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Internet Censorship Pros and Cons

A critical evaluation of the pros and cons of Internet censorship can help you determine whether it is beneficial for the society as a whole, or not.
Techspirited Staff
The series of events related to Internet censorship in various parts of the world over the last year or so has brought this issue back to the debating table. This has left the entire world divided into two groups: (i) those advocating such censorship and (ii) those opposing it. While those who advocate it argue that such regulations are necessary to keep certain problems, such as sexual exploitation of children and spread of drug cartels, at bay, its critics are of the opinion that this is a mere authoritative practice which questions the fundamental principles of democracy.
Internet Censorship
The concept revolves around administrative control or suppression of publishing information on the Internet or accessing it. Basically, the reception of those web pages which are deemed unfit by the administrative body of the said country are blocked by government sanctions. Internet censorship exist in many parts of the world, including the United States, to a certain extent. Several countries, including China, Burma, North Korea, Vietnam, and Saudi Arabia, have been referred to as the enemies of the Internet by Reporters Without Borders (RWP), a Paris-based non-government organization advocating the freedom of press. To quote RWP, "these countries mark themselves out not just for their capacity to censor news and information online but also for their almost systematic repression of Internet users."
The Pros and Cons of Internet Censorship
Most of the progressive groups are of the opinion that Internet censorship to an extent is justified, but the onus is on the government to ensure that it doesn't hamper the freedom of press, or result in systematic repression of Internet users as highlighted by the RWP. Going through its pros and cons will help you get a better understanding of this concept and its implications on the society.
Arguments in favor ...
Advocates of Internet censorship argue that there has to be some regulation on this medium of mass media, as the absence of such regulation can result in serious implications on the society. Even other means of mass media, such as television and books, have censoring authorities, which implies that there is no problem in having such authorities monitoring what is being published on the Internet. Irrespective of whether it is on the television or Internet, racial comments and pornography can never be justified. It may be easier to trace a person who uses television as a medium to spread hatred or porn, but it is very difficult to do so on the Internet with no boundaries whatsoever.
The fact that the chances of being traced are very rare makes people resort to various criminal activities, right from sexual exploitation of children to running drug cartels from a particular part of the world, on the Internet. While laws pertaining to various Internet crimes do exist, it is very difficult to book a person on such charges, especially if he is not from the same country. The rising number of crimes validates this very fact and those in its favor cite this as the reason for their justification of Internet regulation.
Arguments against ...
According to the critics of Internet censorship, it is a blatant violation of Internet privacy and freedom of press, which is used by authoritative administration to suppress the effectiveness of this means of mass media. The critics also question the idea of Internet Service Providers deciding what to put on the Internet and what to omit, as the chances of these service providers being biased cannot be ruled out. As far as government regulation is concerned, the government can only regulate what is going on in their country, but it is very difficult to regulate web pages which are generated from other countries.
On the legal front, the owners of these websites can sue the administration for blocking their websites. While that may seldom work in non-democratic countries, it is an effective tool for companies in democratic countries. At the same time, such censorship is also bound to come heavy on taxpayers pocket because the government will have to put in more funds to tackle new concepts of Internet technology, such as proxy server, which keep on changing.
Evaluation of these pros and cons reveals that such restrictions can be used as well as misused. While the pros of Internet censorship may make you believe that it is the need of this hour, its cons suggest that such concepts don't have any place in democracy. While the problem is more rampant in countries with non-democratic government, the demons of censorship do raise their heads in democratic countries every once in a while.