Historically, governments have used all forms of censorship to protect people against harmful or fraudulent information. Unfortunately, they have also used it to misinform and suppress people. Internet censorship is similar to print, radio, TV, and film censorship. However, because information propagates more quickly through the internet than through all other media, governments and ISPs (Internet Service Providers) must continually develop and implement new internet-censorship tools.
Advantages of Internet Censorship
Internet censorship can help protect women and children against sexual exploitation. It can also help us guard against spam, which is also called “junk mail.” Spam is unsolicited email that can contain dangerous spyware and viruses.
Protecting Women and Children – The pornography “industry” is increasingly competitive. Consequently, many “adult” websites think they need to provide more “diversions” by advocating violent sexual abuse of women and children. As explained by the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, the internet has created a hell on earth for many women because it facilitates selling them into slavery through the international sex trade. For more information, see Sexual Exploitation of Women in the Internet Culture.
European countries are trying to use internet censorship to protect children against child pornographers. European ISPs are trying to block access to websites that contain child pornography. With extreme gall, the predacious owners and advocates of these websites are fighting this internet censorship in the courts. For more information, see Europe Moves Toward Internet Censorship.
Guarding Against Email Spam – Internet spam is unsolicited email. Spam can contain any of the following:
- Malware that you activate by simply opening the email message. To guard against viruses and spyware, never open any email that seems even slightly suspicious.
- Phishing schemes that try to steal your identity by asking for your personal information. These notes often appear to be from seemingly legitimate financial companies asking you to “verify” your account numbers and passwords.
- Fraudulent schemes. Criminals continue to send us fraudulent email because too many people still believe such lies as, “I am an unwed grandmother working as a part-time accountant in North Bulimia. I have learned recently that you have a $1,500,000.00 inheritance in a Swiss bank account. After you send me $1,000.00 so that I can pay your withdrawal fee, I will forward your $1,500,000.00 check.”
- Offensive material.
- Unsolicited advertisements that are simply annoying.
Spam filters provide voluntary internet censorship by blocking almost all spam email. For example, Google Gmail has a Spam Filter that diverts all incoming spam (junk mail) to a “Spam” folder at the left of the page, under “6 more.” Gmail automatically eliminates all spam older than 30 days. Similarly, Mozilla Thunderbird lets you set up Junk Mail Controls that divert all junk mail (spam) to a “Junk” folder. Thunderbird automatically eliminates all junk mail older than 14 days.
Disadvantages of Internet Censorship
Internet censorship has technical limitations and potential legal problems.
Technical Limitations – Internet censorship might not always work because new technologies are emerging through which people can use proxy servers to bypass government firewalls. For more information, see Psiphon.
Potential Legal Problems – If certain websites are blocked, the individual or corporate owners of those blocked websites might be able to sue to have the blocks removed. Hopefully, international treaties and courts eventually can define acceptable behavior for all websites. Good civilization requires good citizenship. For example:
- You have every right to access the internet.
- You have every right to create a website.
- You have no right to advocate harm through your website.
This is an extension of ancient common sense:
- You have every right to attend a crowded theater.
- You have every right to shout “Fire!” just for fun in an empty field.
- You have no right to shout “Fire!” just for fun in a crowded theater.