North Texas Daily

Internet expression can’t be threatened

Internet expression can’t be threatened

April 24
22:24 2013

If the Internet were a physical place, it would be the Wild West. I’m starting to think the U.S. government realizes that.

Just like the West, it’s a wild, untamed frontier, filled to the brim with illegal activity and the latest trends in human indecency.

Where the west had outlaws holding up stagecoaches and loose-cannon vigilantes bringing them to justice, the Internet has file sharing sites holding up the entertainment industry and Anonymous hacking sites that make them angry. The West had brothels, the Internet has porn.

It’s easy to see how a government could see the Internet as something that needs to be controlled. File sharing could have negative affects on the entertainment industry, and the infinite knowledge the Internet provides means anyone can learn how to cook dynamite in their kitchen.

There is also some merit to a certain level of Internet censorship. Even traditionally democratic countries such as Australia, France and South Korea have taken heat from Reporters Without Borders for some level of censorship.

However, there is no way to control the Internet that doesn’t come at the expense of freedoms of speech, press and assembly.

If the U.S. government wants to decide to regulate the Internet with proposed laws like SOPA or the new CISPA, it has to make the decision that modern threats are more important than the principles this country was founded on.

In other words, they have to make the same decision about file sharing and inappropriate GIFs that they wouldn’t make about assault rifles last week.

The Bill of Rights was written 224 years ago to protect from specific nonsense Great Britain was pulling right before the revolution.

At the time, the fastest firearm in the world took 15 seconds to reload, and there wasn’t anything a person could say that would infringe on trademarks or copyrights. There are certainly arguments that it is an outdated document.

However, we as a nation—or at least this legislature—wouldn’t compromise it to keep people with criminal history from buying weapons. There’s something to be said for that, but that’s a different argument.

CISPA’s loose definitions of what is and isn’t a threat, plus murky language on how threatening posts will be addressed, allows lawmakers to deem content that isn’t necessarily threatening a “threat” just the same at their whim. This law, and any other law that regulates the Internet, compromises the First Amendment.

The Internet has become the primary method of public self-expression, assembly and press distribution for pretty much the entire country.

And if Congress won’t abridge self-expression, they should make no law abridging the Internet. Some people are paranoid about their guns, but everyone should be paranoid about their cyberspace.

Joshua Knopp is a pre-journalism sophomore. He can be reached at hillbutton@gmail.com.

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