Necessity of Internet Censorship
Technological advancement in the world has made many people adopt the use of computers and internet in their daily lives; this is due to the ease of carrying out tasks enabled by computer technology. Many people have transformed their houses into work stations since they can communicate with their colleagues through internet about their daily duties.
This means that communication has been enhanced, and a lot of information can be sought and transferred through internet (Zacks, 2002). However, there have been negative implications in the society as people have changed their behaviors due to the influence of internet materials. Westernization has been enhanced by the increased use of internet in the world, and this has brought a lot of conflicts in many countries.
Many governments have taken various measures to ensure that they monitor information that is made available to their citizens. This has been found necessary, since any user of a computer can access information from internet regardless of their age.
For instance, one of the greatest dangers is that children can easily access pornographic materials from the internet. This adversely affected their behavior leading to early exposure to sexual contents. In addition, many people end up abusing drugs due to the influence of internet users and prohibited materials available in the internet.
Measures put in place by governments to ensure that only ethically accepted materials are available for viewers include supervision of children by parents and teachers. This means that teachers and parents should ensure that they monitor what their children do on the internet (Wilson, 2008).
This may include being with them all the time they have access to the internet or guiding them on what they must access from the internet. This is extremely hard since parents and teachers do not have enough time to observe each child.
In fact, children may at times sneak to internet sites when they notice that their guardians cannot see what they are doing. The government may also liaise with internet providers to make use of content filters. This means that only information that is universally accepted within such states will be available on internet search engines.
Governments have come up with regulations to govern the usage of internet in their respective states. For example, the Australian Communications and Media Authority have a lot of powers regarding control of contents within Australia. This body instills restrictions on websites that contain contents considered to be harmful or unethical for the Australian community (Levin, 2010).
The government has empowered this body to blacklist all websites that may contain unethical contents such as pornography. In case ACMA notices existence of prohibited contents circulating in the internet, they work with law enforcing agencies to ensure that those involved are punished.
There is a vast number of contents being posted on the internet every day, therefore, ACMA has the principle role of vetting all websites and advising the government on contents that need reviewing. If the agency does not raise any complaint, then no measures are taken and the content is believed to be ethical and not contradicting the set rules in Australia (Wilson, 2008).
Those who supported government legislations to censor internet information insisted that the internet was meant for creation and sending information hence enabling communication. For instance, Jim Wallace argued that the internet was not invented to be free for everyone.
He believed that the internet was meant to share research information hence there was no problem with censoring websites. Therefore, internet was not only meant to provide information to people hence supporting the government’s directives to censor websites (Gorman, 2005).
Some of the materials being prohibited by law are suicide related contents. This means that it is illegal to post contents that may influence people’s decision to commit suicide or cause physical harm to others or to themselves. In Australia, there is an act to prohibit exposure of such materials.
In addition, there are other legislations put in place to protect information against piracy also known as copyright protection acts. There were a lot of opponents of these filters since some people believed that it was out of order to ban using certain contents to homes (Gorman, 2005).
Families that have adults only were denied access to materials that are suitable for an adult but are not suitable for children. In fact, exceptionally pertinent information may be filtered hence denying its access by parents. For instance, some contents that contain information regarding parenthood may be filtered since the ACMA believes that they are not appropriate for children.
In fact, censoring of online information has been seen as a threat to freedom of speech. Activists believe that by censoring protected speech on the internet government makes adults see and hear materials that the are only suitable for children (Levin, 2010).
This has created an uphill task for many governments to ensure that they control what is exposed to the public through the internet. Despite all those conflicting situations, many governments have been able to achieve their intended goals in censoring online information.
There have been protests from social groups demanding that web filters be removed in schools since they block a lot of useful information. Protestors argue that web filters are unconstitutionally blocking websites which include useful resources regarding bullying and gay-straight alliances in America. In fact, hiding this information from school children does not help in curbing the social crime.
These websites should be allowed in schools since students can learn from experiences hence avoiding such behaviors in future (Ebbs and Rheingold, 1994). For instance, if there is a website detailing how students were bullied and its implications on their education, chances are high that in future students will try to avoid bullying others.
Information about gay-straight alliances should be made available to everyone so that they can evaluate and decide for themselves on which side they should stay. By censoring websites that give details on these alliances, school children are denied vital information that may help them make wise decisions in life.
Suzanne Dvorak who is children rights activist argued that prohibiting freedom of speech cannot prevent exploitation of children. She argued that some filtered information may be considered for children. Instead, she argues that parents should be allowed to monitor and expose their children to all information that they feel is worth.
Censoring internet information leads to blocking legitimate and legal contents. This means that agencies set by governments to advice on information to be censored use their own set standards to prohibit materials on the internet. In fact, all stakeholders should be involved to ensure that useful information is not censored.
For instance, parents should be consulted to give directions on the extent to which information should be barred from circulation. This will help to avoid conflicts when parents feel that some information, which is vital for growth of their children has been censored. Therefore, governments should carry out extensive research among internet users to ensure that they do not prohibit information useful to some people.
Personal interests also influence censoring of websites hence bring the credibility of trusted agencies into question. For instance, in Australia a document leaked to the public exposing secret blacklist from the ACMA in the year 2010. It showed that most of the listed websites did not contain contents relating to child pornography.
This means that the credibility of bodies that observe online contents may be tainted hence prohibiting websites that are not harmful to the society. This ends up being dangerous since people may be denied legitimate information that can contribute to the nation building.
