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Internet Censorship: Why It’s Important, Plus Pros and Cons

The pros and cons of internet censorship have been at the root of much debate over the past few years. The purpose of internet censorship is to control, remove, or suppress information online. Also known as the “information superhighway,” the internet is a place where all ages visit. 

There are many pros and cons of censorship on the internet. And there’s also a fine line between freedom of the press and publishing violent, obscene, or dangerous content. Anyone has the ability to go online, whether that person is 5 years old or 65 years old.

Some countries have stricter censorship laws than others. For example, the following countries have limited censorship, meaning they have the greatest amount of online freedom:

  • Australia
  • Canada
  • EU countries
  • Iceland
  • India
  • United States

The countries with the most censorship (meaning the least amount of internet freedom) include China, North Korea, Russia and Saudi Arabia.

For our purposes, the pressing question is: How do you find a balance between right and wrong? Today, we’ll weigh the pros and cons of internet censorship to help you take a stance on this highly debated subject.

What is Internet Censorship?

Internet censorship is when there are measures in place to control or restrict access to online content. Governments, institutions and organizations may restrict internet access for cultural, political, security or social reasons. There are several different types of online censorship:

  • Blocking or filtering websites
  • Monitoring online activities
  • Restricting access to online platforms or services
  • Suppressing specific content types

Internet access may be restricted by a government to control the information that spreads in an effort to manage political dissent or maintain order. In more severe cases, like in countries that allow for stricter censorship, access to social media sites or news sites may be blocked.

Aside from government censorship, private online entities, like internet service providers or social media platforms, may restrict content according to their policies. For example, sexual or violent content may violate the terms of service and be automatically removed.

There are also less severe forms of censorship. For example, an employer may restrict access to social media websites so that workers don’t spend their time talking with friends. Or a coffee shop may restrict access to certain websites to not offend other customers who may see the web pages someone’s visiting. Parental controls are also a sort of online censorship. For example, a parent may limit their child’s access on social media platforms in order to keep them safe.

What Type of Content is Censored?

All sorts of topics may be blocked or limited, such as:

  • Drugs
  • Gambling
  • Inappropriate or obscene content
  • National security
  • News
  • Politics
  • Pornography
  • Weapons

There are a lot of concerns that online censorship raises related to unrestricted access to information, freedom of speech, and the open and uncontrolled exchange of ideas. Here’s a brief overview of the different viewpoints:

  • Advocates for a free, open internet say that internet restrictions stifle creativity and innovation, limit how much information can flow, and obstruct the exchange of ideas.
  • Those in favor of internet restrictions say that censorship is necessary for social order, national security and to keep harmful content from spreading.

The debate over internet freedom is nuanced and ever-evolving as the level of censorship changes around the world. It encompasses topics like media freedom, social media, and the freedom of expression, among other considerations.

What Are Some Common Types of Internet Censorship?

We covered some of the more basic and well-known types of internet censorship above, but let’s talk about a few more. Note that there are technical types of censorship as well as non-technical types of censorship.

  • Internet Protocol Address Blocking: This is when specific websites are blocked and you can’t access them. For example, you may not be able to access your U.S.-based social media site from overseas.
  • Laws and Regulations: Legal requirements may prohibit certain types of content from appearing online. Internet service providers would then have to abide by these rules.
  • Search Result Removal: Search engines may exclude certain websites from search results, which makes the site “invisible” to searchers. The search engine may do this because of a legal requirement or at its own discretion.

In extreme censorship cases, equipment may be confiscated or destroyed or routers may be disconnected to limit access and prevent free speech.

Is There Any Way to Avoid Internet Censorship?

If you live in or travel to a country with strict internet censorship laws, or you find yourself wanting more access for whatever reason, there are a few ways to avoid internet censorship.

Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)

A VPN creates an IP address that falls outside the country with internet restrictions. For example, if you’re in a foreign country and want to access a social media site, you may need to use a VPN to do it. The VPN would show your IP address as being in the United States, for example, instead of the country you’re in, which would allow you to gain access.

Use a Proxy Server

Similar to a VPN, a proxy server hides your IP address by changing it to disguise your true location. However, since proxy servers lack encryption, they’re not generally as safe as VPNs. They also have a tendency to be slower when compared to VPNs.

Use a Secure Web Browser

A secure web browser will hide your IP address, protect your browser history and privacy, and delete cookies once you close the window. Plus, secure web browsers encrypt your data. Some people opt to use a secure web browser in their daily lives no matter what type of information they’re accessing because it provides an added layer of security.

Internet Censorship Pros and Cons

Should the internet be censored? Or should everyone have complete and total internet access, regardless of what’s out there?

There are many pros of internet censorship, as it works to prevent sites from publishing graphic and explicit content. From the other perspective, censorship limits the freedom you have online.

