Internet Censorship

free essayThere is probably not a single person in the world who has not heard about the Internet. It is not a secret that this useful tool has made people’s lives much easier since it appeared. Thus, people can search for any information just with a click of a button, talk to people who are thousands miles away as if they were close and find an answer to almost any question on the Internet. However, the Internet also causes a number of problems and contradictions in the society. The most serious of which is the discussion about Internet censorship. This issue has been a topic for heated debate since 2005 all over the world (Schell 3). Internet censorship can be defined as attempts of the government to control online activities of its citizens, restrict the free flow of the information and violate the rights of the users (Schell 3).

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The reasons why the Internet should not be censored

The main reason against Internet censorship is stated in the first amendment. According to it, the government must not adopt any laws that can restrict “the freedom of speech or of the press” (U.S. Constitution). This means that any attempts to regulate the content on the Internet would be a violation of the basic human rights guaranteed by the Constitution. This rule cannot be broken even if the content that the government wants to prohibit is unacceptable. As the US Supreme Court stated it: “If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable” (Texas v. Johnson). Therefore, censorship of the Internet is against the basic human rights that are guaranteed by first amendment.

The second reason against Internet censorship is that it can be used by the government to get more power and control. There is an opinion that government is fair only when it is open and transparent. The freedom of the Internet also means that people can say whatever they want, which includes direct contradictions to the government. When the Internet is censored, it is more difficult for people to express their opinions and reporting the news becomes more challenging. On the contrary, it is easier for the government to control the population and break its own rules. Moreover, if the government gets the power to know what people see, hear and write on the Internet, much more trouble may arise. Such power located in one hands, the hands of the government, may be abused very easily. When the Internet is censored, every single person, excluding the government, is at the disadvantage. Moreover, it will eradicate any opposition to oppression that was expressed in the web.

Another argument against Internet censorship is that it may be used to promote only certain morals. People have different opinions and have different ways to live their life. Nobody knows which opinion or whose way of thinking is correct. The enforcement of Internet censorship may lead to a situation when it will be used to promote only those opinions and believes that are considered to be morally right. At the same time, ignoring opinions that are different may be offending for other people, as in the lawsuit filed by ACLU against the Camdenton R-III School District in 2012. In this case, the school used special software to block access to websites that supported LGBT people (“PFLAG v. Camdenton R-III School District”). However, this software allowed access to anti-LGBT websites. Since the administration did not solve the problem after it was informed about it, this led to a lawsuit against the school (“PFLAG v. Camdenton R-III School District”). Allowing access to one side of the question and prohibiting opposing views is called discrimination, and that is exactly what will happen if Internet censorship is imposed.

Moreover, Internet censorship will lead to limiting educational resources and widening social gaps. It is obvious that people supporting Internet censorship do it with the best intentions. However, hiding impropriate content from everybody is not a panacea. Mitch Wagner used examples when filters for inappropriate content do not work in his article “How Internet censorship harms school”. For instance, the software blocked the Declaration of Independence, complete plays by Shakespeare, “Moby-Dick” (Wagner). Moreover, when a teacher wanted to show his students pictures that illustrated the atomic testing, he could not do this because the webpage was blocked by the filter (Wagner). Furthermore, if a person wants to find some information on controversial topics such as sexuality or drugs, he/she may not be able to do this because of censorship. Access to self-education materials will be limited and children will only get the knowledge of facts and concepts that are generally considered as acceptable. Further, due to the process of globalization the world is becoming smaller. It does not matter what is a person’s origin is or what language he/she speaks. One can find a common ground at the ideological level with representatives of other cultures and learn that there is more in common with them than it seems. The Internet helps to understand that people from different cultures have very much in common. Therefore, censoring Internet content will only widen social gaps between people and limit access to resources that help to learn about other cultures.

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Further, it will be difficult to accomplish Internet censorship. The government has a lot of more important thing to take care of than Internet censorship. The Internet is an enormous space. There are 1 006 544 697 websites on the Internet now (“Total Number of Websites”). Moreover, every minute thousands of other websites are created. The number of Internet users accounted for 3 185 996 155 in 2015, which accounts for almost a half of the world’s population (“Total Number of Websites”).These facts make the enforcement of Internet censorship very difficult. A combination of these factors may lead to very negligent enforcement of the law. This, in turn, may cause people think that there is very little reason to stop their illegal activity on the Internet. Therefore, people who have online business will become more vulnerable. Breaking the law that is negligent and difficult to predict is very complicated, and this is another reason why censorship of the Internet is a good idea when it is only on paper, not in practice. Furthermore, the costs of censorship are extremely high. Therefore, Internet censorship law raises the question who will pay for it and where to find the funds to do this.

Moreover, Internet censorship goes against the whole point of the Internet itself. The Internet was created to help people share information with their family and friends. People use it to share interesting and creative viewpoints. Censorship of the Internet may stop them from doing it. Therefore, if the Internet is censored, it will go against the nature of the Internet itself.

Arguments for censoring the Internet

On the other hand, the proponents of Internet censorship claim that it is a good idea to censor the Internet because the Internet is a dangerous place and its users need more protection. Their main argument is protecting children. There are a number of things that children need to be protected from. The first one is websites that contain material for adults. Everybody knows that there is a lot of content on the Internet that is not appropriate for children. It will not be an exaggeration to say that the Internet is full of improper and pornographic websites. Those websites present all types of sexually implicit material. Therefore, people claim that it is important to censor the Internet to guard children from impropriate material.

