The growth of information and communication technology has significantly impacted on every facet of the world on most often noted is the internet. The advancement of Information and communication technology ICT, coupled with the rapid uptake of increasingly affordable, key technologies such as the Internet, has also helped foster an environment that promotes globalization of knowledge and information. The Internet has revolutionalized communication making information access across boundaries deemed seemingly impossible in the past a thing of general practice. People around the world are able to communicate with unprecedented ease.
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In the past, government has enjoyed great successes in censoring traditional communication media and this has affected information flow to the masses. The internet on the other hand with is multi-directional information flow communication nature where anyone can air their opinions on any desired issue at will has posed great challenges to governments. For countries with repressive regimes, the Internet has become a revolutionary force as it allows the free flow of information and which has been perceived as threat by the authorities in some countries. Government in some countries have responded imposing strict censorship on Internet usage by the public through monitoring, filtering and access to some site in the internet in a bid to control access to information. Internet censorship can be defined as the control or suppression of the publishing or accessing of information on the Internet.
Internet censorship has been a greatly debated topic around the world with people having different opinions. In most countries governments at different level have been the in the fore front in the campaign for a regulated internet. Though there are a few arguments that support the need to have the internet censored, it has been largely rejected by organizations and individuals across the world as censorship of the internet is widely regarded by many as an attempt by government to suppress freedom of speech.
This essay examines the arguments against internet censorship by government, its impact, successes and failures of government in some countries that embarked on such projects, and the challenges they have faced. It also assesses the key importance of censorship and concludes with an individual opinion evaluating the stated arguments.
The case against the government
Campaigners against the government’s censorship of the internet have strongly opposed censorship and have stated that it prevents freedom of speech thus undermining confidence and trusts in the medium and this inhibits crucial flows of data. Also, Internet censorship and filtering leads to monitoring which is seen by many as another big brother ploy by government to invade the public privacy. It is more often argued that the government will use internet censorship as a tool to promote political agenda and the public has been quick to conclude that the true voice of the public will not be heard. In Australia, the National-Anarchists reject any parliamentary censorship of material and the reasons given has been summed up simply, “any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both” – Benjamin Franklin.
Reports on internet censorship show the level of its pervasiveness recently being experienced in some countries. There are several tools and solutions instituted by the government of these countries for the purpose of internet censorship and also the content censored also vary with most blocked contents being political, pornographic, religious contents and others. 
The common argument used by most countries in proposing censorship is that of child pornography. Most people however believe that the government’s plans on internet censorship do not quite provide the solution to child pornography. It is often seen as, and in fact proven by experts that websites play only a minor role in circulation of child abuse materials and cannot be simply banned by Government . It is often suggested that censoring for children by utilizing a user backed software and filtering systems instead of governmental censorship is a viable solution for keeping children away from indecent internet content. There are several software systems that allow parental control of internet materials.
The OpenNet Initiative (ONI) has made a categorization of nations that is classes as internet enemy list. The ONI is joint project between some academic institutions across the world with the goal to monitor and report on internet filtering and surveillance activities by different nation. The project uses several means to determine the extent and nature of government-run internet filtering programs. It lists China, Iran Saudi Arabia etc in the forefront of internet censorship in the world. A new wave is now being generated by the Australian government as it moves to launch its own internet censorship project,  which has sparked up several arguments across the world.
According to the ONI reports, censorship varies with countries and some countries have pervasive filtering policies, often routinely blocking access to not just pornographic and prohibited contents, but also human rights organizations, news, blogs, and Web services that challenge the status quo or are deemed threatening or undesirable. The Chinese government’s “The Great firewall” currently uses four mechanisms — DNS blocking, reset commands, URL keyword blocking and content scanning — to prevent Internet users in the country from reaching blacklisted Web sites or content . This technique though quite effective faces some technology challenges as private VPNs used by banks, manufacturing and other businesses often allow users within these organizations bypass this “great firewall”. These VPN services are now even open to the public for sign up at a fee that is quite affordable and attempts by the government to clamp down on this may impact on the economy since businesses will be affected. The general public thus rides on this loophole .
