By Patricia Jacobus, Lisa M. Bowman and Rachel Konrad
Staff Writers, CNET News.com
April 19, 2001, 4:00 a.m. PT
Not long ago, civil libertarians looked to cyberspace as the utopia of
ultimate freedom, beyond the reach of restrictive technologies and
Today, that dream may be fading with the hyper-speed of Internet time.
A combination of new technologies, recent laws and international
restrictions--sometimes related, more often not--are making possible a kind
of online regulation once thought impossible. Although no one predicts a
global, overnight crackdown, proponents of Internet restrictions are
turning increasingly to effective software filters and tracking programs
that can create barriers on the Web and help find those who breach them.
Perhaps emboldened by the recent French court ruling against Yahoo, foreign
governments are aggressively pursuing online initiatives ranging from bans
on hate material to campaigns against piracy. Even more important are
proposed international treaties that raise the specter of a true government
on the multinational Internet for the first time.
Building fences, one by one
At the crux of the controversy is a new generation of software programs
that can block specified content and track people based on their physical
Filters face free-speech test
As a result of a new federal law, thousands of U.S. libraries are facing a
conundrum: filter Internet content against their will, or risk losing
Nations head for global clash
Foreign governments are moving to regulate the Internet with growing
frequency, raising the potential for the kind of conflict with U.S. law not
seen in years.