A common internet censorship definition is the suppression of what is or can be viewed by an individual or anyone who accesses a computer or mobile within an organization or jurisdiction.

It might be in line with the laws of the organization, territory, or jurisdiction to prevent the user from accessing vile or otherwise prohibited data that is not acceptable according to the rules, norms, values, or laws stipulated.

When it comes to the age factor vs internet access, it is mostly for safety reasons, to protect minors from internet predators as well as the viewership of dangerous and immoral content that may put the child’s life at risk. This type of censorship is a prolific case of parenthood at work. But there are cases where the parent is also contained in such a web albeit mostly for political or ethical reasons, as the two foremost cases.

At work, the person might work in an organization that has dedicated immense resources to digitizing. Here, all the vital data that ranges from clientele records, research and analysis data, as well as its own financial information (employee salary details) is dependent on this internet connection. It is only fair that the firm invests in security, and one of the ways to do this is by censorship. Some websites will be blacklisted because they either pose a security risk or they are a distraction that hinders productivity.

The political one is by a country and we will delve into depth about it further on, while the ethical one is more prevalent at work for reasons better known by the employer. It is also rampant in schools and institutions of higher learning if you are relating to monitoring the students.

Why internet censorship matters

A classical reason of why censorship on the internet matters is that it is largely aimed at eliminating the negatives contained in, mostly obscure information.

There are a couple of methods that are used to manipulate the flow of data or information that are considered as internet censorship. A majority of these methods are primarily for security purposes. That is why in most cases, it is usually a website that is blocked entirely.

Corporations handle large data volumes and one particular way in which they safeguard their investment is by portal censorship. Since the internet connection is meant to boost the output of the company, they will exclude sites such as torrents which not only uses volumes of data to download heavy files via peer to peer sharing, but also poses an immense security threat. Such sites can be used by hackers where a single download can unleash a virus on the system and compromise the whole network.

Another way to look at this, is in a more direct or no-nonsense approach which is largely attributed to social or socio-political issues in cases such as those of volatile politics. When a government in power tries to defuse tension or diffuse a negative flow of information, a popular approach to censorship would be to hide the truth. People would access all the information but the truthful portions would cease to exist in the data feed of the citizens within the boundaries of the country.

If there was an uprising that encouraged blood-shed or even made the slightest effort to insinuate such a call of action, then, fine-tuning search results to eliminate the truth of the movement would fall under censorship. All the government would have to do is scrape the name of the organization while eliminating keywords such as blood-shed, uprising, war, call of action, call for action, and so forth, from the data accessible on the internet. Like they say, out of sight, out of mind, and so people would be exposed to more ‘positive’ content that fosters growth and ambition.

As you can see, all these types of censorship are linked or tied to the government, but would it would be appropriate to call it government internet censorship? Ideally, there is a myriad of ways to look at it, which in fact, brings up more than one debate – Is there really true internet freedom? Plus, how does internet censorship work in regards to the law of the land?

In most countries, there is purported to be freedom of expression, but as the situation of global politics has continued to intensify it is claimed that personal data shared on the internet via social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, is accessed by a third party, (the government) to try and unearth compromising information that might be a threat.

Below are the three reasons we have highlighted as to why internet censorship matters with regards to social-political issues. Additionally, they also somehow double as part of the internet pros and cons depending on which side of the debate you fall on.

  • Eliminate negative information that may distort national peace.
  • Eliminate facts that may challenge the government in power.
  • Eliminate a largely crowd-mentality on social media that may intimidate other citizens by fanning hate and violence.

Internet censorship pros and cons

Pros

  • Reduces sharing of pirated material thereby minimizing copyright infringement.
  • Protects minors
  • Promotes online safety
  • It empowers the security agencies against hackers
  • In the workplace, it can save cost by discouraging access to sites that don’t contribute to the company’s productivity

Cons

  • It deprives the people power by leaving them in an oppressed situation (gives the government ultimate power)
  • It curbs the freedom of expression
  • Minimizes online networking which is vital to modern business growth
  • The cost of internet censorship is high and this can harm the economy

How does internet censorship work

There are different approaches to censoring internet content which gives rise to various classifiable methods. What is meant by this is that it just might be a site that is blocked entirely, thereby restricting any form of access by internet users altogether, or perhaps the URLs are filtered. These two methods of censorship on the internet are classified as forms of technical censorship.

Another popular approach is blocking IP addresses which track the location of the server from which the content is distributed from and closes access to all websites from this server. It is such methods that a whole new dimension to the internet censorship definition.

Government internet censorship

As you know, governments are very secretive, and it is usually difficult to fully elaborate how this process is undertaken. However, there are well renowned independent internet security companies which are contracted by organizations and governments to undertake such measures as censorship.

They deal in blocking malware, or in these sophisticated circumstances, deal in content-control software. This is a filtering software that restricts the type of information that is shared on the website. It is expensive to implement this type of censorship since the firms that own and operate this software under contract, are privately owned.

Some popular programs are; SmartFilter by Secure Computing in California used by Sudan, Saudi Arabia, U.S.A., Oman, Kuwait, and Bahrain among others, Websense which is used by Yemen and Myanmar, while Sandvine and Procera are used in Egypt and Turkey.

Top 5 most censored countries

  • North Korea
  • China
  • Yemen
  • Oman
  • Saudi Arabia

How a VPN protects the data when sending information

A VPN when attempting to bypass censorship on the internet and it involves encrypting the data while changing your IP address in the process. Any form of encrypted data is protected in a code form, and for anyone to access the content, they first have to decrypt the entire file.

Censoring content by blocking the IP address allows you to in turn change your IP address and by-pass the location-based blocks set in place. A good VPN (Virtual Private Network) service allows you to select a server based in another country, and quite often, the most dependable of this services has numerous scattered across the world. It keeps you anonymous and safe, altogether. To find out how exactly  a VPN works, read our guide ‘How does a VPN work?

Final thoughts

It is clear that in our day-to-day lives, we are subjected to some form of censorship. In fact, there is more than one way to define ‘what is internet censorship?’ depending on the scenario at hand.

For parents censoring content on their children’s’ computer, it is merely an act of protection on their part. They too might be subjected to the same by their employer who seeks to safeguard the interests of the company at the workplace by being barred from using the internet connection for unnecessary self-interest.

It may also be that the employer is simply eliminating distractions such as Facebook, YouTube, and other social networks whilst the employee is on the clock. It is also clear that some of the internet censorship pros and cons can fall both on the negative or positive depending on the issue at hand, whether political, moral, or even social.