Internet Censorship: Pros and Cons Essay

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Is Internet Censorship Justified within a Democracy?

Prompt: Under what circumstances, if any, can censorship of the media be justified in a democracy, and what are the potential dangers? Give examples to illustrate your answer

In any democracy, not all information is made public, as information flows and circulates throughout a society, there is a regulation of information and censorship that is controlled by a government. The governing body of a democracy picks and chooses what is necessary to dispel to the public in order to ensure the safety and protection of society. Control can be established over the press, advertisements, oral communication, and mass media. Though it should be a fundamental right for a democracy to have access to vital information, in some regards, censorship can be justified within a democracy. Censorship can be justified in terms of protecting society from false information that challenges the creditability of the media and limiting extremist views in order to prevent violence and terrorism. Though there is justifiable censorship, particular measures of censorship can spawn potential dangers to a given society.

Censorship has played a role in human history for decades. Within the digital media age, censorship is only going to increase for the next decades to come. Censorship has already become a normal routine surveillance within many countries. Censorship is defined as “the power to suppress parts of books, films, letters, news, etc. on the grounds of obscenity, risk to security” (Oppenheim & Smith, 2004). With this definition of censorship, it alludes to being necessary when there is a risk to society. Censorship is supposed to be an ally to the public by providing inclusion, safety, and accurate information.

One's view of the world is largely influenced by the media one consumes rather than one’s own personal experience. The media has extreme power over what views people might formulate while digesting such media. In a democracy, freedom and access to information are understood as necessary operations to ensure the development and protection of individual rights. In the digital age, internet media is a hive for society members to post ideas and opinions regarding the particular economic climate of a democracy. Citizens deserve the right to be able to publish and speak their views in order to advance the greater good of society. People need access to unbiased information to form ideas and make necessary opinions on important topics. An issue with retrieving news online is the creditability of said news sources. While online, it can be difficult to see past uncredited sources of information. In the modern world, people have the right to create fraudulent sources of news and information. Along with the creation of fake news, people also have used the internet to promote extremist agendas that unlawfully target particular demographics and nationalities. Views that are extremist, can pose a threat to society. Extremist views can promote terrorist attacks that can put the general public in danger. Misinformation that is distorted and inaccurate has the possibility to derail ones thinking and give one a misperception of the world. Censorship in this instance, can be justified to protect the moral and political principles of a society. No longer is censorship limited to printed media and films, it is extremely relevant in the age of the internet. Censorship can be justified if it is able to protect the greater good of society.

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Internet news is abundant and easily available nowadays (Lu and Andrews, 2006). The majority of people turn to the Internet as opposed to other traditional news outlets because of its convenience. It is estimated in a research study conducted by the Pew Research Center that “43% of Americans report often getting news online, just 7 percentage points lower than the 50% who often get news on television” ( Gottfried and Shearer, 2017). Television has long dominated as the main source of news, however, since the rise of the internet, television has been decreasing as the main source. The internet is rapidly taking its place as the new main source of news information. This new-found reliance on internet news “poses a threat to the accuracy of news being distributed. Due to the nature of the internet such as the anonymity of sender location, the role of the sender, and even the identity of the sender, there are few barriers to stop people from publishing on the internet” ( Mehrabi, Hassan, & Sham Shahkat Ali, 2009). With the common person having access to post anything they want online, this poses a threat to the accuracy of the information that circulates online. Many online sources of today are not fact-checked, have no creditable sources, and are filled with false accusations. These particular matters have been linked with concerns of “fabricated or false quotation and other type of information counterfeit”(Fogg, 2003). According to Gorman a professor at the Victoria University of Wellington, he explains “censorship that is directly involved in the regulation of information flows serves as the considerably important measure that can protect society from disinformation” (Gorman, 2007). Censorship can be an ally in limiting the disinformation of certain websites. Another supporter of Internet censorship mentions that along with controlling disinformation, “information over the Internet carries a certain amount of potentially harmful or illegal content that can instigate criminal activities and terrorism” (Cohen, 1997). Along with the inaccuracy of information, this information can spawn more criminal activity and terrorism. Censorship can be used as a tool to prevent misinformation from spreading online. Disinformation is dangerous since it can inaccurately inform viewers of important current events. The internet has no checks and balances of information that is published online which could be a threat to society. With the internet having a wide and diverse audience of viewers who use sites as sources for information, censorship can provide better sources to its given society so they can be more accurately informed. Education is the backbone of society, members of a democracy need to be accurately informed in order to make logical decisions to advance a country. The censorship of inaccurate and non-fact-checked news can be beneficial for those seeking hard and factual news on the internet. Censorship is justifiable because it can prevent and protect citizens from false information.

