Internet Censorship by the Government Should Not Be Implemented for Social, Moral, and Judicial Reasons

The Internet, created at the end of the 1960s, is nowadays a tool one uses to do all kind of things, from procrastination, to research and learning. It takes its users to another world, in which they find so much information that they feel like they are drowning in knowledge. The Internet links billions of devices together and hasn’t stopped evolving since its creation. However, although it seems like the Internet is a free place, Internet censorship does exist. Censorship generally defined, is when some information, that considered disrespectful or harmful to society is removed or hidden from people. It is usually imposed by the government, authorities on media and the press because they believe that some contents pose a threat to the security of their country and population. However, it is not always implemented in every nation. That tends to create plenty of controversy.

Even though some claim that Internet censorship is a necessity for society, Internet censorship by the government should not be implemented for social, moral, and judicial reasons. First of all, some people claim that censorship should be used because of the bad influence that irrelevant Internet content can present. However, does censorship have to penalize the whole population when it is only related to social behaviors of a minority? Censorship should not be imposed because of unethical content. It is taking away one’s liberty and freedom because of something that is socially trivial. Freedom of speech and of access to information, which are both controlled by censorship, are worth being earned even if unethical content is present. Society should be a society of freedom, like it was announced in the Universal Declaration of Humans Rights. For instance, the Russian government decided to leave the Internet free for its population (qtd. in BBC).

It claims that “Illegal information causing harm to the mental and physical health of children should not be on the Internet”, which means that this kind of information should not even exist, since it is socially unacceptable. However, it is still present on Internet. This is why parents must take action. Not only should they pay attention to the education of their children, but they should also teach them how to differentiate between safe and dangerous sources and what kind of information children share online. They want their kids to be vigilant and safe after all. Information on the Internet is not supposed to negatively influence children’s thoughts. For this reason, many parents believe that government censorship is the best way to ensure their children’s safety. However, by properly educating children, whether at school or at home, censorship would not be needed. In fact, the bond between censorship and freedom is broken that way, and it seems quite promising: “In 2013 it (media literacy) was 15%. By the end of 2014-20%” (qtd. in BBC). Another example that tackles the controversy between censorship and freedom is violence. If the idea were to ban sites promoting violence, one might say that many video games sold at electronics stores display so much violent content.

Yet, they aren’t banned. So why should violent content on the Internet be censored? Censorship is useless in this case, because the contents that the government tries to hide from its population exist in different forms that are more subtle and accessible to anyone. Even though some people think censorship is necessary for moral reasons, morality and ethics can change from a culture to another, even if there are some common values that all humanity shares (Cerf and al. 19-20). This ambiguity makes censorship harder to be accepted by everyone, since what is moral to some can seem immoral to others. In fact, “information might be deemed offensive to some users and acceptable to others” (“Under the ban hammer”). However, censorship is not at all the solution to this kind of problem because it is hindering the freedom of everyone, without exceptions. Although it is commonly said that globalization aims to make the globe look like a “small village”, there are exceptions, and there are people that are opposed to this international process. It is true that normally, the majority counts, but in cases like that where ethics concern each individual or group of individuals, the situation becomes more complicated. This controversy is best shown through a common example, which is pornography.

In fact, 87% of people interrogated by Deborah Fallows are for the ban of pornography. Another study, ran in 1999, claims that pornography is the cause of the increase of sexual abuse and rape of women (“Under the ban hammer”). However, Peter Suderman claims that “pornography and violent entertainment might serve as exhaust valves for our aggressive impulses” (Horn, par. 10). This means that pornography can actually contribute to ameliorating society. Another moral aspect is that apart from the roles of the parents in the education of their young kids, a person can improve her behavior. Instead of using laws, which are as said before, an obstacle to freedom, one can just learn to distinguish right from wrong. This is called “moral suasion” (Yeo and al. 23). It is “A persuasion tactic used by an authority to influence and pressure, but not force, banks into adhering to policy” (Investopedia). Applied to humans, it is then a technique used to convince one’s self to do and aim for the better.

