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NET.WARS by Wendy M. Grossman

NET.WARS

By Wendy M. Grossman

Pub Date: Jan. 5th, 1998
ISBN: 0-8147-3103-1
Publisher: New York Univ.

 An informed view of the conflicts within the emerging cyber culture. Grossman, a freelance journalist, covers some old ground (the Communications Decency Act of 1996, for instance), but for the most part she concerns herself with newer issues unique to cyberspace. One area of controversy is cryptography, the process by which digital messages are scrambled to keep them private. The government finds the idea of complete privacy uncomfortable: What if someone is passing seditious messages or child pornography in encrypted E-mail? One of the most volatile areas is copyright protection in an age of electronic reproduction; Grossman covers here the ``copyright terrorism'' practiced by the Church of Scientology, which relentlessly litigated and, it has been alleged, physically threatened and harassed former members who tried to make copyrighted church texts public on the Internet. Although courts have supported the Scientologists' right to protect their materials, the peripheral results, most notably the closing down of several remailers (who offered anonymity to those who wanted to send messages without identifying themselves), was, many felt, too great a price to pay. Grossman also devotes space to the battle of the sexes on the Internet, paying particular attention to issues of sexual harassment via computer and the endless war against pornography of all kinds; the proliferation of pornography on the Internet seems, Grossman observes, to prove that ``sex perceives regulation as a dam and diverts into new media.'' Unfortunately, the solutions that Grossman suggests, while more politically moderate than those suggested by others, seem to subvert the true purpose of the Internet. She suggests smaller, more manageable virtual communities, whereas the Internet, in theory, is supposed to link all corners of the world. At least Grossman is offering solutions, however, which is what distinguishes Net.Wars from most contributions on this seemingly inexhaustible topic.