Privacy, free speech, and decency
Should there be limits on Web content? Consider sites that might display pornography, child abuse, suicide, or the assassination of a political leader. Does it make a difference if the offensive images are shown as animation?
Does this type of programming validate the need for common code of ethics for programmers?
The internet is the most important medium of expression in modern world as unlike many of the other mediums of communication or public exposure the internet in not only hard to regulate but also has greater reach based on ease of accessibility. However, this also birthed the greatest dilemma of the time as the freedom of speech led to the circulation of offensive material and pornography that challenged the morality of the viewers and offended them. Pornography is one such topic that falls under this category as the material is hard to regulate and thus the access of such material to minors cause severe problems. The same problem is compounded in case of the materials that expose minors to child abuse, suicide and other controversial material that can have a lasting effect on the moral judgement of the person and develop a warped worldview and morality. Thus, it is imperative that the access to these types of material is limited. The same can be said about the other topics like religion and politics that are highly sensitive can cause outrage, and offend a specific group of people. The freedom of speech that allows freedom to discuss any mater one deems of concern is the main dilemma that internet regulation of material faces (Craig, 2013). Thus, the paper discusses the overall dilemma and possible solutions to regulate the material that does not constrict the freedom of speech.
The internet pornography is by far the most relevant issue in this regard as the opinion of the viewers has mixed feelings. According to some people, the pornographic content featuring nudity or sexual intercourse is just an expression of self like many other mediums and is in many ways similar to the other arts. However, the adverse impact of the explicit sexual content’s effect on minors cannot be ignored. Here rises the regulation conflict as prohibiting and limiting access is quite similar to the obstructing the people’s freedom to express themselves. This is also true in case of the violent material that might affect the psyche of the minor adversely. Therefore, the limiting of the access is one way that can be used for regulation. However, the definition of offensive is different for different communities and cultures (Weiss, 2011). This leads to the debate on how the effects of the same can be mitigated without stunting the ability of the people to express them freely. The same can be said about the explanation about any religion an atheist gives which might influence the sentimentality of specific communities of theists. The same is true for the political opinions. This if controlled can lead to indiscretion of specific communities or classes both political and religious position and misuse of the protection to be rendered above public scrutiny (Weiss, P2011).
Furthermore, the negative impacts of control over the web content are also a possibility. The use of internet to spread hate and using personal slander to affect the public image of an individual or group is also a matter of concern. However, the restrictions posed upon such material can be effective in obstruction of freedom of speech thereby rendering the individual or group above reproach (Yang, 2013). This is against the basic human rights and a gross misuse of power that is also against democracy where every person has rights to express their opinion.
The modification of the content is one option that seems to most viable but the degree to which it is able to mitigate the effect of the offensive material is a topic for debate for academics and policymakers alike. The options as the using animation for the contents that are restricted might help reduce the effect of some specific type of content but has much less effect in case of others. The effect of animating and the blurring using pixilation of the content have limited impact on the negative effect on the web content. The main regulation consideration should be the effect of a web content at face and as implied. While the first criteria is fulfilled to a degree by the animation or blurring of the content the implications remain the same so the avenue is limited in scope to limit the intentionally circulated offensive materials.
In addition to this the animation of the disputed content can only reduce the effect to some degree in some cases. The child pornography or other disputed material that is illegal therefore can be mitigated in effect by animating the images or other visual material but the violence and satirical content about a specific religion or politician will remain the same. So the protection of decency while promoting freedom of speech is not possible thorough the animation or blurring of visual content. Thus, the restriction to access is the only answer.
While in general people are forced to acknowledge the existence of the people with other beliefs and worldview in mainstream media it makes the specific class, religion or culture based bias more obvious than most.
However, in the internet the specific forums and such can regulate the view that is promoted by similar opinions of likeminded people that might form a group mentality and thus affect the worldview of an individual to promote biasness and bigotry that can lead to unrest among specific groups of people (Weiss, 2011). This makes it possible for the people to explore their individual tastes going outside the standards of decency set by the society and their community. This also leads to diminution of the impact of common media channels that might promote specific biased opinion of individuals.
The ability of the internet to give voice to minorities and even individuals to discuss openly about public issues and many non-public ones and the internet has become an open medium of criticism of actions taken by groups and individuals and scrutiny both moral and ethical. The role of internet as the medium for public opinion about matters both social and otherwise will be hampered seriously by any restriction. The animation or blurring and their ineffectiveness on the other hand make the necessity of regulation a priority. The view of cyber democracy therefore has both positive and negative sides and the restriction of certain contents with classification is necessary but limited in scope as the levels o decency is different for every community. Therefore, the restriction of specific contents by blocking access can only be applied in cases, which is universally applicable like child pornography or violent materials (Dutton, 2011).
Nevertheless, this limitation leave the population exposed to other matters like group polarization and bigotry along with cause panic among the population and cause unrest. The applicability of the decency is a flimsy excuse at best to regulate which does not directly address the issue at hand that arises from the disputed content. Thus, the scope for success of regulating web content by blurring or animating disputed visual material has little chance of addressing all of the issues that are present.
The personal beliefs of the individuals and the personal opinion about certain matters cannot be changed and the ability of the them to form certain group mentality that is otherwise impossible facilitates the reinforcement of their perversion or personal bigotry to a new high (Weiss, P. F. (2011). This is the main concept, but the suggested regulation would inhibit the chance of formation of public onion and hinder democratic procedures that would allow certain people to be more secure in their position of power. Thus, there are drawbacks to any restriction that effectively shuts down access to controversial material (Azu, Lilley & Kolli, 2012).
Also the awareness and discretion of the people are the only way to facilitate the regulations as the universally illegal materials like child pornography should be strictly banned but the banning of specific groups or opinions is a futile effort at best. Therefore, the restriction and animation of visual material is not enough to change the views of people.
The final stage is social media that are the latest platform for gathering of likeminded people that helps build and reinforce specific opinions regarding individuals and groups. The regulation of such groups is the only way to limit the negative effect of the provocative material and successfully control not the content but the reaction of the public to the content (Schorr, 2013). This is especially indicative of the limitations of controlling the content, which is facilitated through animations and such to mitigate the effect (Barratt, Lenton& Allen, 2013). Thus, the judgment of the content should be based on the effect of the content on the viewers and not the content itself.
It is clear from the discussion that the animation or other limits based on the type of the content is limited in scope s the different material can provoke same reaction in different parts of the population and can be judged based on the reaction. There should be classification of the web content based on the reaction and the ethical background of the programme has no affect what so ever on the reaction of the people to content generated. Therefore, the potential impact for same web content can be deterred by their regulation however as the cultural standards of decency are different from one another and there is no chance of blocking the impact of controversial web content through programmer ethics is moot.
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