Saturday, October 2

Woooh! Internet Regulation!

I don't like my English teacher, and I know she doesn't like me. She's an elitist-pedantic without a clue. So arrogant and stuck up. It's like nothing I've ever seen in an English teacher.

Anyway, here for your viewing pleasure are the two essays I wrote about Internet Regulation. I say two essays even though it was one assignment because the first one was of the wrong format. It was a "definition" paper and it needed to be opinion. whatever....here they are:

The Internet and Our Rights:
A Look into the Regulation of the Internet

The Internet is not a modern, fresh idea like is popularly believed. In fact, its earliest roots date back to 1969, when the government established ARPAnet. ARPAnet connected four major colleges in the Southwest: UCLA, UC Santa Barbra, the University of Utah, and the Stanford Research Institute. The first computer network was established between these four schools with the direction of the United States government. Networking, though, was not a new idea. One early network everyone is familiar with is the telephone system.

Telephones differ from the Internet, because the Internet is a “packet switching” network. A packet switching network is one that gathers information into groups called packets and transmits these packets where they are eventually received by another computer. Telephones, on the other hand, use strings of data to send information between parties. And while the telephone once limited calls to only two parties, packets enable the Internet to connect to several different hosts.

The mysterious aura that surrounds the Internet is unfounded, as the structure of the Internet is quite simply. Internet Service Providers, or ISPs, connect users to the Internet through phone lines or satellite links, and from there, they are free to circumnavigate the globe from their computer chair. Websites, stripped of their mystery, are simply documents uploaded to a server (host computer). These files are written in HTML and its variants. In these files are images, text, and hyperlinks leading to other pages on other computers or on the same computer. These files have many different forms and uses. The many uses of this vast network of networks are many and wide ranging. Some of the most common uses include gathering, sharing, and publishing information, selling and purchasing wares, playing games and other entertainments, and chatting.

By far, the prime use of the internet is for sharing of information. Sharing information was in fact the reason ARPAnet was created in the first place. The internet is the largest, most easily useable collection of information there is. There are a few drawbacks, however, with a database as large as the limitless Internet. Users must be careful when searching for information on the Web; information may be biased, truth may be stretched, or data may be made up to fit the author’s agenda. Because many people of different beliefs use the Internet, the user cannot always trust what he finds.

Users should always check for the source of the author’s authority. For instance, information from a professor at a major university would have more authority than a construction worker. Also, a professor’s work would, for the most part, be more impartial then the outspoken, disgruntled worker. To help determine validity, users should look for an author, publisher, and any obvious biases. Also, they should look at the advertisements on the page. Generally, ads target the demographic of the people that visit that site, so if there are ads for Kalashnikovs and grenades, then it’s safe to assume that that site is not impartial. Finding multiple sources is a good way to ensure the information found is accurate.

Another, more frightening, drawback of the bottomless pool of information on the Net is the abundance of unsuitable and usually damaging information. Users can find how to build bombs, split the atom, and various ways to cause miscellaneous anarchy. So what are we to do? Everyone knows that almost everything that is said is protected by the first amendment. Two very similar forms of ‘expression’ not protected by our Bill of Rights are slander and libel. Slander is spoken untruths that damage a person’s reputation, while libel is written. Also illegal is planning to kill a public official or even threatening him/her. A good rule to remember about American freedoms is that your rights stop when another person’s rights begin.
Still unanswered is the question: what do we do? I believe individuals visiting suspicious sites should be flagged and stored in a database. When it’s apparent that they’re up to no good and weren’t simply redirected to an improper sight, then they should be tried and imprisoned. But I believe the ISPs, not the government, should track people’s movement at such sites that are deemed suspicious, and ONLY those sites that are marked. The added financial burden and the added work to the ISPs might be resented at first, but in our ever failing economy, people could use the jobs.

At some point, most users have purchased something online, or have considered purchasing it. An integral part in the exponential growth of the popularity of the Internet is due to the rise of electrical-commerce (e-commerce). E-commerce is the buying and selling of goods and services over electronic media, most commonly, the Internet. The popularity of e-commerce is shown in its rapid growth from its start in the early 1990s. In 1998 e0commerce sales reached over $7.2 billion, twice as much as in 1997 (“E-commerce” 1). The source of the growing consumer confidence was found in the advancements in data encryption.

Encryption is the scrambling of information as to make it unintelligible for parties other than the intended receiver who can then read the data with ease. Some form of encryption protects users’ credit card data and any other data that only the user should know. Encryption, though, has the government a little riled up, because encryption can threaten national and homeland security. The government even went so far as to make a law once that required the government be able break any encryption, but it has since been overturned.