The second thing that children need to be protected from is the cruelty that can be found on the Internet. Very often children tend to think that hurting other people is a normal thing because they have read some story or watched a video on the Internet in which other people committed violence. The point here is that the Internet should be censored because it has a bad influence on the young generation.

The third and probably the most important thing from which children need protection are perverts. Perverts and pedophiles often use the Internet to look for victims. It is much easier to find some young and na?ve child in the virtual world than in the real one. As a result, children are engaged into pornography and even more malevolent activities. Therefore, censoring the Internet will help to punish the lawbreakers and prevent more children from falling victims to perverts.

Another argument of people who support Internet censorship is that the society needs regulation. The advocates of censorship argue that it will help to control the mass media, which is a necessary thing for the authority. The government may censor some information that they think is harmful for the society. Moreover, all forms of the mass media except the Internet are regulated. Newspapers, television and radio have to follow specific regulations and rules. The Internet does not have to be any different from the other forms of the mass media. Regulation cannot be a bad thing; it leads to order, and order is good.

In addition, the freedom of speech and expression should also have some limits. Take, for instance, social networks. The use of such services among the children of school-age is enormous: half of the children from eight to seventeen have online profiles (Moore). Recently some websites such as social networking sites have been used to hurt others on purpose. In some extreme case the victims of cyber bullying even committed suicide (Moore). The use of social websites can cause both physical and psychological harm. That is why the advocates of Internet censorship consider them to be dangerous. They are a medium through which prejudice and racism can be expressed towards the others. In addition, if in a particular country, the majority of the population shares the same religious or cultural believes, it is fair to block the websites that are trying to sabotage these principles and may cause damage to the majority of the population. The government has a duty to protect its citizens and take care of them; one of the best ways to do this is to censor the Internet and abolish the websites that are dangerous.

Why the arguments of the advocates of Internet censorship do not work

The main argument of the proponents of Internet censorship is that everything is done to protect children. However, it is the duty of the parents to take care of their children and to keep them safe and the government should not do the parents’ job. In order to protect children from impropriate content that can be found on the Internet, parents can put the computer in the living room, and they will be able to control what websites children visit on the Internet. To protect them from cruelty that can be found in the web, parents should talk to their children and explain what is good and what is not, to tell them the difference between the movies and the real life. There is no need in censoring the Internet if a conversation can solve the problem.


The second argument is the regulation of the society. Although the government does not have any rights to decide what people should know, there is too much control in life nowadays. The security cameras in the street, supermarkets and parking lots are installed for people’s security. However, the government uses this excuse to explain their controversial actions. For example, the police have the right to look through emails and phone calls when they enter the private property, and the government blokes the websites that they consider are dangerous for the national security.

Proponents of censorship also say that all other mass media sources are controlled and the Internet shall not be different. It is true that other sources of information are regulated. That is the exact reason why the Internet should not be. The Internet was created for people to share the information they want; it is a free forum for information sharing, and taking this away is a cruel act against regular citizens who want uncensored and reliable information.

The cases when social networks are used for violence are very rare. Furthermore, they can also be used for good reasons. For instance, many social networks have campaigns against domestic violence and racism (“Teenagers’ Poem to Aid domestic Abuse Facebook Campaign”). It is a good idea to use social networks to help teenagers with their problems because they are more likely to share their problems online than in real life. As Det. Supt John Clements puts it: “Using Facebook is helping us reach a young audience and inform them about what is good and bad in relationships, as well as give them information about help and support available” (“Teenagers’ Poem to Aid domestic Abuse Facebook Campaign”). Furthermore, the action of blocking websites endangers the beliefs of the others. At what point the website that expresses opinions of religious minorities becomes dangerous and unsuitable. Moreover, such action will lead to violation of the first amendment, which states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” (U.S. Constitution). Such action can be easily taken as limitation of the freedom of speech of certain groups and may lead to aggression towards the government, the groups or cultures that are perceived as oppressors of these groups. The government cannot block some idea just because it is considered to be impropriate: “The Government may not prohibit the verbal or nonverbal expression of an idea merely because society finds the idea offensive or disagreeable” (Texas v. Johnson). Therefore, Internet censorship will only lead to more problems and aggression.

Conclusion

To sum up, Internet censorship is a highly debated topic in the modern society. There are advocates of this problem who claim that it is too dangerous for children if not censored. The opponents claim that censorship will violate the basic human rights, the freedom of speech in particular. However, other people may claim that there is a difference between free speech and hate speech. Therefore, Internet censorship will not violate the freedom of speech but rather eradicate prejudice and hatred in speech. However, it is important to note that if the problems of prejudice, racism and hatred exist in the society, the only solution is to solve the problem and not to censor such content on the Internet. If the government just hides the problem, it will only worsen the situation. The advocates of censorship may always claim that the government can control certain Internet websites if it affects their society. However, people have a right to make their own decisions and receive all information. If the government shares all information with its citizens, the society is more likely to trust the government. The proponents of censorship may also argue that despite the costs and problems of imposing censorship, it is vital to protect the children and thus the funds will be found. However, there is another problem to be solved. For instance, Internet censorship creates a question about what content should be considered impropriate and what websites should be censored. This problem will bring even more controversy than the topic of Internet censorship itself. Therefore, it may be assumed that Internet censorship will not solve the problems that the web causes and will not end the controversy that exists in the society. On contrary, it will bring even more problems and dangers than already exist.