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Discussion of Whether Censorship of Internet is Necessary

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Society, especially the young generation, has become dependent on the internet to express it, communicate, and research. What if the freedom to express oneself through the internet were taken away? It can come in the form of internet censorship. Censorship is the suppression of words, images, or ideas that are offensive where the government can regulate and control what is being published and viewed (Head, 2018). Although, according to the first amendment in the constitution, the citizens of the United States have freedom of speech. Censorship raises the issues of freedom of speech. 

The internet is a form of communication between towns, cities, and the world that has revolutionized over time. The internet first emerged in the 1970s, but it wasn’t until the 1990s that it became available to the public in the U.S. By 2015, approximately 3.2 billion people, or nearly half of the world’s population, were estimated to have access to the internet. North Korea, China, and eight other countries heavily practice internet censorship. Less than 5% of North Koreans have any kind of Internet access at all, and those who can get online access are always monitored (Kilpatrick, 2018). In many countries, censorship is most often directed at political ideas or criticism of the government. The Chinese government has the ‘great firewall of China, which blocks access to some websites. They monitor other sites by making the public provide their national identification number in order to access the internet in cafes. The people who violate the regulations are punished severely. Other democratic countries also practice censorship including Canada, Great Britain, and Germany. In Canada, free speech is under attack as books are being removed from Canadian libraries and schools. Open media has staged a widespread ‘Don’t Censor’ campaign to fight against website blocking plan. In the Google v. Equustek case and it was ruled that Google must remove links worldwide to full websites that contain pages selling allegedly violating trade secret rights. This decision will likely embolden other countries to try to enforce their own laws. Great Britain has a long history of censoring ‘unacceptable’ material on film and television. Currently, there has been increased surveillance and police measures. States are introducing extensive surveillance over online communication, filtering, and tracking practices. In Germany, they passed a law called NetzDG, which imposes huge fines on social networks if they don’t delete illegal content including hate speech. 

Opposition claim that its a slap in the face of all democratic principles. Similar practices of self-censorship are being done by several U.S. corporations including Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, and MySpace. There has been an increase in governmental control of the internet. The extent of censorship would only continue to grow if the law for censorship were approved. Internet censorship in the form of websites, media, comments, news and education in the United States should not be allowed. Censorship meddles with everyone’s rights. It will have many negative impacts on the citizen’s lives since it would be a violation of our right and personal freedom. It will also impact education and the economy. The power to censor material can be abused as subjective opinions will surface. Educational information and communication can be achieved by the internet. Everyone has access to a tremendous amount of information. People can connect with others across the world: the freedom to post on the internet and have information available anytime. An individual can share their thoughts, views, and opinions with others. Censorship will only suppress an individual’s opinion in media, from the information to independent viewpoints. Censorship breaches our freedom to express ideas and beliefs however they feel is appropriate. Everyone has the rights to the information on the internet, for educational purposes or for a person’s own knowledge on a subject. 

Censorship is a way to restrict and control the published information. For example, if the news was censored and the comments concerning the news, it would bring it back to the fact that news is supposed to be factual and truthful backed by proof. If it was to be censored it would suppress a certain side or issue from the public. The comments and discussion that originate off the newspaper open useful insights of other opinions. In 2007, Verizon attempted to block the abortion rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America from using their text messaging services to speak to their supporters (Liptak, 2007). Verizon claimed it was in order to enforce a policy that doesn’t allow their customers to use their service to communicate ‘controversial’ or ‘unsavory’ messages. Verizon took away the right to text material, someone’s right to free speech to discuss matters. Verizon shouldn’t be allowed to control and censor conversation. 

