Internet censorship is carried out by governments for many reasons to prevent users from accessing certain sites and sharing information. It restricts Internet users from accessing certain information and also controls what can be published or viewed. It can be used in response to riots, protests and elections, since the internet makes it very easy for events like these to be organized. Internet censorship has been going on for the past decade and has caused rise to a lot of controversy. It varies for different countries and has become a big issue relating to human rights and freedom.
Internet censorship has many advantages. It can protect citizens from inappropriate content, for example a child will be protected from any websites showing adult content like pornography. It can also help reduce and prevent illegal activity. For example, illegally downloading music. It has also been initiated to prevent riots and protests, like with the Arab Spring. The Internet made spreading the news of protests and riots very easy, leading to more revolutionary acts. This caused Internet in some of these countries to be completely inaccessible at times. Another advantage is that the chance of online identity theft is reduced, which protects citizens from identity theft happening to them. The amount of spam and viruses is also less which protects your computer.
The main disadvantage of Internet censorship is that it restricts access to information. This violates a human right, which is to be able to gain knowledge. This could also limit educational resources. The freedom of speech and freedom of self-expression is also restricted, which are also human rights violations. Internet censorship gives the Government power over its citizens since they can control what is accessible and what is not. This can allow the Government to manipulate and control people. And even if the Internet censorship is seen as good and successful, many people are able to bypass the censorship. For example, by making use of proxy servers. This defeats the whole purpose on censoring the Internet in the first place. Although it may not seem as important, Internet censorship also widens social gaps. It makes it harder for people to communicate. Censorship systems also cost money, and if they can be bypassed by citizens this makes them a waste of money. Businesses can be negatively impacted too due to not being able to access the best resources and not being accessible themselves.
Major parties involved
China has the most strict internet censorship in the world. Internet filtering and censorship in China is referred to as ‘The Great Fire Wall’. Anything discussing the Dalai Lama, Falun Gong and general websites including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are blocked. All pornographic or politically disruptive content is deleted. Even the Internet access of individuals is monitored. They do this because of many anti-Japanese, anti-pollution, anti-corruption and ethnic riots which have been organized in the past with the use of Internet. China’s Internet police has a size of 30,000. However, some users are able to evade the controlling of the Internet by using proxy servers.
Most people in North Korea are not able to get online. A small amount is able to access an internal Intranet that connects to state media, called Kwangmyong, which is highly controlled and censored. Only elite members, foreign residents and visitors in special hotels are allowed full access to the Internet. The Government is in full control of all media outlets and all news comes from one source, The Korean Central News Agency. They control the Internet to be able to control the information given to residents about politics and to be able to make the leaders of North Korea (Kim Jong-il and Kim Jong-un) look as good as possible.
Only 5% of Cubans have access to the global Internet. This is due to tight control, high costs and slow connections. 23% have access to a government intranet with limited content. Cuban Internet is out of date due to the US embargo, lack of funding and the Government’s fear of freedom to access all information. Cuban citizens get around the censorship by using embassies, coffee shops or illegally purchasing other people’s usernames and passwords who are allowed Internet access.
Iran blocks many Western sites like Facebook and Twitter and anything that may oppose politics or show anything sexually explicit. A plan was announced that they were going to create their own fully monitored domestic Internet. But many people believe separating a domestic internet from the worldwide Net completely is not possible.