Internet censuring rarely achieves its set goals. This is due to the fact that websites keep on changing every day with many others being created. In fact, websites can be created with names that do not raise suspicion of its contents.
Therefore, its target users can know how to tell their friends about the new website hence accessing prohibited materials without knowledge of regulating bodies. It is also known that child pornography is not distributed through websites. Instead, those supporting the crime distribute illicit contents through various internet tools that are hard to monitor or censor.
These tools include chat rooms and instant messaging. These are internet tools where people communicate with each other without involving others. Since privacy is enhanced, the government finds it exceedingly hard to monitor and control what people exchange in chat rooms (Gorman, 2005). Filters do not cover Usenet groups and social networks hence people use them to exchange materials that are abusive in public websites.
Governments try their best to censor websites, but the intended objective is not achieved since they fail to filter other internet tools. Achievement of set goals is also hindered by the fact that monitoring websites that experience high traffics stops the website from working.
This is the reason why censoring contents on YouTube has been impossible in many parts of the world. In addition, governments have been unable to monitor proxy servers hence enabling anybody with knowhow in computer information to bypass blocking systems hence accessing all information.
These include information technology specialists who understand functioning of filters hence creating bypasses to ensure that they can access unfiltered information (Andrew, 2010). Finally, X-rated materials which are fit for adults are not censored hence these materials find their way to children’s view.
This happens because parents determine what they can show to their children and some may not mind exposing their children to X-rated materials. Cybercrimes are also prevalent through other internet tools that are not censored, and this proves that efforts by governments to censor websites cannot achieve all its set goals and objectives.
Many have argued that filters themselves are flawed. This means that filters cannot be trusted with censoring all information on the internet. In fact, filters block 7.8% of legitimate websites and allow 13% of materials that are supposed to be inaccessible. This means that internet filters cannot be effective for censoring all information that has to be prohibited from the public (Andrew, 2010).
These are some challenges that governments face in censoring information because some sneak to the public. This means that measures have to be put in place if the government has to censor all intended information. In fact, they should try to develop laws that can work alongside filters to ensure that information that bypasses filters does not affect the public.
Internet censoring lulls parents into a sense of security for their children, which may be false. This means that parents may assume that their children are safe from any immoral material on the internet (Zacks, 2002). Children end up accessing a lot of information which should be inaccessible to them since their parents are less vigilant as they believe in filters (Hosein, 2007).
This may adversely affect growth in children as they may acquire immoral behaviors such as drug abuse and crime. Parents should guide their children on how to use internet for the right purpose only. They should monitor what is right for their children and control it to ensure that only what is healthy for children growth is accessed.
They should not trust filters proposed by governments since they are fraudulent, and in case their children get access to materials such as child pornography, the direct impact would be felt by parents and not the government (Al-Saggaf, Himma and Kharabsheh, 2008).
In addition, parents should try to use home based filters which may be more effective. This is where parents identify websites that they want to be accessed by their children. This can be more effective than the government filters because parents are going to set up a filter system for their homes. Parents should allow all websites that they think contain useful materials for their children.
Internet censorship is aimed at ensuring that information that is believed to be harmful to the society is restricted from being displayed to the public. Many governments in the world are making laws aimed at controlling internet usage. For instance, any information that may influence the society negatively is censored from public access.
These include websites that display children pornography and information regarding terrorism (Ebbs and Rheingold, 1994). Various measures have been put in place to curb the vice and protect children and society as a whole. Some of the measures put in place by governments are internet filters that identify and block websites that are believed to contain illegal information.
Governments have entered into agreements with internet providers to ensure that they block some websites. This has been aimed at ensuring that what is available for users is only what is allowed by the government and service providers.
On the other hand, internet censorship has been faced by stiff opposition from human rights activists who believe that it is unconstitutional. Activists argue that freedom of speech is being violated when websites are blocked. In fact, many people opposed filters imposed by governments on internet usage (Hosein, 2007).
They cite various reasons some of which are genuine while others are not. For instance, it is hugely essential for parents to ensure that they control what their children access in the internet since filters cannot be fully reliable.
Therefore, internet censorship should be done carefully to ensure that useful information is not censored. On the other hand, measures should be put in place to ensure that information that is unacceptable is not accessed by the public. All stakeholders in the society should work hand in hand to ensure that only reliable information is available to children and the general public.
Al-Saggaf, Y., Himma, E. K. & Kharabsheh, R. (2008). Political online communities in Saudi Arabia: the major players. Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society, 6 (2), 127 – 140
Andrew, A. M. (2010), Internet freedom, Kybernetes, Vol. 39(7), 1097 – 1099
Ebbs, G., & Rheingold, H. (1994). Information Management & Computer Security. Emerald, 2 (4), 30-31.
Gorman, G. E. (2005), China-bashing in the internet censorship wars, Online Information Review, 29 (5), 453 – 456.
Hosein, G. (2007) They know where you are. Index on censorship, 4 (2), 132-136
Levin, J. (2010). Internet Censorship: The Debate Rages On, Screen Education, 59 (4), 46-51.
Wilson, M. (2008), Censorship, new technology and libraries, The Electronic Library, 26 (5) 695 – 701
Zacks, M. (2002). U.S. plans office to fight internet censorship. IEEE Internet Computing, 6(6), 8-9.
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