Connectivity and Censorship

As access to information worldwide grows, governments and authorities fear how uncensored access will impact the people they govern. Due to this fear governing authorities develop different procedures to cope with this. Some choose to monitor or restrict access to certain sites; others choose to completely control all forms of communication-technology in order to regulate the content people are exposed to.

The countries below have varying levels of severity for censoring and restricting the Internet, cell phones, and other communication technologies.

The United States – It is illegal in the US for civilians to use cell phone jammers but in some instances, federal officials may. Recently, the issue of censorship vs. free speech was brought into focus in America. San Francisco transit officials prevented the usage of all cell phones on the BART system by cutting off electrical power to cellular towers. They effectively prevented an anti-police brutality protest, as well as enraged the public and precipitated a federal investigation into the legality of their actions.

China – Individual private screens and chat room are highly monitored and quite a few websites are blocked in China due to their content. See if your favorite websites are blocked in China on this website.

North Korea – One of the most technologically censored countries in the world, North Korean grants access to only three websites of academic information. There are a few heavily monitored chat rooms hosted on a closed system that are permissible. The North Korean Internet is more like an Intranet. The high level of censorship has created a huge black market for cell phones in North Korea.

The reasons governments give for censoring communication technologies are as varied as the levels of strictness. Here are a few reasons that are commonly 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

A professor at the University of Kansas, Barney Warf, published a definitive study of the geography of Internet censorship in an issue of GeoJournal. He believes that the more globalized a country becomes, the harder it is to control types and amounts of information the public can access. Whether or not technological censorship is right or wrong is situational and up to individual opinion. As the world becomes more connected it will become harder for nations to control the flow of data and we will see this issue continue to arise worldwide.

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

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