As a lover of technology and freedom, this debate is something that is quite dear to me. The fight for internet privacy and censorship is nothing new, as every medium of communication and knowledge sharing throughout history has gone under fire by those with the power to do so. Inventions such as the printing press ushered in a new age of mass communication, enabling those without voices to be heard around the world; for governments and leaders, this can be intimidating, especially without the ability to control the content of the message. Fast forward to today, the current state of the internet seamlessly connects people around the world with an information superhighway, allowing us to share our thoughts, spread ideas and beliefs, work on projects, and bring events living in the shadows to the light.
There is currently a war raging on regarding net neutrality, internet freedom, and overall censorship. Never before has there been such an open communication platform than the internet; naturally, those with power should fear this. However, what are the pros and cons of internet censorship?
Limits Criminal Activity
The internet can be a remarkable technology if used correctly and for the right reasons, but as we all know, there are those in the world who abuse this gift and use it for nefarious intents. Terrorists use the internet for recruitment, utilizing message boards and social media platforms to coerce young, easily-manipulated minds into their radical beliefs. Hackers use the power of code and encryption to safeguard their identities and actions on the internet to gain access to or disrupt a variety of targets. Finally, your everyday ‘law-abiding’ citizen can use the internet to spread disinformation, lies, and propaganda to influence elections. Having some form of law on the internet can indeed be necessary for ensuring that these actions can be identified and dealt with.
Internet censorship is an excellent method to prevent children from accessing content that is not suitable for them. Pornographic, violent, and other material that might upset a child can be prevented from reaching a child’s eyes with the use of content filters, blockers, and parental controls.
Internet censorship can block harmful sites, allow reliable and secure websites to be accessed, and help securely send sensitive information. Also, by enforcing strict internet guidelines and through the elimination of net neutrality, those who think they are safe from persecution by using an alias or IP routing will be in for a rude awakening.
As an American and an Air Force veteran, I view every freedom we have as a necessary, deserved, and a fought for right. Freedom of speech is one of the most significant contributors to our nation’s ideological beliefs, celebrating our cultural differences, and expressing our thoughts and feelings.
Freedom of Expression
The right to freedom of speech is eliminated once there is a limit to what you can/can’t say on the internet. While social media platforms like Facebook have the right to delete or tag content as hateful or harmful, the right to express what you wish on the internet should be protected to its utmost ability. The internet is the canvas to which the world can express their thoughts, beliefs, and ideas, painting a picture of the world of the past, present, and future; internet censorship and net neutrality, to me, act as the eraser to this beautiful painting, in fear of what it is, instead of the hope of what it can become.
With the enormous number of websites in use today, it is virtually impossible to correctly categorize each site, post, and picture as harmful or safe; due to this, there will often be situations where the wrong site will be banned, potentially eliminating a peaceful and informative website’s effectiveness. The only way to combat ignorance is to fight it with the truth, and not censoring everything on the internet provides this ability.
The Challenge of Enforcement
While many countries struggle with supplying their citizens with the basic needs such as employment, food, and water, it is difficult to imagine where they would come up for the funding necessary to implement internet censorship on a large scale. Furthermore, creating consistent and uniform rules and regulations will take a considerable amount of time, contrary to what many politicians are currently saying. Finally, who will govern those who govern the content on the internet?
Control Can Be Used for a Specific Gain
To quote Spiderman (forgive me), “with great power comes great responsibility.” Anytime a person or government obtains power, there is a strong chance they will take advantage of it. For example, what would a politician, who is getting ready for an election, do if they had some control of the content that is allowed on the internet? Spread their positive message, spread misinformation about their opponent, or worse? Much like in North Korea, the large percentage of the country’s citizens have little to no access to the internet, and the internet that is allowed is directly controlled by the government; this ensures that their citizens only view articles and sites that promote a positive outlook of their dictator’s ideals. Do we want to follow in those footsteps?
Overall, both sides of the argument have many critical viewpoints; however, in my opinion, I view internet censorship and net neutrality to be more harmful than beneficial. It is our right to free speech that makes America the great country that it is, and protecting our rights is what our country was founded upon. What do you think?