The government is justified in using censorship to protect the public from terrorism and extremism that can be found on the internet. Extremism is a national security issue that affects everyone in a particular society. Censorship can be used to limit the spread of extremism and to prevent dangerous and racist extremist views from being posted online. For example, Islamic extremism is considered to be a poetically dangerous issue in Kazakhstan (Rywkin, 2005: 441). However, due to the government’s response to controlling extremist media, dangerous and threatening extremist viewpoints do not pose a threat to security any longer. By censoring dangerous media, it has proven to limit the threats that were once a concern to society. This example provides context to how censorship can be beneficial to limiting such dangers.

The blurred lines that come with the term “national security “is where the potential dangers of censorship arise. The problem is that the concept of ‘national security’ is vaguely defined and can be interpreted in a way that the authorities want it to be interpreted (Wolfers, 1952: 481 - 482). The government is left to define what they feel is a threat to national security. Some governments may use this as a way to suppress their democracy. This then allows the government to suppress the freedom of expression, silencing certain racial and ethnic groups, and other human rights by defining it as protection of the state. Along with this, censorship of what is said online poses a huge threat to the right to free speech. The diversity of content online should not be limited if the government is not in favor of the ideas posted. Of course, the government should monitor online speech that is looking to harm and threaten the safety of society members. However, giving the government power to censor what each person posts online can do more harm than good. Giving the government this power to limit speech online it puts free speech in danger. The internet should stay as a breeding ground for new practices and ideas without limitation. The danger of absolute control over the web can weaken and limit a democracies ability to freely think and make educated choices.

The idea and intent of censorship in a society may deem as unjust and a limitation to the freedom of speech and ideas. However, in some cases, censorship could be beneficial in providing accurate news sources and limiting extremism that might be a danger to a given society. More and more, people are turning to the internet to form political ideas and conclusions. The issue with this has to deal with fraudulent news that is broadcasted on the internet. There are no checks and balances on the web that can prevent the spread of fake news. In relation, harmful and hateful speech has a home online without regulation. This form of hate speech can put particular demographics in danger. Though censorship has the possibility to limit dangerous acts of terrorism from spawning, the danger of letting the government control what is deemed as a threat to national security is unsettling. Giving the government the power to limit certain media outlets can halt the progression of society and stop the sharing of ideas. Censorship is still a slippery slope because it is not guaranteed to stop these social issues. In some instances, it has the power to worsen these issues and make them more prevalent in other forms. Censorship is justifiable if it can provide an unbiased and accurate approach to bettering the news that appears on the web. Censorship can also be justifiable for protecting the public from terrorism and extremism that can be found on the internet. More research needs to be done on censorship before any actions take place in the future.

Works Cited

    1. Bitso, C., Fourie, I. and Bothma, T. J. (2013). Trends in transition from classical censorship to Internet censorship: selected country overviews. Innovation, 46 (1), 166 - 191.
    2. Censorship in libraries - Charles Oppenheim and Victoria Smith Cohen, T. 1997. Censorship and the regulation of speech on the Internet. Johannesburg: Centre for Applied Legal Studies.
    3. Fogg, B. J., 2003. persuasive technology: using computers to change what we think and do. San Francisco: Morgan Kaufman Publishers.
    4. Gorman, G. (2007). A tale of information ethics and encyclopædias; or, is Wikipedia just another internet scam? Online Information Review, 31(3), 273-276.
    5. Gottfried, J., & Shearer, E. (2017, September 7). Internet closes in on TV as a source of news in the U.S. Retrieved from
    6. Lu, H., and Andrews, J. E., 2006. College Students’ Perception of the Absolute Media Credibility about SARS-Related News during the SARS Outbreak in Taiwan. China Media Research, 2(2), 85-93.
    7. Mehrabi, D. (2009, November 1). News Media Credibility of the Internet and Television. Retrieved January 8, 2020, from
    8. O'Malley, T., & Soley, C. (2000). Regulating the press. London: Pluto Press. RYWKIN, M. I. C. H. A. E. L. (n.d.). Stability in Central Asia: Engaging Kazakhstan. Retrieved from
    9. Feintuck, M., & Varney, M. (2013). Media regulation, public interest, and the law. Edinburgh: Edinburgh Univ. Press.
    10. Wolfers, A. (1952). 'National Security' as an Ambiguous Symbol. Political Science Quarterly, 67(4), 481-502. doi:10.2307/2145138
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Internet Censorship: Pros and Cons Essay. (2023, November 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 23, 2024, from
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