Some users, though, are still hesitant to use the Internet for trade, mostly, because of the threat of crackers stealing their personal information, in spite of encryption. The emphasis is placed on crackers, not hackers. Hackers are simply people that have a different approach to a problem. Hackers generally worry about making their own computer better, and don’t particularly care about other people’s computers. Crackers, on the other hand, maliciously “crack” into computer systems and steal information, take money, and place viruses. This is of course illegal, and rightly so, and the government does everything they can to track down and punish these bank robbers of the Internet. Will more regulation help? No, there isn’t a sane law today that could be created to prevent crackers more than we already do.

The Internet is known for its innumerable sites containing eye catching flash graphics, funny jokes, goofy games, and any other of a million fun things found on the Internet. Games are a common form of Internet entertainment. These games can be found at such sites as www.freearcade.com and www.candystand.com. There, small, arcade style games are embedded into the web page. Playing these games runs the risk of receiving viruses and other harmful scripts hidden in their code, but they are easily stopped by the browser’s security settings. When users go to sites they know might contain harmful scripts it’s up to them to protect themselves from malicious scripts.

By having an up to date anti-viral software and strong personal firewall, users will be able to stop most harmful programs. Of course cracking is illegal, and that’s the way it should be. That doesn’t mean the government has the authority to impose other forms of regulation on the entertainment industry of the Internet. The user must recognize and accept the risk of visiting these types of sites. It is up to the users to educate themselves and to protect themselves from malicious crackers when they browse the Internet for their own entertainment. The government though, shouldn’t stop from advising users about safety issues. One example of how the government has helped users safeguard their computer against viruses hidden in web pages was when the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team suggested that users using Internet Explorer (the most popular browser) disable ActiveX and use a different web browser. ActiveX is a HTML rendering machine that is easily manipulated into running harmful scripts.

One of the most controversial topics of the Internet regards the thriving pornography industry. With as few as 4 clicks a child can access these lewd pictures and videos on the net, and this has some legislators and parents worried, and rightly so. Internet pornography, as with the type found behind the counters at book stores, can only be legally viewed by people eighteen years old and older. Also, everyone involved with the production of the pornography must be of eighteen years. The Communication Decency Act of 1996 was one example of the government overstepping its bounds. The Act denied the pornography industry of its right to free speech, and so the Supreme Court overturned the Act. Another regulation regarding pornography is the Children’s Internet Protection Act of 2001. This Act requires every computer connected to the internet through government financing must have pornography filters installed. The Internet industries in light of these legislative acts, have adopted a policy of self-regulation.

Illegal and offensive materials on the Internet harm the ISPs financial gains and prohibit the growth of the Internet. With the creation of the “Internet Hotline Against Child Pornography” in 1996 in the Netherlands by a group of ISPs, the Internet entered an age of self-regulation regarding child pornography. The Hotline was soon followed by the Internet Watch Foundation in the United Kingdom in the same year. And finally, the American ISPs started their own hotline called the Cyber TipLine in 1997. Near the end of 1997 an Online Summit was held in Washington, D.C. where several ISPs made a “zero tolerance” policy regarding child porn. Now, they simply report violators to the FBI.

One of the most prevalent reasons for the rapid expansion of the Internet was the inventing of electronic mail (e-mail) in 1971. In 1972 the “user@comptuer” format that is still used today was created by Ray Tomlinson. E-mail has evolved through the years and the led to the development of instant messaging services. Instant messages are messages that are shared with one or more parties instantaneously over the Internet. Some examples of instant messaging clients (program used to send instant messages) are: Instant Relay Chat (IRC), ICQ (I-seek-you), AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), Microsoft Network Messenger (MSN Messenger), and Trillian. This ability to chat, as instant message conversations are known, has lead to some new concerns. The main worry is of perverse adults conversing with minors. Sometimes they send lewd comments, sometimes they scare them with threats, and sometimes they even arrange to meet the kids in person. These people are sick and should be punished to the full extent of the law. Right now, the law has it that you cannot send inappropriate messages to minors, and while that doesn’t stop abductions, it’s the extent of what the government should be allowed to control. The rest is up to the parents. The parent’s must teach their kids about the dangers on the Internet, and they must start at an early age.

The Internet is a tool, something to be used, not feared. If we just educate ourselves about the dangers of the Internet, and make illegal activity on the Net socially immoral, then we can keep the Internet clean from regulation and from malicious users that prey on the ignorance of others. I say make cracking socially wrong, because too many movies (Swordfish, The Matrix) are giving cracking a good reputation. Condoning cracking as something that is “cool” is not the way to keep the Internet clean. Crackers should be looked upon as an evil, and treated as such, with three square meals a day and a nice cold prison cot to sleep on.


