War on Censorship
After being assigned a school project, a young high school student walks into the library with plans on researching about his topic before starting. It’s a biology project about the mating rituals of animals, which was a topic that struck his interest. So he boots up the computer, signs in, and starts surfing the web and different search engines for his topic. Every site he clicks on, however, has been blocked. Anything having to do with mating and breeding has been censored by the library as inappropriate material. What if this high school student doesn’t have internet at home? Being unable to look up his material at the library is sure to hinder his research. This would be a very common story if web censorship in the United States was a common thing, as it is in some countries. Censorship of hateful and inappropriate content seems good in theory but since inappropriate material is based on personal opinion and censors either don’t block everything or blocks harmless sites, it’s not practical and can only hinder web use.
The internet is a free-flow of ideas, facts, and opinions that anyone has access to as long as they have a computer and it allows information to travel faster than any other means of communication; nearly instantly across the world. This vast amount of information covers almost every topic one can think of and is available with a few taps of a keyboard or click of a mouse. By having access to such things, citizens of a country can hold their government accountable for its decisions, create new ideas, and be as creative as they want (Clinton). If, for instance, someone lives in a very Christian community but finds themselves questioning that religion, they can look up religious sites and decide what best fits their beliefs. Yet if religious sites are censored for fear of hateful content, how would one find what best fits their opinions and views? “The internet can help bridge divides between people of different faiths” (qtd. in Clinton) and that’s very true. The more information we have the more choices we have as an individual for our lifestyle.
The internet also allows one to voice their opinions in an open environment where anyone anywhere in the world can read it. With the creation of personal blogs and forums that allow one to post about their day to day life and opinions, it’s possible for anyone online to have a strong voice no matter who they are or where they’re from. The largest public response to a terrorist attack in India was organized by a thirteen year old boy who used social networking sites to organize blood drives (Clinton). Online, it doesn’t matter if someone’s unemployed, a politician, a doctor, a college drop-out or a young teenager. As long as good ideas are being presented, people will listen. This opens up opportunities to people of all circumstances regardless of the struggles they may have in life. “…The freedom to connect is like the freedom of assembly, only in cyberspace” (qtd. in Clinton). The web brings people together. It’s illegal to censor people in real life, so it should be the same online.
One should also consider the effectiveness of the censors themselves; do they work? Do filters block out what they’re supposed to without blocking anything else? In 2002 a court in Philadelphia decided that filters were unconstitutional because they don’t work. They allow some sites to go uncensored and block thousands of sites that contain no offensive material like a site for a Buddhist nun and the Knights of Columbus (Gottfried). With how vast the web is and how many topics are covered, it’s impossible to block all of the material one wishes to get rid of.
There’s more to it than just the effectiveness, as well, and it’s a debate that’s been going on since internet filters were created. What is should be blocked and what shouldn’t? Most agree that pornography and inappropriate material shouldn’t be viewed by minors, but no one can come to a firm agreement...
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