Should Internet Censorship Be Avoided?

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Internet is ubiquitous in every household across the globe. Today, more than 3 billion people, approximately 45% of the world population, are online, a trend that is not likely to slow down anytime soon. Everyone has access to massive amount of information that is available at finger-tips. It provides a platform where people can connect from two different ends of the world and share their thoughts and opinions, thereby serving as a powerful engine for free expression. The United Nations deems it a human right to be able to access the internet and all the information on it free of any restrictions. Since it’s so pivotal in our lives today, anything done to restrict it’s use forms a topic of discussion. One of the big concerns surrounding it in recent years is Internet Censorship. Internet Censorship is a regulatory mechanism to control what can be published, accessed or viewed across the internet. The Internet has become the new battle ground between governments who censor what their citizens access or post online and ordinary individuals who want unimpeded access to information.

Censorship of internet is a double-edged sword. It has it’s merits but in others it can be detrimental to society. On one hand censorship can limit the illegal activities carried out online and consequently protect children, who most often fall victims to such ominous activities. It can curb the spread of fake news, propaganda, often caused to ignite communal hatred, thus helping to maintain social stability and national safety. Unfortunately, censorship also limits creativity and knowledge, by restricting people’s potential to access information that can facilitate development in their lives. There is no place on earth where there is absolute freedom. Internet is one such platform, where everyone can express themselves freely. It transcends the barriers of creed, caste class and religion. Giving someone total control over what can be accessed and what not would mean infringing on basic human rights.

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Thesis Statement

Censorship is futile as not only has it been ineffective in restricting access, it has also had the side effect of popularising blocked content

Ok. Agreed that the modern day indispensable thing called Internet can be a vile place and calls for censorship. But how effective has the government forced censorship been in mitigating the menacing effects of Internet? Authoratarian regimes such as China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia are at the forefront when it comes to censoring news and information online. Each of these countries have a variety of control mechanism in place, mostly aimed to limit access to sesitive political and religious information, pornography and gambling. Mostly in such countries, government is the sole provider of the internet. They are able to monitor the activity of all the users in the country and have variety of methods to limit their access. But in this age of internet, there always exists one or the other ways to circumvent the censorship that these governments impose. Researchers and activists are actively developing anticensorship tools. Censors on the other hand are strengthening their infrastructure to stay ahead. This has led to a cat and mouse game between the two. Having complete control over information is not possible - banned movies and TV Shows will always get surfaced. In some cases, the blocked content, after it’s revelation, goes viral following the Streisand Effect. The Streisand effect can be defined as the inadvertent popularity of any material as a result of its suppression. There have been many such instances in recent past which shows that the censorship isn’t just ineffective, it can also backfire horribly. These include the swell in the number of Twitter users after the Web Site was blocked in Turkey. The Turkish government also blocked access to Youtube to stop access to leaked recordings implicating the Turkish prime minister and other officials in corruption. All the efforts failed miserabely when Alexa’s rankings of website popularity showed that Youtube breached into top 10 most-visited websites in Turkey during the censorship period. The Streisand Effect in many instances showcases the futility of censorship. Banning content on internet generates more interest in content and increases its circulation.

The government needs to reconsider all the time, money and resources it puts into its various censorship practises because most of them are incapable of achieveing their objectives.

Freedom of expression should be a fundamental human right. Censorship is not ethically justifiable. It is against the freedom of speech and violates human rights. Besides, the censorship is controlled by the government. The government may abuse the right of censorship to suppress its criticism and discourse of political opposition. The government may even run surveillance over the citizens and have full control over the nation’s dynamics. The government has excessive control over the citizens and democracy of the nation is damaged greatly. This is a step towards dictatorship. National security is important but it is not worth trading liberty for.

Most apt example would be “The Great Firewall” which is a government controlled censorship run in China. They operate the most sophisticated internet filtering and surveillance infrastructure in the world, employing thousands

Censorship is curbing creativity and innovation

The Internet has made the world a smaller place. People across the globe come together and exchange ideas on intellectual and ideological levels, thus forming one true global community. If the Internet is censored, this integration on mass scale will not be possible.

Censorship not only removes all the offensive content from internet, we also lose access to some of the highly sort after and useful information. Along with people who surf the internet just as a time pass, there are also plethora of people who use it for education and other important purposes. The removal of such useful information will deprive people of their source of information and their right to grow as well. China presents a perfect example of how the whole country’s ability to innovate in the digital age is held hostage to a strong government’s censorship regime. Students are blocked from accessing foreign university websites. Academicians cannot collaborate with their international peers for carrying out researches because “The Great Firewall” blocks everything from online tools like Google Scholar to groundbreaking research papers. A generation of Chinese is coming of age with an internet that is distinctively different from the rest of the world. The government has setup its own ecosystem that has everything developed only for the Chinese. Many youngsters have little idea what Google, Twitter or Facebook are, creating a gulf with the rest of the world. With its own arsenal of homegrown apps and services China is fostering an environment in which many people appear uninterested in knowing what has been censored online. The proponents argue that this ecosystem has just about everything that the outside world boasts of – its own search engine, social media network , streaming platforms etc. However it is not a conducive environment for revolutionary thinking and innovation since there is no competition.

What’s more worrisome is that China has now started to export its model of a censored internet to other countries including Vietnam, Tanzania and Ethiopia.

The quality and authenticity of internet information is questionable. There is a ton of obscene content available online such as pornography, terrorist activities, racial hatred etc. Billions of people have access to internet. And it is the anonymity provided by the Internet which gives pornographers and criminals opportunity to abuse the medium. This disturbing content exerts negative influence on people especially children, physically and psychologically. Such content may weaken children’s moral consciousness and pollute their soul. In adolescence, the tendency of affected children’s to commit crimes also increases. Although there are laws in place to regulate illegal, immoral information and activities, it is very hard to charge a person for internet crimes. Thus, plethora of illegal activities are rampant on the internet.The supporters of internet censorship believe that the censorship can cleanse the internet information and protect people’s personal security.

However, trends seems to suggest that the censorship is not helping the cause. There is no evidence suggesting any relationship between Internet censorship and crime rate.

Censorship stops fake news. Around x % of all the internet users currently are on social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. People share breaking news of the day and engage in healthy discussions and debates around that. But the ease with which the information is shared on these sites has led to its misuse. Today, anyone can set up their own blogs and use it to promote news and opinions without having to undergo any scrutiny. Recent Cambridge Analytica scandal brought to light the deep and lasting impact these online activities can have. When such activities can do so much as to swing the results of a major political event, the issue begs for attention.

However fake news could be a really dangerous excuse for censorship, especially when we are well aware that the people with whom the power of censorship is vested, could themselves be the perpetrator of fake news. Politicians like that power when it’s targeted at their enemies, not so much when they are on the receiving end. Many governments will try to suppress criticism and discussions that are against them. It violated the freedom of free speech.

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Should Internet Censorship Be Avoided? (2022, Jun 29). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 15, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/should-internet-censorship-be-avoided/
“Should Internet Censorship Be Avoided?” Edubirdie, 29 Jun. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/should-internet-censorship-be-avoided/
Should Internet Censorship Be Avoided? [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/should-internet-censorship-be-avoided/> [Accessed 15 Jul. 2024].
Should Internet Censorship Be Avoided? [Internet] Edubirdie. 2022 Jun 29 [cited 2024 Jul 15]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/should-internet-censorship-be-avoided/
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