02 Nov Disadvantages of Internet Censorship
List of Disadvantages and Issues with Internet Censorship
1. It allows a government to control the population.
In 2009, there was great censorship and a clamp on freedom of expression in Iran. This happened after the Green Revolution. One who disagrees with the government in the country is arrested or worse. People who are bloggers and any person who post on social media fall under this group. The president then used “National Security” as his justification. The use of anonymous browsing tools like TOR becaome a tool of choice.
First-generation controls are, arguably, the most basic means with which the state can deny
access to prohibited information in cyberspace. These controls are also, however, not insurmountable. In Iran, for example, citizens have used proxies, VPN services, and other censorship-circumvention tools to access sites otherwise unavailable in the country due to the pervasive regime of national Internet filtering.
Second-generation controls raise the level to which a state is willing to control online expression. Some of these approaches can be nontechnical and very open, such as the passing of new, specific legislation aimed at controlling expression in cyberspace, or the citing of existing press, sedition, and other laws to stifle such expression. In the case of Iran, Internet-specific legislation has made strict controls over online activity very clear to Internet users in the country. The regime also arbitrarily enforces generalized laws, such as the Press Law, to stifle dissent at will. Other second generation controls are more surreptitious and technical.
Third-generation controls are considered more difficult to document. Highly sophisticated and multidimensional, they focus less on
denying access to information and more on promoting a particular national narrative in cyberspace as part of a competition of ideas and
ideologies. The creation of national cyberzones (e.g., Iran’s National Information Network) is an effective means of inhibiting the open and free
exchange of information that the Internet provides. Attacking the dissenting views of internal or external actors by permitting the actions of
“Internet brigades” (e.g., information operations conducted by Iran’s so-called Cyber Army) is
another method whereby a state (or non-state actors supporting the regime with or without explicit state support) can fight its own information war and project ideas that are favourable to its national ideology. Enhancing the existing cyber-capabilities of a nation’s armed forces is yet another example of a third-generation control. In light of recent malware attacks that the government interpreted as specifically directed
against its nuclear facilities, Iran has made efforts to bolster its military institutions against cyberwarfare contingencies.
2. Censorship works to control the flow of news.
Censorship can be helpful when you’re trying to stop the flow of fake news across social media channels. When governments use this process to prevent access to relevant current events, then the narrative switches to one of population control. China has a large group of monitors that scour the internet to find issues or stories that could be problematic for the government’s official response. That’s why there are Chinese versions of social media instead of YouTube, Twitter, or Google.
When foreign entities can find workarounds for the issue, then the Chinese government has the authority to shut down the internet for an entire region. They took that action in 2009 when ethnic riots were happening in Xinjiang.
3. It shifts the responsibility of conduct from the person to the government.
When there are rules or regulations governing the conduct of censorship, then individuals are no longer responsible for their actions. The government (or other oversight entity) takes on that role by declaring what is safe to view and the sites that one must avoid. There is no longer a need to make personal decisions any more in this environment. Someone could legitimately justify their actions, even illegal ones, by saying that no one in authority had told them to stop.
This disadvantage makes it easier for governments or dictators to rule with an iron fist. When someone allows another to rule over specific areas of their life without consequence, then it is easier to give up more control over time.
4. There is a power dynamic in society that forms when internet censorship is present.
Internet censorship might restrict access to harmful data, but it also creates a relationship where one specific group has power over another. That people who are in charge can filter what the average visitor gets to see when they start browsing online. Dictating what people can or cannot do is not a definition of freedom. It creates a dynamic where one person or group is eventually in charge of everything. Someone is in charge where they don’t need to report to anyone. Once you reach that stage, their opinion becomes regulations – and that allows them to enforce their will onto others.
5. There is a cost to internet censorship that must be considered.
Each country that decides to place censorship rules on their population will spend an average of $2.5 billion each year to enforce those regulations. That means the global effort to restrict information from individuals can total close to $100 billion. Since it is the government that imposes these stipulations, taxpayers are the ones who end up footing the bill. That means all of us end up paying for our ability to let other people control the data we see without really having a way to alter the outcome.
6. Censorship disrupts the freedom to conduct conversations or business.
About 40 governments around the world regularly process criminal charges against individuals for content or conduct they find online. The World Economic Forum notes that 25% of today’s population with access to the internet lives somewhere that censors what they can see in some way. Simple actions, like browsing Facebook, are taken for granted in places without censorship, but many people do not have this ability. The average sentence given to someone because of conduct found disruptive by the government is over a year long.
7. Censorship on the internet limits the national economy.
The Great Firewall in China might be one of the world’s most famous forms of internet censorship, but it is not the only way that governments stop entrepreneurs from pursuing a good idea. When everyone must receive permission to publish the content they want, then they are not in full control over their economic opportunities. Shutting down the internet cost countries about $2.4 billion in total economic activity.
The costliest results came from disruptions to specific services and apps, accounting for almost half of the lost activity. National and subnational internet disruptions reduce the levels of economic development for future months as well. Online transactions account for 6% of the entire U.S. economy, which is a figure shared by more developed nations. Losing that amount can be devastating to local communities.
8. Online information censorship creates lower intelligence levels.
Blogger Zakariya Rashid Hassad was arrested in 2011 in Bahrain for inciting hatred, sharing false news, the promotion of sectarianism, and calling for an overthrow of the government in online forums. Several journalists and editors have found themselves detained, imprisoned, or deported from the country because of the information they shared online. Many regimes use content removal as a way to create a structure of internet censorship, forcing people to comply or face jail time or worse if they refuse to do so. A blogger was even shot and killed for filming a protest in that country.
Governments often use the processes of censorship as a way to lower the intelligence levels of their population. If there is a lack of awareness present in society, then it is easier to manipulate outcomes.
9. Censorship restricts the right of people to share an opinion.
Even though hate speech is morally abhorrent and ethically questionable, the U.S. Supreme Court says that there is a freedom to share it. Attacks that involve race, religion, gender identity, sexual preference, and more happen every day when you look at social media. We even have late-night comedians having celebrities read “mean tweets” about themselves shared by people online.
The reality of internet censorship is that we could try to restrict everything that is offensive, but then we’d end up with nothing left to share. Some categories are not protected by the court ruling, such as a call to commit violence or a direct threat against a person, business, or group. We must remain vigilant to maintain our rights while placing common-sense restrictions on actions that could lead to harm.
10. Countries use internet censorship to control specific global narratives.
It is not unusual for governments in the Middle East to refer to the United States as “Satan” or worse. The goal of these actions is to show their people that Americans are not to be trusted. It creates an us vs. them dynamic that officials exploit for their personal benefit. When content is available online that proves this approach is false, then censorship is the only way to restore the “balance” that the government attempts to create.
Saudi Arabia sent a content takedown request to Netflix regarding an episode of Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj after receiving a complaint that the comedy show violated the cybercrimes law of the country. It discusses the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi and was highly critical of the nation and its relationship with Silicon Valley and the United States.
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