The Internet plays a major role in this generation. We know it can have good and bad effects on society. “There are 4 billion out of the 7 billion people on earth already online” (Akshay, n.d.). Given this explosion of Internet users, it is more important than ever that there are laws and guidelines on how it is used so that society is protected. However, some believe that freedom of speech is more important than any control that the government may exert. This is an ongoing issue that modern society is now facing. In spite of the rapid development of the Internet over the past ten years, authorities have not kept up with the growth of the Internet.
The Internet provides information on a wide range of topics such as health, education and social issues. This easy access to information, of course, greatly benefits society. All people (experts and non-experts) are able to express their views very easily. In an ideal world, it is hoped that all people would act responsibly and respectfully when they share their views. Unfortunately, this is often not the case. Many people use the Internet to access material that encourages violence, view explicit pornographic content, as well as use the Internet to cyberbully others. For this reason, I would support the argument that the government should censor and regulate the Internet, even if this is a challenging task.
There are a number of areas where online censorship could impact on society positively. The first area is pornography. Online viewing of pornography has become more and more popular, especially amongst the youth. Youth are particularly vulnerable as there is evidence to suggest that many of them access pornographic websites unintentionally. The researcher, Michael Flood, states that three-quarters of young teens in Australia between the ages of 16 and 17 both female and male have been led to pornographic websites unintentionally (Flood, 2007). He claimed that 38% of boys in Australia and 2% of girls intentionally expose themselves to explicit websites (Flood, 2007).
There are a number of negative consequences when relating to this easy access of pornography. These can include the development of a negative attitude towards woman, normalizing physical and sexual violence and blurring the boundaries between what is acceptable and what is not (Quadara, El-Murr, Latham, 2017). Although there are some would researchers who would dispute this link between pornography and violence. They believe that the evidence suggests pornography doesn’t create the problem of sexism and violence, but rather reflects what is already in our society (Brown, 2017). Tighter laws and promoting education around the dangers of easy access to pornography may to protect society.
The second area of the Internet worth policing is cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is an online way for people to express hurtful opinions towards a particular person or situation. With the increase use of social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and many others, there has been an increase in the amount of online bullying. The statistics for cyberbullying between 14 and 16 years of age have increased over 12 months from 18% to 36% (Kenna, 2018). Kenna also stated teenagers between 17 and 19 have the highest percentage of online bullying which sits at 43% (Kenna, 2018). The effects of cyberbullying can result in mental health issues, including depression, anxiety and in extreme cases even lead to suicide (Abi, 2018).
The scale of the problem, in my view, means that it is necessary to have some sort of government intervention and protection. Under Australian law, cyberbullying does not count as an offence however, if the use of mobile phones, social platforms or email are used to harass or abuse a particular person or a group of people it can count as an offence under certain circumstances such as using the Internet to threaten someone, stalking, intimidation or threatening behavior and provoking someone to commit suicide (Mitry, Rademeyer, 2018). Given this increase in anti-social behavior the Australian government needs to put in place more severe penalties and for those who abuse the Internet and they need to set very clear policies of what is acceptable and what is not. “Under the Australian bill, not just the social media platforms, but any Internet service provider or hosting service will face fines or imprisonment if they fail to self-sensor by blocking or deleting any material that police could prosecute. This will include not just livestreams, but videos, photos, sound recordings and any other postings” (Head, 2019).
A recent example of the dangers of livestreaming occurred in Christchurch, New Zealand in March 2019. Brenton Tarrant massacred 51 people attending the mosque which he livestreamed on Facebook. This was only shut down by the authorities after 17 minutes, allowing time for it to be widely shared. This incident has raised the issue of how the Internet can be used for evil and the challenges faced by governments in how to protect society. The Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison and senior ministers have taken a lead on working on ways to control this negative use of the Internet. As the Prime Minister states “Big social media companies have a responsibility to take every possible action to ensure their technology products are not exploited by murderous terrorists” (Conifer, 2019).
In conclusion, the Internet is a wonderful resource which we have all become used to. It however, has not been without its dangers and challenges. We know it is a very hard area to control because of the rapid increase in the number users and the ways of using it. This is because much of the content of websites is generated from other countries outside of Australia, which makes it harder to regulate. Without better control and tighter regulations within Australia as well as around the world, there is a real risk that the benefits of the Internet will be over-shadowed by the negative way it is been used.