Current legislation already deals with unacceptable material, whether written or visual, as far as censorship is concerned. Control of what is ‘shown’ on an organisation’s premises is already in force. However, there are ongoing discussions on the possible control and censorship measures that could be applied to the Internet as its uses grow. These controls could hinder freedom of speech.

There are socially unacceptable sites on the Internet of varying degrees of unacceptability, dependent on perception. For example, you may have arachnophobia and find a website on exotic spiders wholly offensive.

Can you visit these web pages by accident?  Sometimes fairly innocuous searches through the Internet can produce a list of available sites with links to unusual and apparently unrelated sites. In such instances, however, it is normally very clear from the summary or titles what the contents of these sites are likely to include. So if you visit these sites, that is deemed to be a deliberate action and you are accountable for using any information you view. But sometimes the description of the site bears no resemblance to the actual contents, in which case you may plead ignorance.

There is also the problem of unsolicited e-mails. This is becoming a major problem on the Internet. It is caused by ‘spammers’, people who send out mass mailings of junk e-mail. Your software can dispose of some of this junk by applying filtering rules but the spammers are getting more devious in their quest to ensure that your mailbox is bombarded with junk mail. There have already been several recent successful prosecutions of junk e-mailers in America, but can this be regarded as a form of censorship? Should these people have the right to send e-mails to anyone they wish?

Regulating the content of the Internet

If there is concern that users of computer equipment in organisations will access ‘offensive’ or ‘unacceptable’ material, software can be installed that will monitor what access is made and from which terminals, when and by whom. Internal organisational procedures should deal with this type of situation.

The Internet is no different from other media in this respect, and any of these can contravene legislation on sensitive matters. There have been successful libel cases taken out against bulletin board operators for the materials that were published on their boards. Still the question will arise, is current legislation enough? Presumably only time will tell. Future governments and public opinion will influence new legislation.




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