Table of Contents
Communication and information opportunities of the Internet are endless. It became a tool of both unification and the emergence of differences of human interests. Huge amounts of data contain different values and messages. Information flows of different semantic meaning and intentions can be used by different social groups and provoke social unrest. Their findings raised the issue of Internet censorship. In some cases, censorship filters unpleasant data, while it becomes an obstacle to the democratic development of society in some other cases.
Benefits of Censorship of the Internet
It is obvious that the problem of and the Internet regulation through censorship matured objectively in various countries and worldwide. The global network is no longer a virtual world apart from reality. The Internet is an integral part of people’s reality with serious mechanisms of influence on their lives. Therefore, there are a lot of Internet users who want to take advantage of these mechanisms for criminal or manipulative purposes.
The advantageous side of Internet censorship is the boundary of illegal activity of its users and dissemination of the data that violate national and international laws. The Internet can be used to disseminate pornographic materials, including child involvement (Zhao & Cai 2008). Various schemes of virtual payments are widely used for the implementation of the underworld criminal financial transactions (Bitso, Fourie & Bothma 2013). The global network is actively used for information warfare and political propaganda. Due to the essential negative consequences and violations of the law at present time, many countries pursue a policy of some limitations of the Internet. This fact means that information resources and access to the Internet will be the subjects of restrictions imposed by a state.
Some restrictions of freedom in the Internet may more effectively suppress activities of extremists in the information environment. Terrorists use the Internet as an information tool for the spread of radical ideas and promotional material including videos of terrorist attacks, hostage murders, etc. The Internet is the most popular information environment used by terrorism organizations to spread fear in society, to manipulate, and control it by the prospects and potential followers of radicalism and extremism.
Censorship puts limits of decency for the content of the Internet. Therefore, immoral and unethical materials become illegal for this environment. With the emergence of the Internet, child pornography has taken epidemic proportions. This material can be found everywhere throughout the Internet. It is spread through social networks, pornographic resources, file sharing, torrents, and other information sources. As part of censorship tracking, this stuff is constantly monitored and removed, but it immediately appears on other sites. Another problem that is also limited due to censorship frames is a porno sites provided the opportunity to view streaming video. Censorship promotes restriction of access of this material to a wider audience. Depending on the country and its information and social policies, users of certain country may have limited access to such sites, or do not have access at all. Some web sites pursue a socially responsible policy due to the warning of the presence of erotic materials, the requesting a user’s age, and offering a registration form for the fixation of a user. However, to follow the age of users visiting web sites is extremely difficult, because the age profile data can be filled with deliberately false information.
Censorship puts a ban on the demonstration and spread of abuse acts and trafficking of people in the global information environment. Censorship warned motivation of the mentioned and similar crime actions. Limitation of material on the Internet is of a preventive nature in order to promote ethical standards in society. Censorship is the limitation to the vices of humanity and contributes to its development and prosperity. Regulation of the Internet allows more closely monitor of this activity due to strict laws.
Censorship minimizes activity associated with libel and fraud. Lie concerning public people is able to spread on the Internet very fast. Another huge problem discrediting the whole direction of online commerce and virtual payments is numerous fraudulent schemes. The lack of control over financial activities on the Internet and the virtual absence of legal regulation of bloggers show unlimited possibilities for discrediting a person, identity theft, etc.
The spread of pirated products is becoming complicated for those who are interested in this illegal business due to censorship frameworks and legislation. These borders help respect the right of private property and copyright of publishers, software developers, manufacturers of film and music, etc. Restricting or banning such sites will direct consumers to buy real products and services.
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Inappropriate dissemination of information falling under the concept of censorship is challenged by sending spam on e-mail. Unfortunately, poor supervision and regulation of the Internet medium passes the spread of unwanted advertising messages and malware through e-mail. In addition, censorship limits of a global network legally put a taboo on the hacking attacks trying to gain access to personal information such as bank account numbers. In addition, there is a fraud on by soliciting money for the alleged ill people through pathetic messages sending on email addresses. Suspicious emails and viruses are actively blocked by filters of different providers.
Tighter regulation of information on the Internet helps to minimize the spread of plagiarism. As many of the authors working in the Internet suffer huge losses from illegal copying of their material, it is believed that censorship of the Internet should play a significant role for the protection of copyrights. Regarding to copyright protection, censorship also may mask illegal actions and corruption schemes of a government. Copyright can be truly protected by the system of electronic personal claims, where an individual makes a complaint and an individual and an offender will be easily identified. Such disputes will be resolved only in court with clearly defined responsibilities. The legislation of democratic countries could include the removal of the content by e-complaint. However, such corrective actions may be easily converted into a tool of censorship by the shortcomings of other legislative fundamentals of public relations.
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Censorship is necessary in case of the use of information resources by children and youth. The Internet is developing rapidly for children and is offering great opportunities not only for entertainment but also for knowledge acquisition, creativity, and communication. However, the use of the World Wide Web is associated with different risks that should be eliminated by surrounding adults or state measures. The access to the Internet is a window into a world that cannot always be friendly towards children and youth. It contains materials that can harm their fragile psyche.
Censorship and limiting support programs help to reduce the risk of infection by malicious computer programs, receipt of unwanted advertising information of pornographic and sexual nature, the unreliability of the information received, meetings with coarse information, etc.
Positive features of the phenomenon of censorship are dominated over its disadvantages. However, the Internet is visited by many users who can bypass censorship and increase the scope of risks and threats. However, the important points protected by censorship should be popularized correctly without distortion.
