CENTENNIAL HONORS COLLEGE Western Illinois University Undergraduate Research Day 2015

Western Illinois University
Undergraduate Research Day 2015
Poster Presentation
Should an Authoritative Figure Step in to Police the Internet? A Quantitative and
Qualitative Study of How the Public Views Net Neutrality and Prior Restraint
Robert Gordon
Faculty Mentor: Yong Tang
English and Journalism
Net neutrality has been a controversial concept since the term was coined by Tim Wu, a Columbian
University media law professor, in 2003. This concept revolves around the principle that Internet service
providers and governments should treat data on the Internet equally and not discriminate or charge
differently by user, content, site, platform, application, attached equipment, or style of communication.
Net neutrality proponents insist that Congress should enact laws to allow the Federal Communications
Commission to regulate the Internet to ensure equality and non-discrimination. On the other hand, net
neutrality opponents believe that any FCC regulation would deter investment, harm innovation and
constitute as prior restraint prohibited by the First Amendment. Few scholars have examined how the
average citizen in this country perceives net neutrality and its relevance to prior restraint. The purpose of
this study is to examine, both quantitatively and qualitatively, how the general public views net neutrality
and the connections between censorship. This project will combine focus group interviews with online
surveys. The study will also use a snowball-sampling technique to distribute a questionnaire to over 500
students, professionals and employees from a mid-sized Midwestern university. The study will invite 10
people of varying backgrounds to participate in a focus group interview. The numerical data gathered
from the survey will be analyzed by the SPSS statistical software package. The textual data obtained
from the focus group interview will be examined to shed light into research findings.
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