Censorship affects all Internet users (Editorial)

SarahBeth Davis, Perspectives writer

Whether it’s a blocked website at school, or a proposition like the Protection of Intellectual Property Act, censorship affects most Internet users. Many Carlisle students have seen the webpage telling them one website or another is blocked on the school’s wireless Internet, especially now with the BYOD policy. More and more governmental bills are being pushed to be passed, and would unjustly shut down major websites. Internet censorship is an aberration of basic First Amendment rights.
The First Amendment grants, among other things, the freedom of speech and the freedom of press. While our Founding Fathers might not have known about Facebook or Internet piracy, these can still be applied to the modern age. The First Amendment has narrowly blocked several unrighteous acts from being passed as laws. Laws should not be in place to limit online content; it’s as wrong and restrictive as banning books. Several states have laws in place concerning online “filtering” in places such as schools and libraries. Pennsylvania is one of these states, and the CHS wireless Internet is within compliance to the CIPA (Children’s Internet Protection Act).
CIPA was put into place to help limit children’s exposure to explicit material online, and has been pressed to include social networking sites within its filtered content. The CHS Internet has blocks on websites that include subject matter such as pornography, social networking, video streaming, games, and file hosting/sharing. School’s internet should be only to restrict very explicit content, as it is illegal for minor to view this, along with unethical for them to view it in a school of all places. And while it is banned, students have been known to use the wireless Internet from their own devices to access such content. Downloading and streaming some forms of content is also banned on the school network. YouTube, being a video streaming and sharing website, is blocked on student accounts, but allowed for staff and faculty for educational purposes.
Outside of school Internet, downloading and streaming content is still debatable. The DMCA (Digital Media Copyright Act) has taken down and blocked many video and audio streaming and downloading sites. Websites that allowed online streaming of movies and television shows, such as MegaVideo or PutLocker, have been taken down in the past for copyright infringement. There are websites run outside of the United States that allow Internet piracy (unlawful reproduction and sharing of copyrighted digital files) such as The Pirate Bay, which is run in Sweden. The Pirate Bay has been threatened to be shut down multiple times, but to no avail. While Internet piracy is technically illegal, many people use it as a way of download music and movies without paying. With the wide use of technology today, the spread of media, legal or otherwise is unavoidable.
Websites that don’t specialize in the illegal sharing of online content are also at risk. Bills like SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act), PIPA (Protection of Intellectual Property Act), and CISPA (Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act) were almost passed last year. The passing of these would be a tragedy to any regular internet user. These could have shut down popular websites, such as Twitter, Tumblr, Wikipedia, and YouTube for the “illegal” spreading of intellectual property. Acts of this sort are continually being pushed and presented. For instance, CISPA has been reintroduced twice. The passing of these would unrighteously censor online content, taking away basic human rights.
There are very, very few cases in which internet censorship is appropriate or just. As in the schools, content should be filtered for minors. Depictions of violent or immoral acts, such as the production and spreading of child pornography should be banned without debate. However, it’s not for the United States to attempt to force the shutdown of torrenting websites such as ThePirateBay.sx or KAT.ph. Within the very, very few exceptions, nothing online should be blocked for its content.
Internet censorship is a violation of the freedom of speech, and a wrong against American citizens. The government should not be controlling what people see, do, and access. The year is 2013, not 1984. Filtering by schools should be done very sparingly, and only for explicit content. Otherwise, websites should not be blocked or banned within the United States. The internet should not be censored.