Methods of implementing censorship have also been criticized. Blocking “unwanted” and “prohibited” content using a dynamic process that would require analysis of website content in real-time would significantly slow down the internet. This is already being experience on the china network. . Reports from Australia also suggests this will be the case when the Australian project kick off. The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) confirmed that under trial conditions internet filtering reduced speeds between 2% and “in excess of” 75%, but with half the tested products falling between 20-30%. It was concluded that proper implementation of the censorship project could result in a 20% drop in internet speeds .
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Policies have been another hugely criticize factor. Often time’s government policies on censorship do not make a clear distinction on materials unfit for internet content, this resulting in legal and harmless contents being blocked. Organizations have challenged and even filed lawsuits to prevent passage of censorship bills in some states citing free speech violation and the decision to embark on censorship as unconstitutional. This is the case of a Utah Internet Censorship law, intended to restrict children’s access to material on the Internet but that may in fact also restrict adults’ access to a wide range of lawful material . Examples cited COPA internet censorship law of 1998, included whether an education web page showing young women how to perform self examinations for breast cancer be banned and being classed as sexually explicit .
Australian government for example intends to use a public complaints mechanism for blacklisting URLs as well as URLs provided by international agencies. Analysts have questioned the accountability and transparency of this and have stated that the same government bureaucrats who put together their initialed flawed blacklist would remain responsible as arbitrators of the system. In support of the public’s claim, a recently leaked list of blacklisted website showed that about half of the sites listed were in fact not related to child porn as claimed by the government but rather other contents that were to a certain degree could be classified as legal content for the adult community. This has sparked further debate on the issue .
A word for the government
The biggest arguments presented so far by the government in support of internet censorship have been issues relating to preventing access to illegal contents and child pornography, racism, fraud terrorism, religion etc. With the attempts so far made by several nations to impose some form of censorship meeting with similar resistance, government should realize that the key challenges faced are three fold, the people, the law and the coping with technology.
One could however wonder why the topic on censoring the internet would generate so much argument when the public indeed presently abides by certain degree of censorship. From schools preventing access to certain contents and websites, warnings are displayed on university networks on the impact of downloading of file sharing, companies prevent employees from accessing chat systems, networking website and other sites at work using firewalls to ISPs blocking potential dangerous contents either because of virus or to keep their network safe and uncompromised, Why then is the public so opposed to the government censoring the internet? It could be safe to state that the public is just not ready for the extreme spectrum of Internet control which would result in a globally regulated internet by the government for the fear that the public could lose its freedom of speech and the fear unknown.
Conclusion & Recommendation
Though internet censorship could be considered a necessity in cases where there is need to set a standard for publishing and the kind of information to publish on highly sensitive topics, by and large the foreseeable disadvantages far surpasses the benefits that may be accrued. I do not see Government succeeding in the offing in the fight to regulate content on the internet. Technology favours the public internet users rather than government and as such the government will be playing catch-up and their efforts may yet be foiled. Technology is presently enabling data encryption, user generated videos and pod casts thus complicating the tasks by the monitoring bodies. Also the laws governing internet censorship if passed will meet several barriers as they are more likely to be passed by countries independently. The internet spans boundaries and how these laws would apply to other countries a crucial aspect of consideration. The law will need to keep up with changing technology as such there will be no rest for law makers. Passing laws takes considerable time, and lapse in law would result in loopholes that could be exploited by the public.
In addition, the controversies generated by government censoring the internet far outweigh the benefit. The internet is a global communication platform and the government needs to study close before imposing laws. Close attention should however the paid to the fact that the global nature of the net does present problems to censorship.
To conclude, though the proposed laws by government to regulate the internet is of good intention, it is unwise for the government to censor the internet because any law infringing on the public’s right to free speech or breaching individual’s right to privacy and freedom on such a vast communication medium as the internet will be difficult to enforce.
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