John D Radcliff, Specializing in Interactive Technology & Education!

What is the future of trying control and regulate digital media on the internet?

        According to Digital Media and Democracy, "In many ways these pressures to regulate the internet reflect the natural maturation process that previous media, such as print, radio, and television, all experienced as they evolved out of unrestrained and experimental to tightly controlled and regulated environments."  The internet use to be like the wild west with no rules or regulations a place where anything goes.  Since 9/11, there have been alot of regulations put in place to monitor and control the flow of information on the internet. 

        The Patriot Act, enables law enforcement officials to intercept the communications of computer trespassers and improves their ability to track computer trespasser activities.  The problem with this is the invasion of privacy by law enforcement officals and what do they deem as "trespasser activities"?  Then there is a group called ONI, (Open Net Initiative) who investigates and provides a comprehensive picture of internet content filtering in a particular country.  Oni then produces reports which it gives to different countries around the world.  This is a good and bad thing for censoring content online.  Good in that it can help control and stop the access of information on sexual exploitation of children or "extremist" Web sites.  Bad in that it can stifle or taint the flow of information. 

        Let's take for example the country Pakistan, who started by filtering access to websites containing imagery offensive to Islam and now targets content related to Balochistan independence.  Is this really right to censor this type of material?  People should have the right to have access to almost any type of material they want.  It should not matter if it is offensive to a certain religious groups (I think most countries should start practicing freedom of religion).  I do agree that any site exploiting children should be taken off of the net with the exception of "extremist" websites which should be monitored, not taken down or filtered out.  Each nation state have different views on what kind of content they find offensive and select what they want to filter out.  Once again, I think anything pro human rights should be allowed.


         Certain websites, like Youtube regulate themselves and only allow appropriate content.  They do not allow nudity or the uploading of bands music which violates copyright laws.  I don't agree with the uploading of music and if you want nude videos then people should go to a different website.  Since Youtube, which is owned by Google, has the right to filter content uploaded to their site since they are a private company.  I agree and disagree on the uploading of music videos from bands since it can be a copyright issue on the one hand, except if you are trying to do viral marketing for a band.  Since online marketing and promoting is going this direction I think an exception can be made for band's music videos. 

        "Perhaps of most concern are measures taken to protect intellectual property and copyright through technical means; In particular through the introduction of codes built into the software and hardware that structure permissible communications. (Digital Media and Democracy, p.142)"
In the realm of software, putting controls on software and profits have actually hurt different companies.  For example, let's take peer to peer network (P2P), like bear share or Bit Torrent.  People want software at a cheap price or for free.  Who wants to pay $200 to $1,000 dollars for the latest Photoshop or Microsoft Office software?  Look at the music industry who tried to shutdown Napster and in doing so created a whole new market which is costing them billions.  Now different websites will legally take music and have people download a song for a fraction of buying the physical album. 

        Companies have started to realize that making a big sale is not as profitable as making micro transactions every month.  The answer to this has been software as a service, were people pay a low monthly fee to use a companies software.  An example of this is Microsoft's Office 365 which allows a company or person to have access to Microsoft Office applications.  Then you take Google Docs which has free online office applications just like microsoft office.  People are less likely to steal a piece of software if you create a price point that is lower then the physical software disc you would buy at a store.  This is the shift companies have made when it comes to controlling or censoring what kind of software people can have access too.  Some companies are starting to embrace the free or low price model.  If more companies would embrace this model then the need to worry about restrictions or loss of profits through theft would be greatly reduced.

        So is censorship a form of control that governments and corporations impose on the internet as a response to create balance on the net?  This question is hard to answer considering free speech activists who say that any form of censorship or restrictive access online imposed from a government or corporation is a violation of a person's right to have free speech online.  Are companies and governments acting in the interest of protecting people's freedoms and rights online or are they wanting to gather data on what people are doing?  The free speech activists say that censorship is a form of ease dropping and a control mechanism to snoop on people's activities.  The corporations and governments say we are protecting your freedoms and companies state that they are protecting their profits.


        Companies, people, and governments each have a valid argument on controlling and regulating digital media on the internet.  The new innovations and technologies that are constantly being developed will ultimately determine how and why they are censored or regulated.

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