new privacy laws first took place under the Obama Administration in 2015 by the FCC, where the goal was to regulate the internet as if it were a public utility. The current FCC chairman Ajit Pai pointed out that eliminating the Internet regulations will not harm consumers or public interests due to that fact that they were never really required but were put into place due to ‘phantoms that were conjured up by people who wanted the FCC for political reasons to overregulate the Internet,'(Pai 1).
The government’s argument to, essentially, convert the internet in the United States into a government entity, is primarily for the ‘protection’ of American citizens which has a certain amount of irony due to the fact that such censorship intrudes on one of our most basic rights in the Bill of Rights. The first amendment guarantees citizens the right to intellectual freedom and to hear all sides of every issue to make their own informed opinions on different topics. The fact the government claims to want to protect citizens by infringing upon rights provided by the constitution seems counterintuitive and a violation of the rights promised by the founding fathers of America. Taking away freedom of expression on the internet is only another step the government wants to take to censor and quiet those opinions they believe controversial and potentially dangerous to the perception of the government.
Government censorship of the internet has been used for years by many different countries and comes with a number of advantages. The internet is a large, daunting place with a lot of opportunity for criminal activity. An article on The Future of Working provides a few benefits and protections that could be provided by censorship. Government censorship can help prevent the many crimes committed on the internet or take down sites that threaten the safety of our nation. Some examples of threats posed by the internet are terrorist websites, the hacking or personal bank accounts, phishing, identity theft and online scams. The government could also restrict age sensitive content to minors such as pornography and force people to verify their age. Government censorship also has the potential to set a standard of what should be published protecting the internet from offensive or harmful publications. This could prevent racist, discriminating, hateful, and violent messages from being spread online.
While some may prefer a centrally controlled government provider for internet, this comes with a good deal of issues concerning privacy and security. The number of government agencies that have been compromised by hackers has continued to grow over the years. If every American’s personal information, including emails, search history, and data stored on the computer were stored on one central government entity that runs the internet, every citizen would be put at risk for identity theft and other risks correlated with the leakage of personal information. Another worry for a centrally controlled internet is the elimination of competition which, consequently, restricts innovation. The rapid advance of technology has always helped the internet to continually evolve and improve. Without continual improvement, technology becomes stagnant. Public utilities do not seek to improve service and can set their prices and services at whatever cost they please without the repercussions of losing business. Free market supports innovation and consumer choice and government control encourages corruption and inefficiency. Internet providers are demonized by supporters of net neutrality who fight for regulated prices and services however a majority of homes in the United States with access to broadband internet pay lower rates than those in Europe which has price-regulated service. The government has a reputation of corruption and inefficiency and only looking out for its own interests. The government would be allowed to control what opinions and news we would be able to see, consequently shaping opinion. Not only would it be wrong for the government to implement such censorship, but it would be extremely difficult and expensive to create such a workforce and creating consistent regulation.
The topic of the amount of censorship of the internet is not one that I believe will be leaving any time soon. With the internet becoming more and more relevant in every day society this issue may become even more pertinent. At this moment there are two clear paths for the internet in the United States depending on which side wins. Either we will have a truly free private internet or one controlled by the government as a public utility. Free market has always fostered growth and innovation while government control would most likely end up in stagnation of technology and corruption.
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