Internet Censorship
By Tayyaba Anwar

July 16, 2009

Internet can be described as a global network of interconnected computers and other devices, which can provide even the typical of people with fast access to a nearly limitless amount of data. It has made our lives richer and easier; it has collapsed boundaries and expanded horizons and as a medium, it supports all kind of contents. The objective of internet censorship is to block out or control such content, or in other words limit the boundaries that the internet provides. Internet censorship works by blocking access to the web pages that are identified as undesirable. Censorship is controllable and since Internet contains much data which can be unsafe, it becomes quite a necessity to censor it.

Internet contains a lot of material that most parents would not want their children to see. Pornography, violence, chat rooms, gambling sites are fully at access at a just a click. Such dangerous content can cause a negative effect on the children and since the parents cannot oversee their child’s access to internet all the time, they tend to turn towards censorship for assistance. There are many software like ‘Net nanny’ and ‘Cyber Sitter’ which help the parents in expurgating out the unwanted matter. There is another way that some parents turn to, which is the installation of the computer firewall. A firewall act as a barrier between the Internet and the computer network since it only let safe content through and keeps everything else out.

Censorship is not only specified for domestic level, most of the companies also use it to limit internet access to their workers, mostly so that they would not get distracted. In many schools as well, internet is censored in the computer labs and famous social networks such as “facebook” and “orkut” are blocked so that the students will not be diverted. Even the government of many countries at times block out certain web pages that they find offensive or vile. Access is blocked to sites carrying contents considered to be subversive or pornographic. There are many websites that provides free access on how to make a bomb, or how to murder without getting caught, and no government would want any terrorist groups in their countries to get hold of such information. Apart from there, there are many hate groups like Ku Klux Klan in the United States of America, and they have to be blocked out of the internet so that they will not further their racist causes. The government justifies the censorship as an act for the national security and the stability of the political system.

Though the democratic Americans claims to have a freedom of speech, even their government has laws that impact the kind of information you can access on the Internet in a school or public library. Some other countries go much further than that when it comes to censoring and surprisingly a few don't allow any access to the Internet at all. The Myanmar government supposedly keeps all the Internet cafes under observation with computers that automatically take screenshots every few minutes. China has an advanced filtering system known internationally as the Great Firewall of China. It can also search the internet for rebellious content and block users from visiting them. Countries like Cuba has banned private Internet access completely to get on the Internet, you have to go to a public access point.

Just like any other issue that arises over a period of time, Internet Censorship also has its own share of supporters and opponents. Projects like ‘Censorware’ and sites like ‘peacefire.org’ are devoted to educate people about web filtering software and censorships. They serve the same purpose of protecting the freedom of speech on the internet. They are the opponents of Censorship and believe that their rights and their freedom are being taken away from them. Other Anti-censorship groups offer advice on how to disable or circumvent the censorship. Many support proxy sites, which is a web page that allows you to browse the web page without using your own IP address. Other than that, the Electronic Frontier Foundation launched a program called The Blue Ribbon Campaign to raise awareness of civil rights issues in the electronic world by displaying blue ribbons on web sites. They believe they are democratic and liberal, and therefore they should be given a full choice to decide on what content they want to view. They believe that the government is no one to decide that which content is, and is not harmful and therefore just by claiming to cut out the harmful material, the government conceals a lot of valuable material on various useful topics that could help a lot of people.

Sources:
Wikipidia
howstuffworks
isoc.org

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