Should Government Regulate the Internet? – Pro

Grace Hilty, Feature Editor

I will be the first to admit that the Internet bills currently in the House and Senate are failing for good reason. These bills address the issue of online piracy, but fail to maintain free, open access to other web content. SOPA and PIPA disregard the “code” that has existed since the dawn of the Internet Age: that all legal information transmitted over the net is free and available, without extensive government monitoring.

However, although the most recent Internet-regulating bills leave much to be desired, this does not deem all Internet regulation unreasonable. The list of possible Internet crimes is boundless, and their consequences are basically nonexistent. “Cracking,” or computer security hacking, is the most common Internet crime. Hackers exploit the weaknesses in an established computer system. There are very few reported, prosecuted cases of cracking, so the legal consequences are iffy to say the least.

Copyright infringement and child pornography are other serious concerns of those pushing for Internet regulation. The legal penalty for copyright infringement today is a monetary fine as low as $200.

The majority of copyright infringements and instances of Internet piracy go unreported, losing the entertainment industry millions of dollars each year.

In response, the FBI has developed an investigative organization within the bureau to monitor computer intrusions, online predators, piracy and intellectual property rights, and Internet fraud. The FBI’s efforts against cyber crime are targeted at educating the masses as to the avoidance of cyber threats and scams. However, active Internet crime is scarcely combatted or prosecuted.

The issue of Internet regulation comes at a time in which online piracy is rampant. In fact, according to The Economist, for every one purchased song worldwide, there are 20 illegal downloads. In 2007, global music sales fell by 8 percent, due in large part to “file-sharing” software. Avatar was the most-pirated movie of 2010, with upwards of 17 million illegal downloads in that year alone.

Piracy depresses international sales outside of the entertainment industry as well.

There is a fine line between unreasonable infringement of Internet freedom and safe regulation.

It is now the time to take an active approach towards the prosecution of Internet crime, ranging from child pornography to copyright infringement.

At this point, we can not rule out regulating the Internet. Frankly, the Internet is a scary place, and Internet crimes are scarcely reported. Certainly some Internet activity should be monitored. The FBI maintains 1,000 agents and analysts tracking three main target groups: terrorists, organized crime rings, and state-sponsored cyber-espionage. Beyond these serious threats to cyber security and terrorism, though, comes the threat to American industry.

The Internet was developed as a forum for an open flow of communication and information. However, this flow cannot be “open” until the threat posed by computer hackers, scammers, and other cyber criminals is eliminated. In order to secure our net, we must continue to push Internet regulation through Congress until the Internet can be, at once, a free, open, and safe market for information.

Interested in the counterargument? Check out staff writer Kelsi Lerner’s: