Friday, February 17, 2006

Presentation: Internet Regulation

First of all, I will start of with the problem with my topic: It is much too broad. I need help narrowing my topic down to something that can be written about in 25 pages. Any help on a narrower topic that I could choose would be appreciated.

Basically I want to discuss internet regulation, government spying etc. and how this will have an effect on U.S. citizens' freedom of expression. The internet is used for a variety of purposes in the U.S. I feel that a knowledge that the government may be spying on our internet activities will suppress free speech and expression. I want to discuss different internet regulations in China, how these regulations effect peoples' privacy etc., and basically how such regulations are consistent with China's political ideology but not consistent with democratic values. By showing the way in which these regulations in China have the direct effect of suppressing political dissent, the introduction of new (controversial) ideas etc., I feel I can make some comparisons with the U.S. and how some of the regulations and current government practices will have this effect on our citizens. I do realize that the immediate effect here will be indirect. Citizens will not be punished for political dissent etc., but this type of speech will be suppressed if we think that we are being monitored.

Here is a list of questions that might be helpful to discuss so that I can narrow a topic:

1. Is freedom of expression/speech on the internet a necessary part of our democracy given the importance of the internet in our daily lives and its place as one of our primary means of communication?

2. Will the regulations of the internet and the government's ability to spy on its citizens by reading emails, gathering a list of our search terms etc. lead to a weakening of our democracy?

3. Do I sound too much like a conspiracy theorist by making the argument that such regulations are such a threat to our democracy that they could actually lead us to a totalitarian regime? Bush himself said that it would make his job so much easier if this country was led by a dictator and Plato argued that democracy was a terrible form of government because it could so easily be turned into a dictatorship?
Don't get me wrong, I don't think that this is happening right now, but I do feel we are chipping away at our democracy with the increased power of executive in light of the war on terror.

4. If the government is monitoring speech on the internet, by reading emails and search terms, in the name of preventing terrorism, what are the limits on the government from simply using this to prevent any type of political dissent that the government finds to be to extreme? Do all Muslims, or those with Islamic names, need to fear if they express their dissent and political ideas through this medium?

5. Do we need to allow government surveillance of our internet activities in order to prevent terrorism and different crimes?

6. Is the internet something that our government has the right to regulate and monitor in the first place? Many articles have been written that argue that the internet and its users should govern itself. I will present some of these ideas also.

I am not sure how to make a valid comparison between China's regulation and the type of activities going on in our country. I think that China is a model of how regulation of the internet and monitoring citizens' activities is used to supress free expression and political dissent. I basically want to show that if we allow such things to happen in our country, even if the stated purpose is not to supress dissent and expression, but to prevent terrorism, it will eventually lead to the same consequences.

I have not narrowed this topic enough and it is difficult to figure out what my proposal will be at this time. Generally, it will deal with the idea that we need to scrutinize the executive's actions more carefully and not allow our freedoms on the internet to be diminished. I would like to see an internet with very few regulations etc. without quite going to the point of internet anarchy.

I plan to research my topic much more between now and Thursday. I will be posting an update to narrow this topic more and explain my general idea a little better.

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