Being Connected and Being Censored

Being Connected and Being Censored

As technology grows we become increasingly more connected as a species and our access to information is expanded with every new connection. Authorities worldwide have differing views on how this increased access to information will affect the citizens of their countries and the way to approach it. Some governments loosely regulate the flow of information. Some restrict access to various forms of content.  Others choose to have complete control over the content individuals are exposed to.

The countries below approach the idea of censorship with different levels of severity when restricting Internet, cell phones, and other forms of technological communication.

The United States – The US employs minor censorship of the Internet and other technologies. It is illegal in the US to use cell phone jammers for private use however, in some instances, federal officials can.  Recently in San Francisco, an anti-police brutality protest was foiled when transit officials shut down power to cellular towers around the BART. This unprecedented mass shutdown inflamed the general public and instigated a government investigation as to the legality of the measures taken by the transit officials.

China – Chat rooms and private screens are highly monitored by the government in China and many websites are black listed. Go to this link to see if your website is blocked in China.

North Korea –North Korea is considered one of the most technologically censored countries worldwide. The government has control over all computers with access to the Internet. Only three websites can be accessed in North Korea and they solely contain academic information. The police heavily monitor the few chat rooms allowed. This higher level of censorship has created a huge black market for cell phones in North Korea.

The socio-political reasons behind the amount of restrictions vary as much as the courses of action different governments take. Below are a few reasons that are often 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

Barney Warf, a professor at the University of Kansas, published a definitive study of the geography of Internet censorship in the December issue of the academic journal, GeoJournal. He believes that, ultimately, the more globalized a country becomes, or strives to become, the trickier it is to control the amount of information the public has access to. The answer to the question of whether technological censorship is appropriate, is situational. We will continue to see the issue show up as the world gets increasingly more connected and as the flow of information becomes harder to control.

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