Internet Censorship

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The 21st century has witnessed a lot of advancements especially technological ones involving information technology, and which have had great impacts on people’s lives, economically, politically, socially as well as psychologically. Positively, these advancements have aided in making people’s lives easier, while businesses have boomed due to use of new communication devices while governments have also benefitted from efficient industries. On a negative note, information technology, in relation to the utilization of the internet, has opened up a platform where many people have been swindled especially by cybercriminals, promoted the rise of sexual predators and other perversions tied to pornographic content. These negative effects have brought about many debates and discussions on the need to maintain privacy and restrictions to various kinds of information that may be harmful to the general public. This is exemplified by measures taken by Russia, as reported on BBC News (2012) and CNET News (Whittaker & Blue 2012), where the parliament voted in an internet censorship law purposed to safeguard the people’s right to be protected, with emphasis on children. This paper discusses the evolution of internet censorship and the related ethical and social issues involved through summary of two articles on the subject of internet censorship.

Article Summaries: Article 1

The article by Eko, Kumar & Yao published in the Journal of Internet Law in 2011, and titled “Google this: The great firewall of China, the IT wheel of India, Google Inc., and internet regulation”, discuses internet censorship in China and India with regards to Google, democracy and communism. The article highlights how internet censorship has been used in countries such as India and China despite continued globalization, as represented by the interconnectedness related to culture, politics and Google services in these nations. Generally, internet censorship involves the suppression or control of information that is accessible through the internet, carried out by individuals, private organizations but mainly by governments. The authors indicate the hideous paternalism of the Chinese government, due to its censorship of internet content through what Eko, Kumar & Yao (2011, 5) term as strategic government-controlled international gateways and national access points. The social and ethical issues involved in China’s control of the flow of information into and out of the country are highlighted by the government’s manipulation of information and infringement of people’s rights to free speech and expression.

However, the legitimacy of these censorship and the related activities thereof, are supported by various laws implemented by the government which implies that the government restricts information as set out and supported by the law of the land. The main issue is that instead of China regulating internet content for protecting its citizen gainst legitimate dangers such as child pornography and cybercrime, it restricts information about its illegal functions and the outside world. This is exemplified by the information leaked by Wikileaks, where the blocked sites included information about Taiwan and Tibet (Wu 2007, 415–9). The author’s provide the case of Google, as an American company, and its business environment in China, where it is accused of ethical irresponsibility, due to its obedience of unjust Chinese laws, since its democratic origins should drive it to stand up to oppression (Dann & Haddow 2008, 219-8). With regards to India as well as China, the authors indicate that governments continue to censor internet content according to their logic of governance, despite the power of globalization in eliciting positive change in relation to politics and culture as representatives of modern society.

Article 2

The second article by Bambauer accepted for publication in IEEE Internet Computing in 2013, and titled “Censorship v3.1”, discuses about the evolution of internet censorship in the United States, where the focus on maintaining people’s rights and freedoms has led to a complex metamorphosis of censorship. Fundamentally, Bambauer (2013, 11) refers to this evolution as a sinister model where internet censorship by governments has become less accountable, transparent and vulnerable to challenge with negative ethical and social ramifications. Censorship is carried out due to various negative effects experienced when the harmful or sensitive information is availed to all and sundry, where the repercussions may be moral, economic, religious, political or even legal. As indicated in Eko, Kumar & Yao’s article Bambauer’s article also highlights governments’ continued regulation of internet content, not primarily for protecting its citizen against legitimate dangers such as child pornography and cybercrime, but restriction of information about its illegal functions and the outside world. However, while China’s internet censorship activities are more identifiable and supported by legislations, despite their innate illegality, the censorship in the United States and other democratic nations is more hideous due to complications of respecting rights and freedoms.

Bambauer indicates that the government’s evolution towards less accountable and transparent institutions involved in internet censorship is exemplified by its utilization of the software Censorship v1.0, which did not succeed, after which v2.0 was implemented. However, its implementation and censorship of internet content was obscured by definitional terms that eliminated the label of censorship, considering its negative connotations tied to abuse of rights in countries such as Iran, China and Burma in relation to internet censorship. The author indicates that more democratic nations began increasingly embracing internet censorship, each for a variety of reasons, which saw the introduction of Censorship v3.0, which had more filtering power and represented by the United States seizure of domain names and blocking of sites ostensibly due to infringement of intellectual property. Events such as the opposition of ‘Stop Online Piracy Act’ (SOPA) whose proponents are shown as acknowledging the difficulty of countering misinformation, considering the platform is also owned by the disseminators (Wortham 2012), led to the unfavorable evolution of censorship. Moreover, more effective filtering software such as the Censorship v3.1, combined by chaotic internet governance, which is shared among governments, private corporations and individuals, makes censorship less transparent and accountable and vulnerable to challenge.

Article 1 & 2: Analysis and Evaluation

The relevance of Eko, Kumar & Yao’s 2011 article on internet censorship and China’s censorship-related activities is highlighted by its discussion of the negative practices of censorship that governments engages under auspices of citizen protection. The study’s reliability is indicated by the references provided in support of the author’s informational content provided by the article as it checks out. Additionally, the accuracy of the article is also provided by the references provided by the authors as well as information from the internet which confirms their researched information. In relation to the study being up-to-date and complete, the authors provide relevant and up-to-date information including the reference to the Information Technology Act of 2000 and 2008, as well as historical information such as Ranjit v. Union of India of (1965), which highlights comprehensiveness. The lack of bias is exemplified by the authors’ provision of pertinent and comprehensive information in its original form, followed by an analysis that highlights unbiased synthesis of data and information provided.

Conversely, the relevance of Bambauer’s 2013 article on internet censorship and democratic nations’ censorship-related activities is shown by the author’s comprehensive discussion of the negative practices of censorship by democratic governments. The study’s reliability and accuracy is indicated by the references provided in support of the author’s informational content, which is confirmed by a simple search on the internet. In relation to the study being up-to-date, the author provides relevant and up-to-date information including the circumstances surrounding the evolution of internet censorship especially the rejection of the SOPA bill and the introduction of Censorship v1.0 through v3.1. The study’s completeness is indicated by the provision of appropriate recommendations after the insightful analysis by the author. The lack of bias is exemplified by the author’s analysis of varied information in relation to different countries even though the analysis seems to be very forceful as if the author is incensed by the state of internet censorship, hence potential for bias. 

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