What is Censorship?

The Control of Information

Censorship has been happening in some form or other for thousands of years and the types of censorship continually evolve as technologies and customs do too. Today we see modern censorship on platforms like the internet, television and newspaper’s but it comes in all forms.

Censorship – A Definition

The Oxford Dictionary Defines Censorship as:

“The suppression or prohibition of any parts of books, films, news, etc. that are considered obscene, politically unacceptable, or a threat to security.”

This could be seen as government censorship but there are more indirect forms of censorship not necessarily controlled by an organization or political party – It could be something as simple as a parent controlling what their children watches on television. Basically any control of the availability of information could be seen as censorship.

Historical Censorship

Throughout the ages, governing bodies, particularly dictatorships have tried to censor their subjects and control what information is available to them in order to try and push a certain viewpoint or cast their own rule in a favorable light. Some examples of historical censorship include: - Roman suppression of Christian ideas. - Religious censorship to stop defamation of God. - German censorship to stop glorification of Nazis. - USSR censorship of media and religion.

As you can see people in positions of power have always tried to control the flow of information and suppress ideas that they feel are dangerous or threatening to them – They will try and put a positive spin on this censorship and say that it is beneficial for peace and stability.

Modern Censorship

Today and throughout the 20th century there have been forms of censorship that mainly concern media coverage. Governments may control newspaper publishers and put pressure on them to only print stories that show their regime in a favorable light. If a war is ongoing in a region, a political party may give false figures or embellish the truth in order to paint the conflict in a positive way to boost morale. There have even been instances where books have been destroyed in order to censor historical records.

Due to the immense amount of information that is available on the internet, some of which may be seen as unsavory or explicit, many governments are actively censoring what their population can view and are putting blocks on certain websites. There is also the specifically developed PCIS system (Platform for Internet Content Selection) that helps governments control what information is available on the internet and this is something that is gaining increased usage.

Whatever the form, censorship is apparent in the modern world and the debate over how ethical the practice is continues to be fought. There are those who believe it is in the best nature of the public to preserve standards and morality, while there are those who believe censorship goes against the basic rights of freedom of speech.