What are the pros and cons of censorship?

Molly Rapske, OpEd Editor

Censorship has been a hotly debated topic in the past few years. On one hand, it forces writers and thinkers to comply with a certain set of rules. This can be incredibly stifling and negative. On the other hand, it can prevent those who write hate speech from having a platform to publish such content. Where then, is the line between acceptable censorship and the denial of free speech?

The types of content censored vary by region. For example, in China many social media sites are blocked, and Westmont public Wi-Fi blocks websites that contain adult content. The types of content that are often prohibited include sites containing adult content, as well as foreign news sites and person to person file sharing websites.

Censoring specific internet content is done for a variety of reasons. These include making copyrighted information unavailable to the public audience, controlling and preventing internet crimes, and preventing the public from viewing sensitive or unlawful content. Nevertheless, with use of a VPN, information that is censored can still be viewed.

Censorship is beneficial because it can reduce the amount of published hate speech. In turn, this can create less conflict throughout society. In the case of sensitive viewers, this can be especially important. We live in a society where children are continually exposed to adult content, and while child proof filters exist, unsafe content often slips through.

Censorship also protects the rights of authors and artists. Copyright laws are a form of censorship. These laws prevent plagiarism and IP (intellectual property) theft, thus allowing artists and authors who work primarily online to receive credit for their work. If content creators’ work isn’t protected, it can be stolen by a distributor who can take credit for it. This means small businesses are able to remain running.

These same censorship laws also allow for false content to be removed. Laws exist that prevent companies from lying to their customers about their products and services. Without these laws in place, sellers can say or do anything in order to get customers to buy their products without any penalty. 

The movie ratings that we have in the United States are also a form of censorship. Ratings such as R or PG-13 allow us to have a glimpse of what we want to be exposed to. Rating systems such as these are incredibly beneficial because it allows users to pick what they want to see without fully removing content that they do not wish to consume. 

With all this being said, censorship is definitely not all good. Rules for censorship are often based on what the majority wants and will prevent radical ideas from reaching the population. For example, countries such as Russia, Malaysia and Hungary promote censorship of LGBTQ+ content. When authors speak out and publish content related to this, their ideas are squashed. Change cannot occur when the voice of the people is blocked.

Censorship also often reduces the awareness of the general public. It prevents individuals from investigating what the truth of a situation is. The public is at the mercy of the people who create censorship laws. They get to decide what is right and wrong. Often, they can be influenced by corporations and politicians who do not want the word of the people who disagree with them to get out. 

Censorship prevents people from fully expressing themselves. People can get arrested for what they post online. A man from the United Kingdom was arrested for posting a meme which mocked the transgender flag. While this case can be considered beneficial censorship as it provided a consequence when hateful content was published, the fact that the government arrested this man for merely speaking is mind-blowing in my view. Because censorship is cultivated by the government, this power can be abused, allowing for the arrests of those in opposition to the government. 

“The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” was banned immediately after it was published in 1884 for a number of reasons. These included bad grammar, racism promoted by figures of authority in the story and the use of racial slurs. It continued to be a source of controversy which carried into the next century. While controversial, it is nowadays read in high schools throughout the United States. Part of this reason is because of the inherent controversy. Preventing students from seeing content will not lead them to understand why it is wrong.

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