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Censorship by definition is the suppression of words, images or ideas that are offensive. It occurs when certain people succeed in imposing their personal or moral values on others. The debate over censorship deals mainly with the first amendment and whether it is constitutional for a group of people to decide what is right for other people. It has exploded within recent years with the advent of the Internet. Many different kinds of people can and are considered censors. Parents, teachers, administrators and employers who forbid others to speak in certain ways can be censors. In fact, the word censor actually comes from ancient Rome, which referred to someone whose job it was to oversee morals and conduct. Before I get into censorship on the Internet, here are other cases of censorship Perhaps the first known case of censorship occurred in 1873 with the passing of the Comstock law by Congress. The law was advocated by Anthony Comstock, head of the Society for the Suppression of Vice (Explain vice). The law forbade the mailing of anything, in his opinion, lewd, obscene or indecent. In his life burned 120 tons of books and art including the works of Chaucer- Caterbury Tales, Oscar Wilde, Ernest Hemmingway, Eugene ONeill and John Steinbeck. Censorship primarily occurs in the arts, especially music. The PMRC or Parents Music Resource Center finally after about a decade of pushing forced the RIAA or Recording Industry of America to start use labeling systems and logos such as Parental Advisory Explicit Lyrics. However, the putting of the labels on the records was left entirely to the record companies who neglected the sticker on many deserving albums. In 1992, Washington became the first state to pass a law forbidding the purchase of cds with certain logos if youre under 18, this law was quickly deemed unconstitutional. Some performers have been banned from performing certain songs in certain places, for example Ozzy Osbourne was sued thrice after three teens committed suicide and their parents blamed his lyrics in Suicide Solution, Ice-T was heavily protested for his song Cop Killer in the early 90s which promoted violence specifically on police. Madonna was arrested in Toronto after she ignored warnings of her potential arrest and went on with her normal act of acting out masturbation on stage. The debate over music most definitely flared up again after the shootings at Columbine in which Marilyn Manson was once again accused of causing horrible crimes as many people continue their war with him and his music.
Other forms of censorship include the debate over the viewing of violence. In 1996, Congress passed legislation requiring that new televisions be equipped with the v-chip, a computerized chip capable of detecting program ratings and blocking certain programs from view. This comes along with the new ratings you now see at the bottom of certain tv programs such as tv-14 or g. Many tv shows have been forced to change their successful ways such as the WWF.
As far as the internet is concerned of the dozens of bills, laws and testimonies passed or debated the biggest was the Communications Decency Act. This Act bans the communication of obscene or indecent material via the internet to anyone under 18. This Act like just about all the acts dealing with the preservation of the first amendment is being protested by ACLU, American Civil Liberties Union. After much debate about a year and a half later the Act was deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court just as nearly all censorship attempts are.
The root of the problem is that people want to decide that people cannot see certain things that are wrong, lewd etc, but the definition of what is wrong is and thanks to our first amendment is always vague at best allowing Americans to forever decide what they want to see.
In conclusion, The problem with censorship is that America is a free society based on the principle that each and every individual has the right to decide what art or entertainment he or she wants or does not want. Freedom of expression for ourselves requires freedom of expression for others and that is at the very heart of our democracy