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Censorship of the Internet

Digital divide crosses all borders, culturally and
geographically, discuss how the digital divide affects
society in 2014.

2) Now that you have a deeper understanding of society�s
relationship with IT from ISYS100 what do you think is the
biggest issue we need to address when it comes to
information technology? Discuss solutions to this issue
with supported evidence.

3) The information revolution of the last decade has

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meant that there are so many more powered devices in
our homes and lives. At what cost is this increase to our
environment? Furthermore, are there any companies or
organisations trying to offset this somehow?

Censorship of the Internet

The Internet has over the past few years been used to suppress rising mass action calls
against dictatorial nations and leaders leading to censorships all over the world. White (1997)
describes censors as those who defend the predominant philosophy by which those who benefit
are those who have gained status, power, wealth, and control within society; and want to legalize
their prominence and the diverse societal, political and economic arrangements they govern.
Article 19 of the Universal Human Rights Declaration states that everyone has the right to
opinion and expression, these rights include freedom to seek opinions without interference, and
to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers
(Universal Declaration, 1948). This is ideally what the censorship of the internet contradicts.
Reinhard (2007) terms it as the government or authorities’ suppression of any public expression
that it believes is a threat to its power or the societal expected code of conduct especially online
through the use of the internet. Censorship is not only used to control politically divergent views,
but also in the control of materials deemed obscene to people of a certain age. The motives of

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censorship vary and this paper will look at some of them as well as how it can work in some
instances while being a detriment to the society in some.
According to Walid al-Saqaf (2012), there are various forms of internet censorship
including surveillance and sever takedowns. This method is majorly used by governments to
suppress groups that seem to use the internet to gain numbers in order to fight them. The
governments watch then and what they post online and as a way to control them by shutting
down the servers, and cutting down such movements. Another tool used again majorly to subdue
any aggression deemed dangerous by authorities is by use of slowing down of the internet speed
and causing disconnections for bulk traffic. This serves to cut off or reduce the rapid movement
and growth of such groups. There are, in addition to the above, the non-technical methods of
surveillance, and they include the use of legal prosecution and detention. This is mainly used in
the areas where ethical issues arise like cases of child pornography and some aspects of human
rights violation. There are some laws that govern internet use and restrictions, when violated, the
individuals in question can be arrested and prosecuted with the violations of the stated laws.
Recent research shows a growing trend in censorship majorly because of civil unrests
with the Middle East and Asian countries on the lead. The Middle East and North Africa were
seen to censor social and political aspects of their population while others like Australia were
keen on social content like child pornography (Al-saqaf, 2007). Others, on the other hand, have
overhauled the internet and replaced the same with an intranet to control the use by the
opposition and suppress any form of aggression.

Benefits of Internet Censorship

Even though most of the times censorship is seen as a vice, it actually is beneficial in
some circumstances. Harris (2011) argues that censorship is to some extent beneficial as it serves

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to watch and control some societal, ethical norms. Censorship of the internet especially where
underage children are involved is by far beneficial as it does not only regulate access to materials
that may harm them but some that or may hinder their proper growth and health as well as
behavior. Some materials include contents with nudity, those that are vulgar and contents with
various forms of violence.
Secondly, internet censorship can be said to be advantageous because, it controls the
speed at which the right information gets to the intended users. The internet is empowered with
speed as an advantage and if not controlled, unconfirmed information may easily flow to people;
this may cause panic and unrests depending on the nature of information. The control of release
of confirmed reports is necessary especially in wars or reports of accidents. The internet is full of
materials and reports of issues that are unconfirmed that at times does not go well with different
culture, religious beliefs and are ideologically different. The internet has literally everything
including information that one may need about military installations of different countries,
censorship of this kind of materials and information is not only important for the safety of the
nation within itself but also against its external enemies. This not only leverages the nation’s
stability, as well as protects it. There are also advantages like personal privacy protection; this is
where censorship restricts the transfer of private data or information of individuals without their
knowledge and permission. An example of such is when Google in Australia through street view
cars collected private information through Wi-Fi (Shears, 2010).
Censorship also serves to control cyber bullying and scams. These are cases where
internet users use the tool to threaten and intimidate other users racially, sexually and even use it
to engage in illegal trade activities. Without such the use of the internet would not be as intended
as many unscrupulous persons will engage in illegal trade and earn a living from unfair gains. It

