Censorship in the age of Internet

Advent of Internet ushered us in an era of connectivity with the hope that the world would be more open, transparent and fair when there are so many eyes watching. But the purpose was beaten to smithereens when censorship came into play. Censorship means the practice of blocking or modifying certain content (Videos/ Text /Images) to prevent it from making an impression on the mass.

While censorship comes with both its pros and cons, it is its scope and expanse that is under question. Where and when is censorship ethical? This question is indeed difficult to answer but every nation in the world has found a way to answer it in their own way. Being a communist nation, China took the path of blocking major foreign websites and instead supported local websites like Baidu and Alibaba. Censorship was done to protect nationalist interest. Countries like North Korea practice heavy censorship, the people of NK have no access to outside world. All the websites, TV programs are owned by the state and the content is heavily curated. But in the recent times, thanks to internet, quite a few documentaries (shot by undercover agents)have emerged, providing insights into the life in NK. Countries like Syria, Israel censor websites  to prevent the information of political unrest in the country to reach out to common people inside/outside the country. Then there is Saudi Arabia that censors “Content from the West” to protect its people from the western culture which it frowns upon.  

Censorship in democracies has been practiced quite rationally but not without criticism. Very often censorship on movies and songs are debated in countries like India and Pakistan. For Instance, when the movie “Udta Punjab” was released in India it came under a lot of scrutiny from censor board while the supporters of the movie insisted it showed the reality of our country which was indeed dark and hence should be released uncensored. Censorship proves quite useful when it comes to regulating content for children, family TV etc. but there comes time when the debates become quite grey and it is difficult for anyone to take sides.

In the past decade or two, internet has played an important role to expose truths and bring more transparency (Wiki leaks, Hillary Clinton’s emails etc) to the world. If censorship is to be practiced, it should be done on more rational, democratic lines. No doubt the countries that heavily sensor the Internet are the ones with one or other form of authoritarian governments. Here we need to promote openness and condemn irrational censorship. Any steps to increase transparency should be welcomed. But there are certain grey areas where we need to take censorship with a pinch of salt as its application might not be always right or always wrong. To conclude, censorship is integral to maintain our democracy, culture and to uphold our freedom but it should be done in moderation and on rational lines.


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