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What is the Internet `community?'

Readers comment on free speech online

By Carolyn W.C. Wong

December  1996
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The comments are reproduced as received; only some minor spelling and punctuation errors have been corrected. -- Editors

Date: Fri Nov 1 09:59:10 PST 1996

Date: Fri Nov 1 10:58:27 PST 1996
From what I gather some portions of it are disgusting.

Date: Fri Nov 1 12:42:52 PST 1996
It is the universe, thus the reason for no censorship ever!!!

Date: Fri Nov 1 13:02:44 PST 1996
The Internet, and Usenet, transcend all prior definitions of community. This is why it is inappropriate to exercise any form of censorship or content controls. There are no borders for the Internet, so should material be limited to what only the majority deems acceptable? The U.S. has a long held and deep conviction that in a democracy, minority views have to be voiced. This is just as true in deciding what is appropriate Internet content as it is with political views, though I would argue that topics such as pornography ARE political in nature. In the global Internet, there must be room for thoughts, ideas, material, that is not agreeable to the majority. So, while I may believe that it is wrong for parents to have any form of sexual contact with their child, other cultures believe that it is a parent's duty to teach their child through direct experience. Both views are valid to each of us, and both should be expressed. It is the reader who must decide what THEY believe. As a parent, it is MY responsibility to supervise my child's use of the Internet and Usenet. All I ask is that the tools I use support labels such that I can exercise my parental judgement.

Date: Fri Nov 1 15:08:16 PST 1996
The Internet's community is the union of individual community standards. For example, child pornography would be universally considered pornographic by the Internet community, but mere nudity would not.

Date: Sat Nov 2 13:58:35 PST 1996
Good damn question!

Date: Sat Nov 2 15:05:45 PST 1996
A bunch of slobbering sex-fiends, apparently. :)

Date: Sat Nov 2 15:53:00 PST 1996
It is something novel.

Date: Sat Nov 2 23:11:57 PST 1996
All reasonable efforts should be made to protect minors from even "slightly" objectionable materials. The rest of us are adults. You cannot even begin to apply "global" community standards. Think about it. The Internet IS global.

Date: Tue Nov 5 01:00:32 PST 1996
The people using Internet.

Date: Tue Nov 5 02:22:18 PST 1996
Every country has their own "community." You can't just make one single law for the whole Internet. If you take every little country into account and remove material that every little group of people dislikes, there's really no information left on Internet. If you come across adult material, then it is because you were searching for adult material. You just don't step on it. It is up to the information provider to make sure that it doesn't break the local policy/rules/laws. It is more a question of reputation than a question of responsibility.

Date: Tue Nov 5 05:54:50 PST 1996
Sorry, there are multiple communities here! Asking about the `community' that is the Internet is as meaningless as asking about the `Community of Pennsylvania.'

Date: Tue Nov 5 09:21:33 PST 1996
Everyone who uses the Net. We are all part of the global `community.'

Date: Tue Nov 5 10:37:30 PST 1996
Its "subscribers" -- varies with each Web server.

Date: Tue Nov 5 10:58:34 PST 1996
The community is those that choose to access the pages after being informed of their content. The community that accesses a Web site can be a very small part of a very large group of people.

Date: Tue Nov 5 11:57:19 PST 1996
The entire human race.

Date: Tue Nov 5 14:29:32 PST 1996
The Internet's "community" is the Internet. Anything goes. Censor what you look at, not what others say.

Date: Tue Nov 5 16:14:22 PST 1996
The world is the Internet community. What is pornography? Should be an individual decision, and it is up to the individual to view or not view what he considers pornography. If you find something offensive, leave.

Date: Tue Nov 5 17:04:48 PST 1996
You tell me, and we'll both know.

Date: Tue Nov 5 22:39:00 PST 1996
The Internet's "community" is all of the people that choose to use the Internet. The 'Net is like the TV, if you do not like what you see, turn it off. The Internet is too big for one country to control.

