Wednesday, February 17, 2010

New New Media and the first amendment

Hi Class,

I was reading the blogging chapter of Levinson's New New Media and the issue of first amendment rights on the internet caught my attention. Being a staunch advocate for first amendment rights and less control by the FCC in media, this topic intrigued me. Though I may not support blogging totally due to its further breakdown of physical inter-personal communication, I was amazed to read about the versatility blogging can have in bringing people and information together. Blogging and similar forms of new new media have become a way of life, as common as the newspaper in previous times. When everyone begins to use these new media including news outlets themselves, political campaigns, and anyone else that could be imagined, free speech must be applied in the same way that the right was accorded to newspapers. The FCC’s main argument about radio and television broadcasts and decency has always been that the listener or viewer can tune in and hear/see something they did not expect.

The same thing does not apply to the individual’s usage of the internet. When people go online they are actively searching for something among the plethora of information on the internet whether it be a website, blog, place to shop, or research. Depending on what they are looking for, the user has a good idea of what they will find. The user controls their search in the same way that a person would choose to buy a newspaper. The individual is paying, in some way, for the information they are looking for simply by using the internet. If this is a fact, said information should be untainted and unthreatened by any agency, much in the same way that Sirius radio works. If the user is paying for control and information, that is what they should get and it made me really angry to think anyone would try to tamper with that right. Does anyone else have any feelings?


  1. I think this is a tricky subject, and that we are in the early stages of figuring out what to do in terms of "policing" the internet. It is true that users of the internet are activelt seeking information for themselves, and are in most cases paying for the serivice, but what about internet in public schools and library? It is being policed, and I think it should. It's much like the relationship that the FCC has with TV and Radio. They are public services, and if they internet is being made available to an individually publicly it should be watched, and there should be sites you cannot view if they do not meet certain standards. It does seem as if it is an invasion of rights, but if they service is made available free to me, I cannot argue with regulations that prevent me from viewing certain sites.

    But in terms of the use of the internet in your own home, I don't have a defnite opinion on that. You should be able to access anything you want, and those who make the websites that are dangerous should be held accountable, not the user seeking the information. But then again, I do not think it is wrong that the police track internet usage in order to find pedophiles, and potential terrorist/killers/general crazy people.

  2. You definitely make a good point Angela, and I'm a pretty first First Amendment guy myself so I definitely agree with a lot of what you're saying. However, there are definitely some tricky subjects and a TON of gray area on the internet that generally does not appear in the more traditional media. Jessica made a great point about filtering in schools, libraries, and work, but home surfing is another story. Although I feel that I should be able to access whatever I want in the privacy of my own home, should EVERYTHING be made available online? Child pornography is outright illegal in pretty much every westernized society I can think of - should that be made available to me even if I pay for it? Most people would say no and these sites are generally policed and removed frequently to the best of my knowledge, but what about a site hosted in a country with much looser regulations? While it's very unlikely you will ever see this kind of material at your local library or on television, you can definitely find this on the internet without too much effort. Generally speaking the First Amendment does not cover obscenity, but it obviously can only have an impact on sites residing in America itself.

    There really is a lot of gray area on the internet. A lot has been made about the ability to find bomb making resources on the web after basically every school shooting ever, and that's something that will always be a hot button issue. Sites that advocate violence are another tricky subject. And what about the thousands upon thousands of piracy sites out there? Even though these sites may say they exist for informational purposes only, there is definitely a risk that this information can fall into the wrong hands. But then of course if some person did do something based on what he or she read on the internet there is always the debate of the person's character to begin with, but that's another debate altogether...

  3. Mike, I agree with a lot of what you said. When you mention piracy sites that makes me think of Limewire, Bittorrent, and sites like that. How should it be policed and to what extent? The music industry is suffering but there is now a new problem brewing. Books. With Amazon's Kindle, Sony's 'Reader', and other electronic book devices, it is only a matter of time until piracy websites make these books available for illegal downloading. You can already download thousands of PDF files of books to your computer as it is, is that going to effect the publishing industry? Is it right?

  4. Levinson is very consistent on this point, vigorously arguing against any form of regulation of media. Myself, I think that there ought to be limits opposed on commercial media. For example, I think that banning cigarette commercials was a good thing, and the same ought to have been done for alcohol advertising on TV. And there should be regulations governing political speech on the air as well, to ensure fairness. But I would say that blogs are more like print than broadcasting. I also don't believe that the government should grant special privileges to journalists alone--First Amendment rights are for all citizens.