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is important for authorities to control what is posted on the internet and help ascertain how
genuine they are in order to protect their citizens from online scams.
Most of the television shows are of violent nature and vulgar or contains nudity, without
proper control the society will be corrupted by what they see on the screens. It can be argued that
the internet has led to the increase in crime across the globe. The internet does not just teach one
of how to handle a gun but where you can get one legally and illegally (Harris, 2011). Without
censorship of such materials, it will soon be normal occurrences to hear of shootouts and
daylight robberies with a greater threat being the minors who make up the larger population of
users of the internet.
Internet censorship also serves to control and manage copyright laws infringement. Since
almost all material is easily found on the internet, it would only be proper that their fair use be
regulated as some of the producers earn a living from them (Mallisk, 2009). Online sites if not
regulated will only print or permit access without this as a consideration. This not only hinders
the growth and rise of new authors, but also squeezes life out of the few remaining.
Gaille (2013) also suggests that the access and downloading of contents that belong to
other entities without their permission or paying for the use is illegal and should not be allowed
in any country. Internet censorship is equally important and can work as it helps control phishing
schemes, these are schemes that are seemingly legitimate but work to steal one’s personal
information for their personal use leading to identity theft.

Harmful Effects of Internet Censorship

Whereas all these seem to be genuine and strong reasons to accept and implement
internet censorship, it has equally far-reaching harmful effects to the society. Poland (2014) is of
the opinion that, the internet has indeed become a vital component of our lives and has made the

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world a much smaller place. This is because through the internet, communication is now possible
throughout the world and in minutes, a person can share thoughts and opinions and transmit them
to the other side of the world. Limiting the use of the internet will hence, bring an interruption to
this. It is not only a universal human right to share and express ones opinions.
Harris (2011) further states that internet censorship limits access to academic resources;
this is because of the use of filters to block some key words normally used in search of adult
contents. Although the intention is well aligned and ethical, some key words filtered will obstruct
the access off relevant materials with no relation to the works that were meant to be blocked by
the filters. A good example she states, is the book Moby dick, the book cannot be accessed in
most schools with online filters because of the words in the title. Such resources are beneficial to
students and filtering makes it impossible to access them
The internet has given the world a central meeting place (Poland, 2014). It has provided
diverse cultures, religions, institutions and even people of different languages a place of common
ground In that they can all meet and share their diverse or similar views as well as, there
intellectual and ideological issues, they also have through the internet been able to share their
experiences in their different countries. Internet censorship comes in the way of all this progress
and unity in diversity that the internet has brought about. This has even the major undoing of
many nations because of the rampant sharing of ideologies, authoritarian regimes have been
ruling in fear of appraisals as information from other states and how the populations in this
countries managed to control or makes their grievances addressed. Limiting the usage of internet
would virtually close cut the relationships that people have worked to build and strive to
maintain. This will widen the social gaps between nations and additionally hinders nations or the
population from learning about others.

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The financial implication of setting up a properly functional censorship and regulatory
mechanism is relatively high (Harris, 2011). It is costly to put up any internet censorship remedy
and the cost increases with the size of the institution, for example, the cost of putting up a
firewall in a country would be far much higher that he one needed to set up the same for a
school. There are the additional charges of monitoring and frequent updating and follow-ups
needed. These costs are expensive and should be avoided. Developing nations have much more
serious needs from their citizens than censorship and the funds used in such programs can be
used to reduce and minimize if not control these urgent needs.
Poland A. (2014) points out that another detrimental effect of internet censorship is its
effect on the marketing and sells of goods and services. Since censorship bars access of some
information on the internet some businesses are either partially or totally eclipsed either locally
or globally, such actions prevent the growth and success of business, which the governments
depend on for tax and foreign exchange. Internet censorship does kill the competitive edge that
the business would have otherwise had if it was not censored. This also limits the buyers from
accessing the best available goods as they are only limited to some specific ones. This can also
be abused by those in governments to only show that which they want bought and bar those that
maybe of quality but will not profit them.
There is additionally the cases of media repression, journalists in certain countries are
arrested tortured and jailed (Mallisk, 2009). China is said to be the world’s leader in jailing
journalists according to the human rights body Amnesty International with about 30 journalists
and 50 internet users said to be jailed as of 2008 (Mallisk, 2009). These actions bring fear and
intimidate the internet users, frequent jailing and torture makes it hard for new writers and
internet users to post issues of concern on the internet as the hawk eyes of the government are all

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over their virtual space. This act additionally kills creativity as even the poets cannot simply
express themselves without the fear of being arrested and jailed.
Mallisk (2009) additionally states that in countries with cases of human rights violation
and stringent censorship practices, it is overwhelmingly difficult to ascertain the extent of these
violations. There are chances that many human rights abuses are concealed in such countries
from the public through the repression of the media and internet usage. Mallisk (2009) further
states that in China for example records of executions and their statistics are secrets of the states,
various important events go unreported and even events in history are no taught in their schools.
Additionally those whose rights have been previously violated are threatened into silence. This is
how much governments are willing and ready to go in order to control the internet and the
freedom of expression. In 2007, close to 2600 blogs, websites and discussion forums were shut
down (Global internet freedom consortium, 1997).