Date: Wed Nov 6 06:45:51 PST 1996
There is no definable Internet community. What might be objectionable to one community, would not be objectionable to another. An example of this would be the Catholic community and the homosexual community. My general take on this is that the IAP's or universities should not be liable for any Usenet postings, and be liable for only those Web pages that are illegal in nature (i.e. child porn or maliciously coded pages). Corporations while not legally liable should make every effort to restrict the use of the Internet by its employees.

Date: Wed Nov 6 07:02:12 PST 1996
It's very difficult to accurately describe the Internet community. Remember that the Internet spans such vastly different cultures as the U.S. (law abiding, high moral, freedom), Russian culture (it's a tradition to try and double cross another in an agreement) Chinese (dont't mistake the Chinese culture for communism), the Middle East, Arabian world (keep the women on a leash). I'd rather say that the individual must be held responsible for his actions. An ISP should not be held responsible for what a customer publishes on his/her Web pages/Usenet postings/whatever. The problem is that different countries have different laws. While one pornographic image may be legal in the Netherlands, it may be a hanging offense in Singapore. Should the person in charge of a Singapore ISP hang for what may be carried on his lines? Internet censorship is a contradiction in terms. People have to be able to decide what they should read and raise their kids properly so that they don't have to worry about them viewing illegal (in which country?) material. People must be able to take care of themselves, and not demand that government agencies protect their eyes and ears from "dangerous pornography." If they don't want it, don't view it. There are a lot of situations similar to this in daily life. Consider, nobody expects the government to make sure you don't catch a cold in the winter. It's up to the individual to dress sensibly. Also, nobody expects to be protected from climbing trees and jumping to your own death from the top. The freedom/anarchy of the Internet calls for the individual to take a stand.

Date: Wed Nov 6 19:32:07 PST 1996

Date: Wed Nov 6 20:04:52 PST 1996
There isn't.

Date: Thu Nov 7 04:29:50 PST 1996
That is a difficult question to address. Fisrt of all we "ALL" are a member of the "American" community. There may be some groups within that community that may disagree with some types of content. That is to be expected. That is not a valid argument for any type of censorship. A warning pre-link should be sufficient on content that is of an adult nature or racial nature. This being said, the "Internet Community" is much larger than just the USA. each country should address this in the same way they should or leagaly wish under their current legal standards.

Date: Thu Nov 7 13:14:49 PST 1996
The entire world. The entire world should be required to vote on each item claimed as pornographic.

Date: Thu Nov 7 13:45:49 PST 1996
The majority of people online are decent hard working people who want to use the Internet for information, pleasure, and business. We should not have to put up with offensive sexual or political propaganda just as we do not tolerate such material in all other aspects of our lives. Remember "No man is an island" we all depend on each other for the quality of our lives.

Date: Thu Nov 7 14:15:54 PST 1996
A collection of people who have a right to information and are willing to take responsibilty for whatever information content they OWN.

Date: Thu Nov 7 18:10:37 PST 1996
Anybody who can access the material in question, if of the legal (or majority) age in their original country and can be considered reasonably sane.

Date: Fri Nov 8 09:26:58 MET 1996
Community is the people who would observe the content of the pages just as they would if the acts or demonstrations were in the public square or school auditorium. Fortunately the security of servers can be better regulated on the Internet. It's interesting to see that pornographers often protect themselves ("self censoring") by promoting "Internet nanny" and "Web watch" programs, and requiring payment ID. Guidelines would allow a moderator to decide rather than a committee for each complaint. "Reasonable" attention should be given to hold server owners responsible for dangerous content...but unless clear complicity is proven, their responsibility should be limited. Originally "free speech" was sought to force reasonable communication when oppressive domination was used to hide intellectual bankruptcy. These oppressive forces sought to dominate a dependent lower class. Now "free speech" is used to give dominant power to prurient demonstrations. Their purpose is not to build reason but to captivate and dominate with natual dopamine just like a drug dealer "gives" his wares to build a dependent clientele.