My New paper:

The Internet and Our Rights:
A look into the regulation of the Internet

The Internet, invented in 1969 in the form of ARPAnet (“History of the Internet, 1”), has been the subject of concern and debate. This controversy stems from the belief that the Internet is a harmful, dangerous place filled with pirates, vandals, hackers and crackers, perverts, and pedophiles. While the fact remains that some sites do cater to those types of people, the actual number of those sites is exceptionally small. Therefore, to regulate the Internet because of a few bad apples is an unjust crime. The structure of the Internet demands for it to be uncensored and unregulated.

A mysterious aura surrounds the Internet, hiding its structure and function from the uneducated user. Internet Service Providers, or ISPs, connect the user to the Internet through satellite links and the phone lines, thus allowing users to circumnavigate the globe from their own computer chair. These websites, stripped of their mystery, consist of documents uploaded to a server, or host computer. These files contain text, images, sound, and links to other web pages. Thus, unlike radio or television, where messages are broadcast in an unending stream over every frequency and wavelength, the Internet requires that a person manually enter the address or manually click on a link to visit a site. Essentially, broadcast media (television and radio) sends the information to the user, and with the Internet, the user must find the information (“Nani, 4”). With a rudimentary knowledge of the structure of the Internet, one can see that the government has no right to regulate this network of networks. This can be likened to the government prohibiting highways. Roads are necessary in today’s modern world, but there is always the chance that a child will wander into the highway and get hit. This doesn’t mean the government should take away the roads and thus set the world back one hundred years. No, it means that parents should educate their children how to behave safely around the road. If perhaps the child does not get the lesson, then one can consider fences or limiting play to a back yard. When people educate themselves and their children, we will be able to enjoy our information super-highway.

Supporters of censoring the Internet claim that offensive and obscene materials should be censored so as to protect children from harm (“Nani, 3”). How these so called “obscene and offensive” materials harm our children in the first place has yet to be shown. While some of these contents may be unsuitable for children, maybe even down right gruesome, they are still not “harmful” to them. Images are just pictures, and passages are just words. Text, or even images, will not jump off the screen and attack a child. To censor the Internet because of a few pages of pornography and a few “offensive” sites borders madness.

There are laws, though, that do regulate who can access certain items on the Internet. For instance, one must be at least eighteen years old before one can view pornography legally. This has been law long before the Internet emerged, and yet printed pornography itself is not regulated. More regulation is not needed to “protect the children,” though. The laws are already in place; what good is it to add more laws that would outlaw what is already illegal? The only way to actually “protect the children” is to implement filtering techniques that block certain types of sites and pages. While still a minor, the parents are responsible for a child, and thus should be responsible for monitoring the sites children visit. Many products, such as AOL Parental Controls and Norton Internet Security Parental Controls, are available that restrict children’s access to certain cites and still allow adults to visit all the sites they please. It is the parents’ job to educate children about the dangers of the Internet and enforce the guidelines they set for their children.

The main guardian of pornography is the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, which, as interpreted by the Supreme Court, includes Internet communications, and thus it protects pornography (“Clayton, 99”). Like it or not, pornography will be something users must put up with on the Internet. Just like there will always be people with differing views, there will always be “offensive” content on the Internet. Users must prepare themselves by installing filters and firewalls. The government has set a good example in enacting the Children’s Internet Protection Act (2001), which required all computers with Internet access provided by the government to install pornography filters (“Censorship, 2”).
Another anxiety of the public’s dealing with pornography concerns the apparent abundance of child pornography. Child pornography has never been legal since its emergence, yet advocates of regulation use child pornography as a cornerstone in their agenda of further regulation of the Internet. People in favor of regulation also fail to consider exactly how new laws would help eliminate child pornography. New laws will do nothing if stiffer penalties for offenders are not instituted. To keep governments from regulating the Internet, ISPs from several countries have formed organizations that, upon receiving complaints, remove illegal material from the Net. In the Netherlands the Internet Hotline Against Child Pornography was founded in 1996, the Internet Watch Foundation in Great Britain also in 1996, and the CyberTipline in the United States in 1997 (“Hughes, 1, 3, 5”). These self-initiated forms of self-regulation will keep the Internet safe from all, child pornographers and politicians alike.

The main use of the Internet, and in fact the reason for creating the Internet, is for the sharing and publishing of information. Some advocates of regulation point out that harmful, “illegal information” can be found on the Web that some people can use to for less than legal means (“Nani, 3”). One must remember, though: information itself cannot be illegal. The First Amendment protects our right to express ourselves, and no act of Congress can change that. What is illegal though, is what some people might do with the information. It is not immediately possible to allow dangerous information to be freely displayed on the Internet, and then be able to discriminate between the innocent learners and the criminals wishing to do harm. That’s why the government should allow ISPs to have limited tracking abilities to such sites that have been deemed of dangerous content. When these ISPs notice a pattern of someone visiting flagged websites, they can prosecute them, while leaving the curious and innocent alone.