Skeptics of the practice argue that internet censorship leads to the loss of freedom and free access to information, regardless of its attributes. According to their arguments, censorship restricts your ability to view the content you want to see when you want to see it.

On the other hand, some people feel that not all information should be viewed. However, even with restrictions in place, there are always people who will find ways to circumvent censorship.

We’re not here to take a firm stance one way or the other. Instead, we are going to present both sides of the argument to help you decide where you fall on the internet freedom scale.

Pros of Internet Censorship: When Limiting Access is Positive

One of the main cases for internet censorship is that it protects children from accessing harmful and inappropriate information, such as footage of real murders or terrorist decapitations. Let’s talk more about the potential benefits of restricting internet freedom.

Utilize Prudence

Proponents of internet censorship argue that censorship works to protect people using a common-sense approach to the information that appears on the web. While many internet users have the decency to not post something online that society would consider inappropriate, not everyone will exercise the same level of caution.

Dangerous information you can find through a Google search and gain access to includes information about and videos of:

  • Murders
  • High-level crimes
  • Illicit drugs
  • Sexual assault
  • Sex trafficking
  • Identity theft
  • Threats to law enforcement agencies and personnel

Internet censorship offers a means of limiting the number of harmful videos or other forms of offensive content that people, including your children, have access to. In simple terms, internet censorship provides a tool to limit access or even block access to content that can cause irreparable harm.

Protecting your children online is paramount. For expert guidance on implementing effective internet controls, don’t hesitate to reach out to us here.

Here’s an example: In the past, users have expressed discomfort knowing that their children have easy access to pornography. Internet censorship methods have been implemented to make accessing these sites more difficult. For example, when entering a pornographic website, the question “Are you 18 years or older?” now automatically prompts.

While this safety measure is a start, there’s nothing to prevent a child from simply clicking “yes” and gaining access to the website. With it being so easy to circumvent internet censorship, some feel there should be more preventative measures in place.

Protect National Security

Government agencies know that information sharing on the web can threaten national security. Sensitive content can put our country at risk. That includes:

  • Videos of military movements and tactics
  • Posts about proprietary economic information
  • Other compromising, government-related details

Although the United States is often thought of as the home of absolute freedom, internet censorship has a very real purpose when it’s used to protect the national economy and other influences on our position in the global market.

Limit Child Pornography and Other Harmful Information

You may have heard of the dark web, but does it actually exist? Unfortunately, yes, it does. The dark web is home to activities you would never expect and might not even be able to imagine.

Today, everything goes on the internet, with many people never showcasing self-censorship. Because of the “Wild West” online environment, local communities feel pressure to (1) protect personal freedoms while (2) creating internet limits that put a stop to dangerous or harmful content.

Community and social media sites like Craigslist and Facebook give individuals access to:

  • Buy and sell drugs
  • Partake in human trafficking
  • Engage in the distribution of child pornography

Plus, the dark web has grown dramatically over the past decade to include file-sharing sites like Pirate Bay, TOR, and ISOHunt. Harmful information goes beyond access to child porn or similar online content, too. It may also include:

  • Hate speech against a specific group
  • False news
  • Details about illegal activities
  • Defamatory online content
  • Information on how to commit identity theft

Law enforcement agencies worldwide have spearheaded efforts to restrict access to harmful or false information. By restricting access to this content through direct censorship, local authorities and government organizations place common-sense limits on the type of content available. Even though many laws seem to overstep personal freedoms, the driving point is that internet censorship protects children.

Proponents of censorship also argue that it restricts the chances for predators to easily find targets. But while internet censorship regulations have lofty goals, dangerous people often find ways to defeat even the most well-meaning laws.

Minimize the Risk of Identity Theft and Other Cyber Threats

Cybercrimes are a rising concern in the digital era, and people store a lot of their personal and private information on their computers. Without the proper knowledge of passwords and privacy policies, users can leave themselves vulnerable online. Limiting the amount of information put online can assist in minimizing the threat of these cyber attacks.

If internet censorship is designed to prevent access to the tools and strategies used to commit cyber crimes, communities must weigh the advantages and disadvantages of this type of regulation.

Identity theft cases have skyrocketed in recent years. Criminals know that with access to certain information, such as a driver’s license, mailing address, or Social Security number, they can falsify information. With these tidbits, financial crimes have been committed to the degree that The World Economic Forum has pressured other countries to implement more control over internet traffic. Even more alarming is that criminals know an arrest warrant is unlikely, and if a criminal is caught, the average sentence means that committing internet-based crimes is often worth the risk.

Read our article about National Security Solutions For Corporations to learn more.

Eliminate Misleading and Fake News

With news media sites springing up all over the web, it can be hard to know what is real and what is fake news. Established news outlets like CNN, Fox, and CNBC are not the only players on the web anymore. With the end goal of profiting, there are many sites in existence that cash in on providing false, misleading articles online.

