Censorship has never been a popular concept. People hear the word and begin fearing the worst-case scenario, tyranny. However, these days, with the internet making everyone’s interactions easier, we need to look a bit closer at the notion to see if maybe it isn’t the evil everyone sees it to be.
Freedom vs Harm
We can all agree that we have certain freedoms that protect us from dictatorship. The problem arises when those freedoms begin to infringe on the freedom of others. Such as, when the things that people can say take away someone else’s freedom? Hate rhetoric, cyber bullying, etc. are easy to say in a medium where direct contact isn’t required.
There are exceptions to this anonymity rule. Social websites such as Facebook, take away some of the obscurity as your comments are seen by friends and family. This offers a bit of accountability, however if the statements that you make are also acceptable to your contacts then this gives very little regulation.
Keep the Innocent Safe
Children are our most innocent citizens and our most vulnerable. Predators can target our children with an anonymity that they’ve never had before. Technology has worked very hard to come up with software that can help families keep track of what their children are seeing on the internet. Yet even with all the special censorship software you can buy it still isn’t 100% safe.
Some Knowledge is Dangerous
The internet is known for its abundance of knowledge. If you want to learn how to build a deck, roast a chicken or how to get to your local grocery store this is the place to be. However, it is also the place people can go to learn to build bombs, create poisonous gas and commit the perfect crime. Yet who decides where the line is drawn? There is some information that is easy to see is dangerous but when the lines blur it may not be so easy.
Is Censorship Even Necessary
We are told that if we see something that we don’t like or that offends us we can choose not to look. That’s the wonderful thing about the internet, if you don’t like a website or post online you can move on to another.
If enough people pass it by then the website would become obsolete and irrelevant. This is, in essence, the people policing the internet themselves. Taking out the big brother aspect of it and letting the world know their displeasure with avoidance.
Who’s watching the Watchers
It’s very easy to look at all of this and start waving the flag of censorship as our savior but that has flaws as well. If we don’t have checks and balances then it would be very easy for the censorship that is supposed to protect us from evil to become an evil in its own right.
There would need to be a middle ground for this to keep the balance between policing and tyranny. This would take considerable amounts of time and money to set up and maintain. Would it be privatized or handled by the government? This option is not as cut and dry as it would seem.
It’s hard to hear censorship without feeling a deep-seated instinct to fight it. But there needs to be boundaries to ensure that one person’s freedom doesn’t become another person’s nightmare.