Factors that hinder Censorship Efforts

In the cases of controlling nudity and sexual content, it is evidently difficult to teach or
train about HIV/AIDS and the sexually transmitted diseases without the use of at times graphic
images intended to show the impact of these diseases and there effects. Withdrawing such
content from the internet does not serve to help in their control and in educating the younger
generation of their effects. Though graphics, these films or pictures do remain embedded in the
human brain for much longer than written a material which is advantageous in education.
There is also the issue of curiosity, whenever something is hidden or kept away for any
reason; it is human nature to find out why it was hidden. Internet censorship only serves to
support this idea. More traffic is usually driven to sites, which governments are trying to shut
down or with content that the state is trying to take down. If only the censoring organization

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would let them be, then no much attention would be given to them as they are. It is in our nature
to try find out why things are the way they are. This is because at times internet censorship has
been used to obscure legitimate critics. Criticism that builds should be allowed and attended to as
it works towards making it safe for others or for the growth of a nation or an institution.
Technological obsolesce is additionally a factor of concern, this is because, technology is
always changing and various ways to go round the installed firewalls and filters are being
discovered, its increasingly becoming difficult to manage and control activities on the internet.
Governments and institutional authorities thus need to equally speed up and catch up in
innovation to keep them up to date. This is an expensive process as frequent replacements are
needed and yet hackers simply build software at their own time and with least expenses. It is not
worth fighting a war that will never end.
There is also the risk of prosecution, when a private or corporate website or blog is pulled
down, the owner can and may sue the government for this. This may lead to unexpected
expenses for the involved government as they may be required to pay for the losses incurred
when the website or blog was shut down. This especially to the middle income countries is not
worth it as they need to spend their little resources on other economically viable businesses.
Al-Saqaf (2012) explains that because of the internet’s importance to people, various
ways have been discovered to circumvent the placed filtering and other censorship mechanisms,
this is because more than 40 countries are filtering the internet and more than half a billion
internet users are being filtered (32% of the world population). The global internet freedom
consortium (2007) did a study and came up with a number of tools that have developed and are
in current use to go around and access censored materials. Some of them include ultrasurf, which

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is the most utilized tool globally to beat internet censorship. Others include dynaweb and tor.
These are just but a few of the tools daily invented to curb governments censorship methods.
In conclusion, the internet is a tool that the world cannot live without. Our lives revolve
around the internet, as well as our jobs, schooling and socio-political lives. Even though there are
serious cases when and how the internet should be regulated, for example, in bid to control
access to adult materials to underage students, as well as security function, internet censorship is
far more detrimental because of its limiting factors. Pornography and violence are rampant
within the current setup; this cannot, however, be blamed on the internet and its usage. Control
measures can be put in place to help with such. Films with adult theme could put in place factors
such as the requirement to have an access code or password meaning that one has to be a
registered member to fully access such materials over the internet.
Additionally, governments and institutions should not act in contravention to universally
set legislations like the freedom of expression. However much citizens push and go to extremes
against the government, they should allow for opinions to be stated as some of them are helpful
and will serve to improve service delivery. Nations like North Korea that have virtually and
literally locked out the world and the use of the internet suffers from gross human rights
violation and is an example of how much the internet is important to the world. The population
should equally be responsible in reporting and posting of things over the internet, In nations that
have set regulations governing the use of the internet , it would only be wise to use the internet as
per the set laws failure to which one should be arrested and face the penalties of the
infringement. Whereas these laws should not be hindrances to any angle of personal, social
cultural or political growth, the users should be wise and not post anything that holds a different
view as compared to that of the government.

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List of References

Al-Saqaf, W. 2014, ‘Freedom of speech the battle continues 2012.’ Available from
September 2012).
Gaille, B., 2013, ‘Pros and cons of internet censorship.’ Brandon Gaille in business. Available at
http://brandongaille.com/the-pros-and-cons-internet-censorship/(december 10 2013).
Global internet freedom consortium, 1997. available from http://www.internetfreedom.org/
Harris, F., 2011, ‘Benefits of censorship.’ World Issues, 360. Available from
http://www.worldissues360.com/index.php/benefits-of-censorship-4652/(december 6
Mallisk, D. 2009, ‘The internet: becoming an important communicative too media tool.’
Poland, A. 2014, ‘Disadvantage of internet censorship.’ The Houston chronicle, 2014.
Reinhard, C. 2007, ‘The ethics of censorship: should the government cover our children’s eyes?’
Ethica publishing, Colorado.

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White, H. 1997, ‘The anatomy of censorship: why the censors have it wrong.’ University press
of America, Illinois.

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