Internet censorship is a current phenomenon related to the control and limitation of what can be accessed or viewed by different users, done either at a state level or at an individual one.
Reasons for internet censorship
- Political concerns: one of the most widespread causes is the limitation or suppression of Internet in order to stop the latter becoming a political tool used to distribute a certain political, religious or social message contrary to the state policy. As examples, a minority religion may be prohibited from having an online presence, or divisive or exile groups in authoritarian regimes, as well as other sites that may seek to overthrow a ruling government.
- Social and moral issues: censorship intervenes also in the cases of topics which are deemed contrary to the values and morals of the society. A positive impact is the prohibition of pornography for the protection of children and young adults, with the possible reduction of sexual criminality in that sense.
- Security issues: in the context of ongoing international conflicts, some organizations and businesses tend to take special precautions in protecting themselves from malware or other cyber threats meant to diminish their initial message. In that sense, a positive consequence is the protection against terrorist and extremist hate speech and messages aiming to reduce their propaganda and therefore their influence.
- Economic interests and copyright: an ongoing debate exists concerning the scope of restrictions on these grounds. Where there is public support for eradicating child pornography, there is opposition is allowing a monopoly from certain companies considered “safe” and restricting the market for new entrants.
- Network tools: for different reasons, in certain countries, it may be considered easier to block the network tool or application that enables the proliferation of undesired messages, such as media sharing websites, social networks, e-mail providers or even censorship circumvention sites.
- Personal reasons: the right to be forgotten is a European concept that enables individuals to request their personal data be removed from the history of search engines. Highly opposed by the important search engines, the right was enforced by the European Court of Justice in the Costeja case, in which Google was required to comply with EU data privacy laws and erase the requested information.
Internet censorship may have positive, as well as negative consequences, hence it should be given particular importance, no matter which side once protects. Usually, once the censorship is enacted through regulatory or judiciary means, it is much difficult to lift the censorship or reduce its scope.