Censorship of the internet restricts knowledge from its users. Globalization allows information to be spread quickly all over the Internet. For this reason, one should always be up to date with current information and news. However, some countries have limited or no access to Internet. This means that, compared to other countries, they are less open to diversity and to the flow of information. In Pakistan, for example, a country in which Internet is limited, 22% of the population is opposed to censorship, while in India, a country without censorship, the percentage is far lower (“Pakistanis aren’t too keen on censorship-free Internet”). This means that not having Internet makes people ignorant about the freedom they possess.

In these cases, they are ignorant about their own rights and about information that could be found on the Internet. What is fascinating is that in most other countries, a censorship-free internet is preferred. According to The Express Tribune, “A censorship-free internet is a priority for most people in emerging countries, especially the younger population.” This is true because today’s youth are generally educated to be more open-minded. A singer, Ali Gul Pir, even released a song “to mock the [Pakistani] government for its inability to lift the ban on such a beneficial online platform” (“Pakistanis aren’t too keen on censorship-free Internet”). People are likely aware that the government is manipulating them in an indirect way.

The same article also claims that people with higher salaries tend to praise censorship-free internet as well. This is probably because they have better access to the Internet and 3G in comparison to those with lower incomes. However, the statistics are not really credible, since those who usually do not use the Internet don’t have any elaborate experience related to its use. As a consequence, they wouldn’t know how it feels to have their freedom of speech taken away. This is also why research has found out that the youth really encourages the presence of a censorship-free internet (“Pakistanis aren’t too keen on censorship-free Internet”). In fact, people between 18-25 years old extensively use the Internet for their studies, research and hobbies. People can be aware of the dangers of the Internet if it is censorship-free, and not only aware about the value of their freedom. When they can find any kind of information, whether it is helpful or mediocre, they can then think critically, and use their moral principles.

There are many alternatives to internet censorship. It is not a government’s responsibility to judge what users should be able to access. This is why alternatives to censorship should really be encouraged worldwide. One of these ways is age restrictions. Instead of banning or removing pornographic content, one simple way of limiting exposure to these sites is to impose age restrictions on site entry (“Under the ban hammer”). Dr. Maral Boyadjian, a professor of psychology at the American University of Beirut, claims that some sex psychologists advise their clients to watch pornography when they can’t get along with their husbands or wives.

This method is used in place of expensive medication and has proven helpful. Censoring pornography would then prevent those persons an alternate from therapy. Governments could use an age verification system on the Internet for each site considered for adults. It is a far better alternative than a complete ban because when children grow up, they would want to have access to what adults usually view on the Internet. Another possible solution, which is also much simpler, is for those who do not want to view such content to refrain from entering those websites to begin with. In addition, the government of Singapore has an alternative that seems to be original and different form the others: censorship can be removed only if a license of 40,000$ is bought (Newman, Craig A. A13). This explains well the title of the article: our freedom needs to be bought, literally. This is why one might not consider this idea as an alternative or a solution for censorship, because it is taking away one’s freedom.

Moreover, if a user cannot afford to pay for such a license, does that mean that he wouldn’t have access to whatever he wants online. Freedom is not something that should be bought, while one is normally born with it. In contrast to this, the government of Russia proposes another solution. There’s a “media watchdog only implementing the law” (qtd. In BBC). It is not censoring any kind of information by blocking sites, but it is just following its country’s laws. In that way, citizens might feel safer, but at the same time they have freedom of speech and access to information. This solution is then a great alternative to censorship. In conclusion, Internet censorship shouldn’t be supported.

On the contrary, it should be rejected for several reasons. Socially, it is unacceptable to allow censorship to take away freedomof speech and of information because of inappropriate content. Ethically, it is almost impossible to find a moral that can be applied by all citizens of the world that come from different cultures. In terms of justice, it is unfair to hide information from users since any kind of resources can enrich them in various ways. Alternatives to censorship can also be found: freedom can still be conserved and people that were with censorship from the beginning can be satisfied. One must fight for these alternatives to be more widespread and worked on. This battle between censorship and freedom shouldn’t even exist nowadays, during the 21st century. Ancestors have worked so hard to earn their liberty in the real word. But what about the Internet? Should a “digital revolution” start in order for Internet users to earn complete freedom?

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