Being Connected and Being Censored

As access to information worldwide grows, governments and authorities fear how uncensored access will impact the people they govern. Because of this fear governing authorities develop different procedures to deal with this. Some choose to monitor or restrict access to certain sites; others choose to completely control all varieties of communication-technology in order to regulate the content people are exposed to.

The countries below have varying levels of severity for censoring and restricting the Internet, cell phones, and other communication technologies.

The United States – It is illegal in the US for civilians to use cell phone jammers but in some instances, federal officials may. Recently, the issue of censorship vs. free speech was brought into focus in America. San Francisco transit officials prevented the use of all cell phones on the BART system by cutting off electrical power to cellular towers. They effectively prevented an anti-police brutality protest, but also enraged the public and precipitated a federal investigation into the legality of their actions.

China – Individual private screens and chat room are highly monitored and quite a few websites are blocked in China due to their content. See if your favorite websites are blocked in China on this website.

North Korea – One of the more technologically censored countries in the world, North Korean grants access to only three websites of academic information. There are a few heavily monitored chat rooms hosted on a closed system that are permissible. The North Korean Internet is more like an Intranet. The high degree of censorship has created a huge black market for cell phones in North Korea.

The reasons governments give for censoring communication technologies are as varied as the degrees of strictness. Here are a few reasons that are commonly given:

Reasons why censorship is necessary

  • Censorship can protect the safety of the public
  • Censorship can prevent youths from being exposed to inappropriate content
  • Censorship can protect social unity and national glory
  • Censorship can prevent disturbing the social order
  • Censorship can protect national security

Reasons why censorship can be dangerous

  • Censorship violates the natural right of self-expression
  • Censorship can prevent people who have an emergency from getting help
  • Censorship can lead to ignorance of the world and other cultures
  • Extreme censorship can lead to social upheaval
  • Extreme censorship can lead to an oppressed and uneducated society

A definitive study of the geography of Internet censorship, written by Professor Barney Warf, was published in the 2010 December issue of GeoJournal. His conclusion is that the more globalized a country becomes, the more difficult it is to monitor and control information. The worldwide debate of whether technological censorship is right or wrong will continue as we become more and more connected. Issues will arise and it will become increasingly difficult for governments to censor what the content their citizens are exposed to.

You can read this article to learn more about Professor Barney Warf and his study.

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