Date: Fri Nov 8 12:43:40 PST 1996
It's users.

Date: Fri Nov 8 16:18:09 PST 1996
I do not think there is a definition for this one. The Internet community is the world.

Date: Sun Nov 10 03:56:09 PST 1996
The world. Since there is no "world community standard" small groups or individuals or governments that object should not have the right to tell the rest of the world what to do. And furthermore, I doubt that governments have the technical expertise to keep "objectionable material" off of the Net. People would probably start their own Net.

Date: Sun Nov 10 15:08:02 PST 1996
The government cannot dictate morality. If people see something they consider objectionable, then they should move on anf avoid that area of the 'Net. Just like cable TV -- no one makes you watch certain channels...they may be there to choose from, but your choices are your own.

Date: Mon Nov 11 08:52:32 PST 1996
I think they intend the physically local community...although that seems impractical. Is there really anyone out there who is unaware of what pornography is? There may be people who want pornographic material to remain available, but they certainly know that it is pornographic. Will the Internet be another place to make the system work for you by exploiting the ineffectiveness of language, or will the Internet Community (globally) come to a consensus on what is meant and abide by the wishes of the majority, taking steps to make clear what's contained before access when content may be objectionable according to that consensus? Do we or do we not have an obligation to respect the rights of those who do not want to indavertently view such material? ...On children, when do parents take responsibility for what their children will and won't do? Hiding the ugly parts of the world from children does not "raise" them to be prepared for discerning/choosing for themselves as they grow only leads them to take anything that's available on faith. When do we get off controlling everything around us and start taking responsibility for preparing our children to participate in this abundantly diverse world?

Date: Mon Nov 11 17:15:25 PST 1996
It's so vague its meaningless.

Date: Mon Nov 11 22:48:47 PST 1996
Both worldwide, and individual. All of us must decide what is right for each of us, and realize that that same standard may not be applicable to everyone else.

Date: Tue Nov 12 15:22:20 PST 1996
It is a self-regulating global community. I think some of your answers are only two dimensional. There are other alternatives beside the ones you list. A responsible ISP, corporation, etc., should contact the owner of the objectionable material first and apprise them of the situation. Failure to comply may result in removing the pages least the owner decides the course of action for you. There is no need to play "censor."

Date: Wed Nov 13 01:33:28 PST 1996
People shouldn't make such a big deal about porno or `questionable content' on the Internet. Think of the Internet as a big city: If you want to find porno, fine, you know where to find it. On the other hand if you want to find technical manuals you know where to find them. So if you don't want to see porno well *DON'T LOOK FOR IT!!!!!!!* I think that analogy works quite well (except you don't have any danger of getting robbed or beaten if you go to the `questionable' areas (at least not yet)).

Date: Wed Nov 13 11:00:22 PST 1996
IMHO "The World."

Date: Wed Nov 13 13:21:53 PST 1996
The world.

Date: Fri Nov 15 23:42:54 PST 1996
The South African government tried to put `group rights' in an early draft of the new constitution, but it was quickly recognized as an attempt to have self-appointed spokespeople (politicians, clergy, or other trouble-makers) claim that they represent the ideas of some group and try to give their views greater weight. `Community standards' sounds like a similar term. It is up to each individual to decide what material is objectionable. The Internet and computers help give individuals the power to exercise these choices for themselves, and not have someone else make these choices for them.

Date: Sat Nov 16 16:15:49 PST 1996
The entire which the diversity of standards should apply; i.e., be careful how you apply this or we could end up with the religious community standards being that anything not Islamic is wrong.

Date: Mon Nov 18 09:03:32 PST 1996
The community standards are those that that the involved ISP, college, or other hosting service want to attract and be represented by. They should be free to refuse to establish acceptable use policy and to refuse to provide service to any publisher of material which does not conform. The publisher is free to voice any opinion or publish any content they want to on a provider which does not object to it, but providers should be able to decide what kind of content is welcome at their site.

