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What Is Internet Censorship?

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  • Written By: Gabriele Sturmer
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 14 November 2016
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Internet censorship prevents users from creating or viewing specific online content and can be done by governments, businesses, schools and even home users. Some examples of content that could be censored include materials dealing with pornography, graphic violence, terrorism and political concepts not accepted by a specific region or government. Some reasons for Internet censorship seek to protect users, such as the censoring of inappropriate content in an environment with children; other such censorship can have malicious intentions. There also are various methods that one can use to block inappropriate material, and some are more effective than others.

Each government, business, school and individual can have a different motive for using online censorship. Governments may block websites displaying material that is illegal in a specific country or websites that discuss undesirable political views. Businesses may block websites that employees could use to waste company time, including social networking, instant messaging and online game websites. Schools may block students from websites that students could use to waste time, but they also may seek to protect children from viewing content containing pornography and violence. Home users can use blocking software to keep a list of specific websites or entire categories of sites from use.

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Various technical methods can be used for Internet censorship, ranging from blocking an individual user's Internet protocol (IP) address to disconnecting any physical routers that provide access to the material. IP blocking, domain name system (DNS) filtering and packet filtering are all considered partial censorship methods, because there is a chance users can bypass the blocking. For example, proxy servers are useful for circumventing most of these partial filtering techniques and reduce the security of these Internet censorship tools. The full-block method involves disconnecting routers so no one in the area can bypass the block. Some governments use the full-block method because of its reliability.

Internet censorship is a controversial issue, and it has many supporters and opponents. Those who support Internet censorship argue that it protects citizens from harmful material and can prevent political upheaval in some areas. Supporters often emphasize the importance of blocking illegal pornographic materials from children and adults as a good reason to censor online content. Opponents of Internet censorship argue that it takes away the right of free speech, that governments can use the tool to prevent citizens from knowing important information and that some can and do abuse its power.

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Discuss this Article

anon951061
Post 4

Censorship stinks, but this kind of justifies its purpose.

Ana1234
Post 3

@Iluviaporos - Censorship in schools is somewhat cut and dried, because there are particular things that the majority of people will agree are just not suitable for kids. The only question is where the line should be drawn.

When it comes to the larger world, you might be able to argue that there should never be a line. Some people are completely against any censorship whatsoever, and I'm fairly close in agreement with that.

The only real argument against it seems to be that it will open the doors for all kinds of lawless behavior, but that behavior can still be illegal without censoring information.

lluviaporos
Post 2

@KoiwiGal - But is censorship the answer? I mean, I understand why teachers would be concerned. There is a lot of dangerous stuff out there online. But there's a lot of "dangerous" stuff in the average public library as well, and most of the time we don't try to keep children from wandering around in there.

I think you should just put up a basic program that blocks things like extreme violence and sex and leave the rest up to good teaching and parenting. Yes, the kids might go on social networks sometimes, but if they are determined to be distracted they will be doodling in the corners of their books anyway. Banning the internet doesn't really get them to focus.

KoiwiGal
Post 1

Censorship in schools is so tricky. I spoke to a teacher a year ago who told me that she simply doesn't have computers in her classroom any more, because her students were just too quick to hack through any security she could put up. She only ever let her class use the computers in the computer lab, where she could be constantly watching to make sure they were on task.

But when you start limiting your kids like that, you really are setting them up to fail later on. So much of our society depends on computer literacy right now.

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