Coincidentally or not, the rise of improper acts has been directly linked with the advance of the internet. Many a time can you stumble upon a statement claiming it is to blame for the problematic behavior among people, specifically teenagers and young adults, even children. Those who claim so propose internet censorship, i.e., restricting content that can be accessed as the perfect solution.
While this might sound like a sound idea, the question lingers whether it is sustainable. Additionally, we can’t help but ask, is it indeed the internet to be blamed?
What is internet censorship?
Internet censorship refers to the control of information the general public can see. Typically, governments, law enforcement institutions, even private organizations can censor the content which can include copyrighted information, unwanted, sensitive, and harmful content.
The internet access can be restricted for a variety of reasons. People and organizations may self-censor for moral or business reasons to conform to societal norms or to avoid facing legal consequences. Government engagement, on the other hand, may differ from country to country.
There are countries that don’t impose any censorship whatsoever, while others have mild and moderate restrictions. Countries such as China, Iran, and North Korea, to name a few, have horrible internet freedom, strictly limiting access to information.
- Forbidding people to access specific information, such as news
- Preventing people from viewing sensitive content
- Controlling cybercrime such as identity theft
- Monitoring what people are doing on the web
- Protect children from accessing sensitive information
- Attempting to control the narrative
Pros and cons of internet censorship
Much like in real-life situations, not everything about the internet and censorship is black and white. It has its advantages as well as disadvantages.
Some of the advantages include:
- Creating common sense limits – there is dangerous content such as social media challenges that should never see the light of the day. Internet censorship may not be the ultimate solution for removing such content, but it can definitely be a start of constructive discussion.
- Eliminating fake news – false advertising and fraudulent information could see an end if the internet was more closely monitored.
- Restricting access to harmful activities – dark web is an unsurveyed area for most internet users. However, it’s not the only place where illegal and immoral acts can take place.
- Reducing identity theft – less content requiring identity information would result in less identity theft.
The drawbacks, on the other hand, encompass:
- Restricting too much information – it’s not always possible to differ actual from fake information. As a result, blocking access to the fraudulent may lead to blocking real information as well.
- Not knowing who is in charge – without strictly defined rules about what should and what shouldn’t be censored, as well as who is responsible for it, internet restriction can turn into a vanity fair in a matter of seconds.
- Censoring free speech – ultimately, censorship on the internet can turn into restriction of the content you want to post.
The goods of the internet
The benefits of the internet are innumerable. One of the greatest is the ability to provide instant and widespread access to information. In just a few clicks, we can access a wealth of knowledge, research papers, news articles, and educational resources from around the globe.
The internet has democratized information, empowering individuals to learn, explore new interests, and stay informed on a wide range of topics.
It has also transcended geographical boundaries and transformed the way we communicate. Instant messaging, email, social media platforms, and video conferencing tools have made it easier than ever to connect with people across the globe.
The internet has fostered collaboration, strengthened relationships, and facilitated the exchange of ideas on an unprecedented scale, enabling a truly global community.
It has also made our lives more convenient by enabling us to shop for a vast array of products and services from the comfort of our homes. Plus, we have the access to online services, such as e-banking, e-learning platforms, telemedicine, and digital entertainment
The world wide web has enabled individuals to pursue their passions, showcase their talents, and create their own opportunities. Content creators, artists, musicians, and writers have an opportunity to share their work directly with a global audience, bypassing traditional gatekeepers. With the help of the gig economy, freelancers and independent contractors to are empowered to find work and build successful careers.
Last but not least, the internet brought up the world of entertainment and cultural experiences. Streaming services, online gaming, music platforms, and video-sharing websites offer a diverse range of content that caters to different tastes and interests.
The bads of the internet
Unfortunately, the internet has its bad sides due to which proponents of censorship insist in access restrictions.
At the core of the internet’s dark side lies the “dark web.” It is a part of the internet that is intentionally hidden and requires special software to access. Within its secluded corners, one can find illegal marketplaces, where illicit stuff is bought and sold anonymously. Criminal organizations thrive in these dark web marketplaces, conducting illicit activities beyond the reach of traditional law enforcement.
The dark side of the internet serves as a breeding ground for cybercrime and digital warfare. Malicious hackers operate in the shadows, targeting individuals, businesses, and even governments with phishing attacks, ransomware, identity theft, and other insidious techniques.
The anonymity and distance provided by the internet often embolden individuals to engage in cyberbullying and online harassment. Social media platforms, online forums, and comment sections become breeding grounds for hate speech, harassment, and the spread of toxic ideologies.
The consequences of such behavior can be devastating, leading to emotional distress, mental health issues, and even tragic outcomes.
Vladimir Radunović, Director of Cybersecurity and E-diplomacy at Diplo, agrees that the internet can indeed be perilous. “It is dangerous as it deepens violence and promotes bad ideas. However, I truly believe that the problem lies within society, not the internet itself. It is us who create the content, and the content containing hatred, as well as its popularity, reflects a certain level of society and its empathy.”
The proliferation of fake news, misinformation, and online propaganda represents another disadvantage of the internet. Malicious actors exploit the interconnectedness and virality of information on the web to spread falsehoods, manipulate public opinion, and sow discord within societies.
What can be done?
The first idea that pops into one’s mind upon wondering how the internet can be regulated is controlling, i.e., restricting the content. Though censorship might sound like an ideal solution, it is not so.
Source: Ask Leo!
Namely, the improper behavior of the public is a burning issue which requires to be tackled cautiously. It’s not surprising why there is pressure to come up with a quick fix. However, pointing fingers at the internet is only a temporary solution of the extremely complex problem.
Rather than restricting the harmful, it’s much wiser to promote the content everyone can benefit from. After all, restricting or blocking the content could imply inhibiting freedom of speech.
Internet vs. social media
People who condemn or criticize the internet for having harmful impact typically refer to social media. Thus, we should avoid generalizing and labeling the internet as detrimental. Instead, we should differentiate it from social media. The problem of a social network does not equal the problem of the internet; the internet itself is a true treasure of information.
Vladimir Radunović, Director of Cybersecurity and E-diplomacy at Diplo
In view of Vladimir Radunović, censorship and restrictions of the internet and social media are not the key, but our desire to create and watch bad content. Each social network has an option to report specific harmful content. After several reports, the algorithm will mark the content as detrimental and remove it.
Radunović, however, highlights that what matters is us as users, and what we are following social media. There isn’t quite an option to block any content, but you can always choose to follow accounts that promote beneficial content. He further states that, though specific software can filter the content using target keywords, this is not fruitful. The problematic content still exists on the web, and users can find the way to it if they want to.
To make social media and the internet a safer place, education is key.
“Bad behavior such as bullying has always been there, and it can’t be eradicated. However, by educating ourselves on how to use internet and social media, what risks exist, and what its potential consequences are can reduce malicious acting. The focus should be on education, it’s the only method that can guarantee long-term results,” concludes Vladimir Radunović, Director of Cybersecurity and E-diplomacy at Diplo.