Date: Tue Nov 19 09:25:49 PST 1996
There is no such thing. The best community I can think of, is the state of the maker of the page.

Date: Tue Nov 19 11:01:33 PST 1996
A cross section of the WWW's users.

Date: Tue Nov 19 22:23:41 PST 1996
The world. Anybody and everybody with access to the Internet. It is impossible for me to keep up with the volumn of postings on just the one newgroup That says a lot about what people want in the way of "adult" material. They want it! That IS the standard! Also, the standard is if a person doesn't like a particular newsgroup or Web site, just simply don't go there. It really offends me to think that I would be denied the opportunity to educate myself about whatever I'm interested in. Let the information flow. Way more good will come than harm. Thanks for listening.

Date: Wed Nov 20 03:17:50 PST 1996
Not applicable. U.S. moral and community standards are hypocrithic.

Date: Wed Nov 20 08:52:35 PST 1996
The Internet community is anyone that can connect, so that would be world standards.

Date: Wed Nov 20 10:43:56 PST 1996
The Internet is a collection of separate communities, not directly related to any physical communities. They have their own methods for enforcing community standards and in general national government law enforcement should take a hands-off approach.

Date: Wed Nov 20 13:06:40 PST 1996
I don't know exactly what it is, but it is not simply the local municipality in which a "browser" is located. In other words, if someone in Mississippi objects to information they request from a server in New York, the data owner should not be prosecuted in Mississippi.

Date: Thu Nov 21 05:00:53 PST 1996
The U.S. Supreme Court shouldn't try to figure out what the "community standards" for the entire world are.

Date: Thu Nov 21 07:34:16 PST 1996
The community is the whole world or everyone that has access. The supreme court should reconsider their ruling.

Date: Thu Nov 21 14:11:53 PST 1996
Good question. Community standards are also used in Canada for the same reason. Canadian "community standards" may not be that different than American ones, but if you consider the Internet to be global, then you have to look at standards in nations such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, or even some of the European countries. Also, what is suitable for adults to view (according to North American community standards) may not be suitable for children.

Date: Sun Nov 24 15:32:53 PST 1996
The Internet is a global community and the individuals and organizations that it consists of run the gamut from the Christian right to libertines, and no local jurisdiction has the right to prosecute individuals or organizations because content in San Francisco offends the sensibilites of a ambitious prosecutor in East Muleshoe, New Hampshire. Internet law will have to be handled by a organization such as Interpol who will need to set global standards for conduct on the Internet.

Date: Sun Nov 24 18:50:04 PST 1996
The World.

Date: Mon Nov 25 00:58:52 PST 1996
The People who use it. We all are!

Date: Tue Nov 26 19:27:05 PST 1996
Schools, colleges, and organizations.

Date: Wed Nov 27 05:10:29 PST 1996
All people on Internet, all over the world

Date: Wed Nov 27 07:15:18 PST 1996
The world.

Date: Fri Nov 29 15:36:10 PST 1996
The Internet's community is GLOBAL, and therefore the U.S. Supreme Court under the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constution has no juridiction.

Date: Sat Nov 30 07:25:15 PST 1996
Each person on it, individually. It makes no sense to me that some government agency could censor Internet pornography yet allow bookstores on the street, public advertising, and even television to purvey it. Governments should not be in the business of controlling how people communicate. An Internet provider can legitimately censor newsgroups and Web pages because it serves a particular audience. If someone wants material not available on one provider, they can easily arrange to get another (At least in much of the free world).

Date: Sat Nov 30 14:11:09 PST 1996
The only communuty I can define is the "world user base." Any lesser definition does not include all that could view the material.

Date: Tue Dec 10 11:25:14 PST 1996
It is a conglomeration of every community in the world, plus some of its own.

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