Censorship can affect small businesses and education. It will have a dramatic impact on a child’s education. Education is about preparing for life but if the learning process is affected by censorship what about developing awareness of the world in school? It will lead to a narrow worldview with holes in the cultural and international education of children. Censorship not only affects children but also teachers whose resources are limited by censorship. It restricts a teacher’s ability to explore all possible avenues to motivate and teach students by reducing the ideas that can be discussed in class. Censorship will restrict a child’s ability to grow and learn at the same time, ultimately leading to bigotry. Business will also be affected because of their message or product not being allowed to be promoted and sold online. Some companies’ products won’t be able to be viewed or accessed by consumers especially on an international scale (Poland, n.d.). They are placed in a disadvantage compared to other industry competitors who would be allowed to sell online. Censorship will only benefit those in power and the government because they would be the regulators who decide what is good or bad for the society to see online. Allowing the government that power will take away our own rights. For example, the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act, a recent bill that allowed the Attorney General to take down websites suspected of performing infringement activities. This has raised some concerns that the Department of Justice much more power over websites’ contents. They will decide if the material or comment is hate speech or offensive. Real information can be controlled based on the supervisor’s morals and values. This is when bias and personal feelings will get in the way of the real purpose of censorship. The material that will be removed would be based on subjective judgments about the content of speech. Thus, blindfolding the public to the awareness of the world around them. A video surfaces on Breitbart News of googles weekly T.G.I.F meetings where employees and leadership debate over matters. In the video, Sergey Brin, the Google co-founder, said that “as an immigrant…I find the election deeply offensive.” People have been concerned of the Googles bias opinion about the president and how it could effect the web serach engine (Swisher, 2018). With censorship means ideas are less likely to be shared. When people fear criticism or retribution for sharing their thoughts, they’re less likely to put them out there. 

Some new ideas are so controversial and challenge the system, but they should nt be censored. There should be room left for oppsing viewpoints on the internet. Our government and governments around the world are going to be far more responsive to the views of their citizens if they’re hearing from them. And if the citizens don’t like what the government’s doing, they have every right to make that known. The U.S. Senate just voted 97-2 to pass the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA, H.R. 1865), a bill that silences online speech by forcing Internet platforms to censor their users (Harmon, 2018). Despite the good intentions, it was a bad law. The bill also expands existing federal criminal law to target online platforms where sex trafficking content appears. The bill is worded so broadly that it could even be used against platform owners that don’t know that their sites are being used for trafficking. Online platforms will have little choice but to become much more restrictive in what sorts of discussion they allow, censoring innocent people in the process. The Internet will become a less inclusive place Ultimately if censorship was enabled it can lead to abuse of that power affecting us without our own knowledge. 

The consequences of censorship will be dramatic. This situation can be related to the book 1984 by George Orwell who wrote about a totalitarian society where everything is censored and monitored. The big boss (government) is always watching the public. The public continues to live their lives without meaning or truth of the outside world. The public isn’t even aware of what country they are fighting a war against. With internet censorship, there is a lack of truth and the power to withhold the truth would be given to select few in government in the U.S. Concealing the truth from citizens has consequences that shouldn’t be overlooked. It’s better to be aware of problems and be able to defend oneself against them than banish them to some unknown realm where they can grow, unchecked. The advocates for censorship target materials that contain sexuality. The reason being the safety of what the child can come across online. They argue about how the internet isn’t safe for a child without censorship and the fact online games can lead to addiction (Kilpatrick, 2018). It should be the responsibility of the parent to oversee that their kid isn’t spending excessive time on the internet thus leading to addiction. It doesn’t have to resort to censorship just because of what a child can find online about hatred against certain religious or pornography. The guardians should have control and knowledge of what the child is accessing. There are other measures taken outside the home such as the school that blocks certain websites from being accessed by the students. There is also the Children’s Internet Protection Act of 2000, which requires libraries and schools to restrict minors’ access to sustainable material and antipornography filters on computers with federally financed Internet access. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 2000 protecting the privacy of minors online. These acts protect minors so censoring the information for all citizens is not necessary. Opponents also argue that censorship will prevent people from violating copyrights but laws already exist that protects those issues. Censorship claim that having censorship on the internet will prevent illegal material from being shared, but it doesn’t have to resort to that when there are laws that exist to prosecute individuals who commit crimes through the internet. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 protects copyright infringements. “Censorship represents a tyranny over the mind,” once stated by Thomas Jefferson. Censorship conceals the truth and sets limits to our freedom of speech. Censorship is particularly harmful in schools since it prevents young children with inquiring minds from seeking truth and reason. Economic resources for small business would be prevented from promoting business. 

Overall, censorship will give the power to the government to keep pertinent information from its citizens. Censorship will be used by the government in an intimidating manner against social media, print media and any other online information. Free speech is important and it’s our duty to make sure that it remains strong and unobstructed on the internet. Censorship is harmful, therefore, censorship is not necessary. 

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