Discussion Whether Internet Censorship is Benefit or Issue

Thanks to the apparent conveniences, Internet has taken only two decades to become an irreplaceable part of our daily lives. In the contemporary society, thousands upon thousands of important services such as messaging, banking, and logistics are now heavily relying upon a stable internet connection. Although once described as ‘the greatest democratizer the world has ever seen’, ever since the early days of the Internet, many users have, unknowingly or knowingly, experienced some kind of censorship on the contents they are following; and not only mature audience are targeted, nowadays, even children or teenagers are subjected to content censorship. Led by the recent brawls over Net Neutrality in America, opinions worldwide have been divided into two regions: people defending the authorship and privacy, and the other criticizing the necessity of content blocking and promoting an open and free-access Internet. In my opinion, we should be oriented toward a network where censorship is utilized but not over exaggerated, and people are allowed their deserved freedom of information. I will be elaborating the reasons in the following essay as to why I feel as stated above.

Before we dive into the arguments, we need to understand the concept of network censoring. Internet censorship is essentially a form of ‘control’ or ‘suppression’ over the content published on the Internet. This act can be carried out by various identities, including governments or private agencies representing the body of law. In certain scenarios exists the ‘self-censorship’ due to various reasons, including personal or business moral or religious belief.

Now we will explore how the censorship has “cleaned up” the Internet. First of all, it is thanks to this blocking that parents become less concerned about their children using the Internet. This network is full of content of various topics, including ones that are inappropriate to certain viewers such as mature movies or violent videotapes, from which young audience should be prevented. Personally, I would encourage the widespread of this type of censorship because it allows pre-mature individuals to grow up in a suitable environment or protects ‘weaker members of society from the possible harm of the materials in question’. In order to help parents keep a tight control over the content their offspring are subjected to, on the market of applications, features and services such as the age verification system, Parental Control on YouTube or Net Nanny have been aiding to reinforce this. Although this is not a sure method as kids might find a way to circumvent the prevention, to an extent, it helps them browse in a “cleaner” region of the Internet. Second of all, content censorship contributes to the national security in terms of filtering out content that is ‘contrary to the respective country's policies’ and negatively provoking articles. As the criminal activities intensify and extend toward various channel of information, the information “fed” to the people via digital news and fanpages must be controlled strictly. An example of this practice at work is how Facebook is trying to prevent the publication of falsified information on their websites as well as other sources that are connected to them. Moreover, not only does it prevent the “bad” articles, but it also stops illegal cults from propagating their unorthodox teachings. In Vietnam, the censorship has failed to recognize a fake cult taking on the name of an orthodox religion in the South, and many innocent people have been swept up in its consequences and repercussions, incurring heavy financial losses and mental damages.

In this following essay, we will be looking at how censorship protects authorship and reinforces copyright laws around the world. To commence with, the right to a certain item and content, as long as it is legal, must be reserved to the creating individual. By common sense and the law, the author deserves to be paid for the effort and time he spent devising the product, and therefore he possesses the power to do with it as he pleases, including publishing, transferring or selling. With this goal in mind, censorship has been at work in the form of article censoring (an appropriate access must be acquired beforehand). This is also done in an attempt to diminish the counterfeit items and generally improve the authenticity and quality of the market due to that other people cannot ‘reproduce’ legally. Moreover, knowing that the content would not be pirated illegally is likely to be another source of motivation to ‘stimulate inventiveness and creativity’, finally it would increase the number of ‘useful inventions and creative works’. That said, personally, I would like to spread this type of censoring on the Internet. Although currently, most of the time this censoring requires manual maneuver and has not been totally automatized due to the complexity and variability of the digital content, when it does, I believe authors would receive the support they deserve.

Contrary to what normally people might think, Internet censorship actually creates a business opportunity. For the companies that plan on going global, the censorship rules can serve as a guidance and a mold. Nowadays, countries in the world are making their own regulation of the Internet, for example Vietnam for blocking political content on personal blogs, Saudi Arabia for their online discrimination toward women; thus, each of them may not desire certain kinds of content to appear on their sets of allowed websites. Would-be global companies may follow the local censoring law to choose the appropriate items before publishing it in order to avoid legal consequences. It may lead to that many CEOs would see that the censorship is giving the companies less chance to popularize their products, but it also, in fact, exposes several cultural ideas that would enable them to approach the local in a more effective manner.

Despite the apparent advantages, Internet censorship is not totally without drawbacks towards people of the country. First off, it limits the spreading of “facts”, although to some extent downright violating the right of free speech. Due to the nature of censoring, anything that is against moral or legality is excluded from the Internet without any close inspection, as such, sometimes articles that speak of the truth are deleted and suppressed. Even today, legislation is also changing continuously that even discussing the freedom of speech could incur ‘major consequences’. An excellent example of how a forced narrative becomes the truth is North Korea, where there are only about 30 websites domestically and they only publish their self-acclaimed successes on the international stage, or in China, where an entirely new system of network was created for the domestic usage, which the government holds the complete control and requires foreign companies to ‘abide by its content regulations’. This practice also contains a social consequence, that is the reduced level of public intelligence and resourcefulness through the prohibition of literature; for example, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland banned in China or Nineteen Eighty-Four banned in Soviet Russia. Moreover, it is costly to install and maintain the censoring system, either through the cost of the programs or payment for the employees. During a protest in Sri Lanka, the shutdown has costs ‘an estimated loss of $30,000,000 USD’. Since the system needs to be online 24/24 hours, a tremendous amount of money is needed to maintain both software and hardware. Whatever the purposes of this system is, whether to adhere to governmental ideas or to shape a propaganda, the money could be more effective if spent to deal with other problems, such as world hunger or poverty.

To follow the list of the disadvantages, the censorship cuts down on the availability of information on Internet. For people who use computers frequently, a persisting and troublesome issue is that foreign applications and articles are often “blocked” and only grant access to certain areas. This has been termed “IP ban” and it is affecting mostly a few Asian countries such as China or Vietnam. A platform that implements this feature is Valve’s Steam, where games and entertaining gadgets are distributed; being a user from Vietnam, I often encounter the cases where I have no access to the program and have to circumvent the ban via VPN (virtual private network). This system’s original purpose is supposedly to prevent the outspread of piracy which has high traffic in these countries; however, reinforcing it simply equates to repressing a minor group of people without regarding the majority. The similar circumstances also apply to online articles, interfering with the information flow on the Internet. Additionally, with the Internet being dominant in every aspect of life, on top of the surfing speed, foreign visitors would also look at the limitation of the information they can acquire in the target country. Therefore, the differences between censoring laws of different countries not only create a gap between them, but also would undermine the potential visitors and subsequently damage the tourism industry.

By means of conclusion, internet censorship, although not created to suit everyone’s personal preferences and sometimes exaggerated and twisted from its original purpose, is strongly capable of enhancing national as well as personal security and encouraging inventions and discoveries around the world. Similar to any social issues, the debates around Internet censorship are not always either black or white; therefore, in my opinion, while there are places and circumstances where a type of content block is necessary, Internet should remain a free and open place to everyone and stay true to its original purpose as an information-sharing platform.


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01 August 2022
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