In this case, internet censorship may be able to reduce the amount of fake news that spreads online. Case in point: Over the past few election cycles, the sharing of fake news on social media has presented significant challenges. As social media companies exercise more control over the information posted on their sites, they’re able to limit the spread of potentially harmful or false news.

One of the best examples of fake news is the well-known review platform Ripoff Report. This is a website where disgruntled customers can voice their negative opinions online anonymously. If you are in need of a Ripoff Report removal contact us today to learn more!

Protect Privacy

Online censorship programs can come with many benefits, especially if you’re struggling with access to violent material, negative information, or harmful content. Online censorship typically cleans that up for you automatically. This also goes for illegal activities and anything that goes against freedom of speech in general.

There are several advantages to using automated internet censorship tools, particularly those that target specific websites known for trafficking false information.

More importantly, there are times when personal information is leaked to the web. Strangers can use this information against you, potentially damaging your reputation. Censorship of this content can help protect your privacy and defend your reputation against harm.

Cons of Internet Censorship: When Limiting Access to Internet Content is Negative

As we’ve talked about, internet censorship has both advantages and disadvantages. In the above sections, we explored some of the advantages. Here, we will discuss many of the disadvantages of internet censorship and how it can possibly affect freedom-related human rights.

Private organizations and internet service providers that champion freedom of speech argue that internet censorship creates an unfair playing field — one that can have serious and long-term ramifications regarding freedom. Let’s talk about them.

Decrease the Flow of Information

The amount of factual, real news that is published online and through your internet service provider can be severely limited when internet censorship is implemented.

Already, there are individuals arrested each and every day for sharing inappropriate and illegal content online. And something as simple as liking a post on Facebook or commenting on a blog post can land you in a heap of legal trouble, even if the content you interacted with wasn’t necessarily dangerous or damaging.

Social media dominates online activity, with billions of daily users across various platforms. With that amount of activity, it’s inevitable that false content, damaging posts, and defamatory statements will make their way onto these platforms, potentially damaging your reputation.

Still, freedom of expression is paramount on social media platforms, which position themselves as champions of open speech. Any attempt to stifle open conversations can decrease information flow.

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Raise Costs of Internet Monitoring

One of the most notable disadvantages of internet censorship is its cost — and that cost is high. Google has seemingly endless results, and it would require a costly process to filter all of the information published online.

Many people are in favor of internet censorship until they realize how it could raise their taxes. Financial considerations are always at the forefront of any attempt to clamp down on open internet speech, and many an oversight entity has reconsidered its position after seeing the price tag associated with censoring material on the web.

Minimize Entrepreneurial Efforts

Nowadays, there’s a major boom in entrepreneurship and startups in the U.S., and it’s important for those businesses to promote themselves freely. The internet has become a primary economic driver, one of the positive results of the free exchange of information. Increasing internet censorship could have devastating consequences for local businesses, potentially locking them out of economic opportunities. Losing the freedom to sell certain products online could have dire effects on the nation’s economy.

Once there is a governing body acting as a mediator, it limits what you can actually do as an entrepreneur and how successful you will be. The internet may no longer be a viable tool for creating wealth, especially if censorship derails the free exchange of information and innovation. In the place of creative businesses could be a limited number of dominating monopolies.

Should We End Internet Censorship?

While there are plenty of reasons one may want to end censorship online, it is not a simple decision to make. There are hundreds of millions of stakeholders who rely on information online, be it good or bad.

For example, news organizations provide updates about crimes that may be unsightly to most readers. Does that mean the information should not be accessible online, though?

One alternative to internet censorship could include more robust access requirements, such as age restrictions. This could block access to harmful content for children while allowing adults to continue to access sensitive information. Social media sites could also crack down on their terms of service and have harsher punishments for breaching them.

Why Is Internet Censorship Important?

By now, you should have a decent understanding of internet censorship and the many arguments for and against it. It’s clear to see that some cases of online censorship, such as blocking children from dangerous content, are positive. On the other hand, some people want to avoid internet censorship when it comes to other subjects, like the transparency of news.

Proponents of censorship and restricted websites often put security over free expression. They feel that preventing the exchange of harmful content is more important than ultimate online freedom.

On the other hand, those fighting to avoid internet censorship argue that internet users should be able to make their own decisions about what can or cannot be posted online. An internet connection doesn’t necessarily mean you have to access harmful information, just that you can potentially access that information.

Undoubtedly, the question of online freedom is a layered one. To ensure that your voice is heard in the digital space without unwanted noise, contact NetReputation today. Our team is ready to assist you with any information removal needs on the web.

Learn More About Removing Personal Content Online

If you are struggling with negative online content and are seeking possible removal options, give the experts at NetReputation a call today. We know that private information can end up online, and we can help clean up your internet reputation.

Contact us today at 844-461-3632 to speak with one of our content removal specialists or to learn more about our wide range of online reputation management services. We look forward to hearing from you.

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