Another major worry of regulators revolves commercial uses of the Internet. Commercial activity on the Internet is known as e-commerce. Such popular sites as E-bay and Amazon allow users to bypass retail shops, and buy from the comfort of their own home. E-commerce sales in 1998 topped 7.2 billion dollars (“E-commerce, 1”). That is a lot of money being transferred from consumer to company, and that requires encryption to keep that data secret. Encrypting something means to scramble it so that only the intended receiver may read it. The government though, thinks of encryption as a national security threat and has therefore regulated its export. This has caused the United States to lag behind in the international trading centers (“Data Encryption, 1”) and it has also allowed crackers to equal themselves with the latest encryption methods. E-commerce has some advocates of regulation worried about crackers that will steal personal information such as credit card numbers. What these pushers of regulation do not know is that gaining illegal access into a computer system was already made illegal by the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which was passed in the mid 1980s (“Davis, 2”). Again it must be stressed that it is essential that the current laws are enforced and legislatures aren’t congested with extraneous laws. The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act also made the transferring of viruses over the Internet illegal (“Davis, 2”). No plausible way exists to regulate any aspect of the Internet that can effectively eliminate viruses. Only by users educating themselves and installing antiviral software will they be able to defeat the hackers that create these viruses.

One pressing issue that exists on the mind of most everyone was featured in a Pepsi/iTunes commercial: “I fought the law and the law won!” Music piracy and other forms of copyright infringement plague the Internet and discourage artists, regulators argue. To that one must think to oneself sarcastically, “That’s a very astute observation!” Everything from artwork to music to games to software has been affected by piracy and copyright infringement. Again, the advocates seem not to notice that copyright infringement has been illegal for quite some time through the Copyright Act. Once again it’s shown that new legislation is not needed, but in fact enforcement of old legislation (“Davis, 2”).

The recurring theme in the fight for regulation is that what advocates wish to regulate is already illegal or protected by the Constitution. They need to realize that more laws will not help stop what they deem inappropriate. The people should stop lobbying for new laws, and start lobbying for tougher sentences for offenders and more resources to find and convict offenders. With the Internet growing daily in size, the government and the users need to be able to adapt to the ever-changing Web. As of 2004, Google’s index of web pages topped four billion (“History of the Internet, 5”). The growing and evolving Internet must be embraced and allowed to grow; it should not be hampered by extraneous government involvement.

4 Comments:

Blogger Gil said...

I helped you write these :P in a way...

P.S. (noone will read these because it's too long :P )

October 2, 2004 at 11:54 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Pretty good Jake. Especially with the differences between hacking and cracking

Couple things tho' the 4 clicks to porn thing is BS. Try it sometime, you'd have to be trying to find the links to do it. I think I've only run into a couple porn sites under that theory, and even then the link was quickly removed and the person responsible for it was banned from the site. Gambling is a little easier.

Arguably the strongest recommendation for blocking out porn is from the W3C, who have suggested that flags be built into web pages with settings to monitor those flags built into browsers. Its downfall is that a certain company doesn't want to adapt its browser to support standards. The porn industry itself is extremely willing to help protect minors, with many adding themselves to filtering lists, but yes, in the end it comes down to the individuals.

Your argument for allowing ISPs to monitor traffic is an extremely scary one. Partially because you'll get vigilanteism and secondly the blurry line of government control. If you let your ISP monitor activity, they may choose to start blocking sites to keep the FBI and other agencies from confiscating their hardware (costing them money). If you let the government get involved as is, you may never know about it.

With the Patriot Act (and its brethren) government officials can demand that ISPs, Libraries, and PhoneCos turn over any records, - without judicial review of any type - and furthermore make it illegal for them to even mention it. Thankfully these provisions are working their way the courts and are being stopped under the 4th Amendment.

Even without those concerns the flagging method you proposed will never work in real world conditions. Look at how the No Fly Lists are causing no end of problems for travelers. How can you tell the difference between a student and a terrorist if both have looked at The Los Alamos Primer, The Anarchist's Cookbook and The Curve of Binding Energy? Simple answer is: You can't

Of course, both papers seemed to gloss over the fact that the internet is international, and any legislation in the USA must be complete and total throughout the world, and that will never happen. The good old USA is discovering that the hard way with our little terrorism problem

October 3, 2004 at 12:11 AM  
Blogger Ivan said...

I know this mark, but I didn't want a 15 page paper, and I only had a day or so to write.

Meh, I'm a procrastinator

October 3, 2004 at 12:09 PM  
Blogger Ivan said...

1. Slashdot
2. Click on article and seesomeone saying /. sucks, they're going to fark
3. Click to go to fark (2)
4. Weenery? What's taht. Click (3)
5. AAAUUUGGGH
6. ????
7. Profit.

Sorry... just coudn't resist.

With a total of 3 clicks. All of it innocent. -ish

October 16, 2004 at 1:40 PM  

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