Internet has bridge the gap in this digital age where information is no longer specifying to certain groups or territories but can be obtained within at fingertip within second from around the world. The growth of Internet also has fostered societal problems on a global scale. These can be in the form of pornographic, political speech, promotion of or incitement to racial hatred and much more negative impact which can be challenging to cultural norms, laws, and values. While national governments are attempting to regulate the Internet, there is certainly an issue, which is not ready to be regulated over cyberspace - freedom of speech even here in Malaysia, which is a democracy country. Right now users event children at the age of seven are speeding down the "information superhighway", accessing an almost unlimited amount of information. Unfortunately, some of this information isn't geared for children and can even be strictly for adults.
Just as inappropriate material in books and magazines is regulated not to mention movies, which have to go through censorship board, there too should be some form of Internet regulation and ethics because users especially children have access to any and all information including that information which is objectionable and even harmful. This has resulted to governments around the world addressing the problems of material on the Internet that is illegal under their offline laws, and also that considered harmful or otherwise unsuitable for minors. Few governments have attempted to ban or otherwise legislatively restrict access to matter unsuitable for minors as distinct from material illegal to distribute to adults. For example, the Government of Saudi Arabia. Public access to and from the Internet has been funneled through a single government controlled center since February 1999 when Internet access was first made available. From this centre, the government blocks access to Internet content deemed unsuitable for the country's citizens, such as information considered sensitive for political or religious reasons, pornographic sites, etc.
Software developer also played an important role by providing ways for concerned parents to limit or block access to pornographic or sex related websites but this is not enough as their children still can visit these websites through computers elsewhere especially at cyber cafe. Just take a look at the growing numbers of sexual cases nowadays and those committed by minors. Visiting these websites can lead them to act immorally and beyond our cultural and religious practices. Another good example were cases in Singapore where people reported that they were conned by an online sex chat service and were billed thousand of dollars for their telephone connection. The content provider mislead visitors to click a button (a dialer program) on the website which saying that visitors will be connected to an online sex chat server. What happened was, after clicking the button the modem will be directed to dial an international number, which provided the sex caller services and it is an international call not an internet online service.
Our government needs to play role not only in educating Malaysian the negative impact of visiting these websites but to restrict or block access to these sites. Denying access through local Internet Service Provider (ISP) server can be part of the solution. In September 1996, China reportedly banned access to an estimated 100 Web sites by using a filtering system to prevent delivery of offending information. The banned sites included Western news outlets, Taiwanese commentary sites, anti-China dissident sites and sexually explicit sites. Government needs through legislation or at least specify this as an internet code of practice to all local ISP to deny users from accessing or visiting sites which promoting or providing pornographic materials. Freedom of speech such as spreading of words of hatred through internet also needs to be monitored by government.
Government cannot control the amount of information being spread through the information superhighway especially stopping people from hosting their websites through internet. It will be against the human right value to do so as article 19 of United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights stated: - "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers". What can be done is to instruct ISP to temporarily shutting down the server which hosted the website until all contents which deem unsuitable to nation politic or racial harmony be taken out from the website. There are others issues or practices which are offended to internet users such as e-mail spamming which is irrelevant or inappropriate messages sent on the Internet to a large number of newsgroups or users, spyware and ad-ware which are installed secretly without the knowledge of users, cyber-squatting and peer to peer programs (P 2 P) which can lead to losses in business activities and money and hacking. Internet is border-less and it is very hard to control it. Governments can play major role to curb these activities by introducing or amending the cyber and criminal laws to include these as offenses and forming agencies or through existing agencies to monitor and identify parties which distributed or responsible in conducting these acts.