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Detriment of Censorship
Despite positive consequences of censorship such as banned unpleasant information and excluded information that violates ethics and legislation, constraints of the Internet resources can be associated with the risks of limitation of freedoms and rights (Clinton 2010). Human activity on the Internet is versatile. The same object of censorship can be treated as a manifestation of freedom of speech or an insult.
Any regulation of the Internet automatically means restricting the flow of information. This will prevent people from communication, free expression of their ideas, and the exchange of information. Information should be shared by all of society, not individual groups of people who are authorized to access the Internet resources.
Corrupt government is interested in limiting access to information related to its illegal political actions. Unlike other types of media, dissemination of information on the Internet is very difficult to control. In recent years, many international observers of human rights documented violation of the democratic rights at the international level. However, people approve the main democratic rights and values including freedom of expression and speech. Residents of many countries realize the benefits of the country provided freedom of speech, freedom of the Internet space, and freedom of the media.
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Performances on the right to freedom of expression may vary by country and region. The United States, Europe, and Latin America are distinguished by their specific rejection of state censorship. While freedom of expression is relevant and demanded in most of the world, religious freedom, equality and fair competitive elections are appreciated even more. These freedoms may be limited, especially by government censorship of the Internet. That it caused public protests and is considered as an attack on human rights, except of the cases involving the threats to state security.
Limitation of media by a government censorship conflicts with public opinion that media companies should be free to publish the information about political shortcomings and misconduct. However, censorship of the media still has to filter information relating to destabilizing the national economy (Leberknight, Chiang, Poor & Wong 2012).
Extreme measures of censorship of the Internet are a failure or partial failure of its information services. The residents of Burma, Cuba, North Korea, China and other countries recognize the abandonment of Internet technologies as a step that will negatively affect the economy (Stevenson 2007). Therefore, total monitoring traces any opposite online activity by running the mode of content filtering. In addition, it should be noted that censorship of certain countries with a totalitarian regime restricts access to the data resources of the opposition and the international agencies. This access is limited at the level of providers.
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Supporters of the position against censorship of speech in the Internet appeal to the information war as an ideological term and a set of measures on the impact of information on the mass public consciousness in conditions of transparency (Nunziato 2009). In fact, unlike totalitarian propaganda (a monopoly on the truth), information warfare includes the existence of various sources of information and methods of data use that define a subjective point of view. Information warfare acts as targeted information impact of information systems on each other to obtain benefits, information, and economic advantages. Every country has its own inherent peculiarities of information systems. One of the means of information war is a peaceful propaganda of merits of lifestyle. Imposing own behaviours to surrounding systems inevitably weakens them and is still very safe for an information aggressor, because this information is not reprograming its own information system. Therefore, censorship of the opposite opinion can make a monopoly situation in the country. In case of information war, defeated enemy becomes a resource.
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As part of censorship, the amount and type of information transmitted deliberately from one country to another is a measure of information aggressiveness or democratic promise. Moreover, the massive reprogramming of people is carried out by the methods that are emotional and belonging to such areas as mass culture, art, and religion. Recent trends show that many countries create a system of cultural expansion to be protected against information aggression.
Any company is committed to make its products and image associated with the ideal in the minds of consumers to ensure sales growth. The same thing happens at the country level. Promotion of certain lifestyle online automatically generates demand in the relevant market of ideas. Any country seeks to advantageously create and realize its ideal image. Companies are also eager to impose their advertisements to potential customers and use different methods to overcome barriers and filters (pop-up-windows, spam filters, various ad-ware, etc.). Countries may use different methods of bypassing barriers and resort to Internet technology, which allows distributing politically sensitive information and bypassing international borders. In the most general terms, this position can be summarized as follows: the Internet blurs the international borders and leads to the weakening and even death of the systems which fight for their existence. However, setting censorship and appropriate ways to filter information throughout the Internet at global and national levels will compel a business to suffer losses due to the inability to demonstrate the freedom of entrepreneurship and market promotions. In case of country competition, censorship of the Internet is not adequately demonstrating the truth about any of a country at the international level.
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As a matter of fact, the Internet can serve for both advantageous and criminal purposes. Regulation of the Internet is a very delicate subject and depends on the national legislation. Moreover, the absence of any regulation leads to rampant crime in the information environment, while unnecessary restrictions provoke arbitrariness of the authorities (Brown 2006). Besides, it is very difficult to make forecasts about regulation of any side of the Internet.
Control over the Internet through censorship comes not effective and distorted the necessary information. Instead of working out common rules of censorship and regulation, a number of countries try to transfer regulation in the local space, i.e., on national legislation. This could threaten the fact that the global network is divided into a plurality of local national networks living by its own laws, regardless of the overall global goals and unity of information space (Dainotti et al. 2011). The most negative versions of these transformations is the end of the Internet and the free flow of information.
Internet censorship is a controversial and multifaceted issue. Censorship as the tool of limiting the spread of unnecessary and threatening information in the Internet manifests itself differently in various countries, regarding distinguished social and economic subjects. Positive peculiarity of Internet censorship is a restriction of traffic information that is too erotic and criminal. Such information could have a negative effect on the subconscious mind, thoughts, and actions of people. In addition, the establishment of such protective barriers is based on ethical and legal grounds. Censorship contributes to the protection of society from immorality, cruelty, and fraud. Considering Internet censorship as a kind of filter information flow, some government and corporate structures can use it as a tool of establishment of monopoly on available information for public usage. Reduction of objectivity and truth about the reports of wrongdoing is a disadvantage of censorship. One of the key points in the analysis of censorship has been a violation of the rights to freedom of expression. This aspect is of conflict with censorship terms in many countries.