Most of the world is connected to the internet today. The quality of that connection is very variable, with some communities only have one terminal accessible at times. North America, in fact, makes up just 15% of the total population that is connected to the internet. Despite wide connectivity, many of the governments in the world today censor what can be seen.
The Internet Police in China reportedly employs 30,000 agents who investigate individuals who post information online that may be offensive to Chinese government and officials.
Even in the United States, censorship can be seen through the warrant-less monitoring of emails. In nations like Saudi Arabia, the monitoring is much more visible. Internet users in public are videotaped and their names are given to authorities. In nations like Ethiopia, it’s even worse. The government owns the only ISP that operates in the country and this allows them to block whatever they want to block.
- In China, more than 1 in 4 websites that are normally accessible through Google or other search engines is blocked through a four level filtering process.
- The number of media websites that are blocked by the Chinese government: 923.
- 1.72 billion. That’s the number of people that are affected by internet censorship on any given day.
- 25.3% of people encounter at least one form of internet censorship while using the internet.
- In 2012, the United States had 321 removal requests, which put the country in 2nd place overall. Brazil was first with 697 requests in total.
- The #1 reason why websites are asked to be blocked or removed is because of defamation. Privacy and security is the second most popular reason.
- 80% of the world doesn’t have access to an internet that is 100% uncensored.
- 8 of the 30 most visited countries have a censored Internet.
- 61% of internet users live in countries where criticism of the government and military are subject to censorship.
It doesn’t matter where you are in the world today. The internet is going to be censored in one form or another, whether that fact is publicized or not. Many countries won’t take the extreme steps of hiring 30k police officers to monitor internet use like China has, but law enforcement is actively involved in many nations. Even in the US, routine monitoring of social networking and email occurs without warrants or through public posts. We like to say that the internet offers a free exchange of ideas, but the fact is that most governments are pulling the strings of information behind what the average person can see. Some nations just do it more often and more effectively than others.
Iran Is Ranked As The #1 Internet Censor
- 20 million. That’s the number of Iranians that are on the internet right now or have access to the internet.
- 40% of the content that the Iranian government blocks are political or government websites. Sometimes they even block their own websites.
- Another 20% of the content that is blocked has to do with sex or exploring one’s sexuality.
- 60% of the population has suffered in some way from locally increased censorship and restriction that have been put into place.
- Iranians self-restrict their use of the internet because of the forced restrictions that are in place.
Although Iran doesn’t fit into the Top 5 of total censorship in the world today, they are one of the most active governments that is blocking a comprehensive amount of content right now. There’s even a good chance that this content can’t be read in Iran because of this specific criticism. China gets a lot of the publicity, as do nations like India and Pakistan, but the people in Iran are easily the most oppressed when it comes to free expression through use of the internet. If you live in a mostly unrestricted part of the world, it sheds new light on how much freedom is actually allowed. People are not only accepting internet censorship as the new “normal,” but they’re deciding to alter their own behaviors to follow the will of the ruling government. That sets a bad precedent for other areas of life that could be controlled in the future.
There Isn’t Any Content That Is Safe
- In Europe, the two most common forms of censorship are through the elimination of defamatory speech and removal of content that is suspected to be a copyright violation.
- In Canada, it is possible for a judge to issue an order that will remove what is classified as “hate speech” from the internet.
- In the UK, ISPs are voluntarily blocking websites that may lead to child pornography, whether there is content on that site that would be illegal or not.
- In France and Germany, Nazi propaganda is illegal and access to it is blocked. Sites that question the existence of the Holocaust may also be blocked in Europe.
- Film studios are consistently asking governments to block users who are “suspected” of illegal file transfers and copyright infringements and to terminate their contracts if specific web sites are visited.
- In 2009, a bill was passed in France that would allow internet users to be suspended from internet access for 12 months.
- In Romania, an ISP can be fined up to the equivalent of $200 million USD for providing users access to one of over 40 websites that they have blocked.
If there are acts that are blatantly harmful to people, then the topic of internet censorship begins to include discussions on morality. Is it right for Facebook to remove videos of terrorist groups beheading hostages? Should child pornography websites be allowed to function? If an act is illegal in a nation, such as having sex with a minor, then the video images of that conduct may legally qualify for suspension. When it comes to free speech, however, the justification of censorship because slippery at best. Denying people the right to express their opinion only does one thing: inflame their passions. A more effective approach might just be to allow people to speak their minds and have the general public judge the accuracy and validity of those opinions.
How Do People Feel About Internet Censorship?
- Every major population demographic is concerned as a majority about the internet being censored.
- Latin Americans are the most concerned about internet censorship, with 78% of the population demographic.
- People in North America [60%] are slightly more concerned about internet censorship than people in Europe [54%].
- In the Middle East and Africa, 69% of people in a November 2014 survey stated that they were concerned about internet censorship.
- Europe has the highest percentage of households that are connected to the internet at 78%.
- The nations that have the highest rates of concern for internet censorship have the lowest overall levels of internet coverage in the world today.
It is good to see that awareness is growing on this topic. An uniformed population base is one that is susceptible to being taken over through internet censorship. Now that a majority of the population is concerned about the issue, it is time to really start doing something about it. Even if you live in Africa, which has a 11.1% internet usage rate, censorship affects you. How can you know what is going on in the world today if there is no way to access the information you want to have? Or worse… if that information is manipulated before you get the chance to read it?
How Can Internet Censorship Be Reduced?
- Spread the word yourself about how governments are negatively impacting their population base by restricting the flow of information on the internet.
- Urge governments to be more accountable and request through your political representatives for more transparency.
- Do not support businesses that or lobbying local governments for the right to compromise your privacy or restrict the freedom of the internet.
- Always read the user agreements of a website before using that website for the first time.
- Consider using a VPN so that you can prevent third parties and your ISP from monitoring all of your internet activities.
If you do not take action to prevent the internet from being censored, then someone is going to find a way to use put a legal restriction in place. It might not happen today or tomorrow, but it is going to happen. When governments use comparisons to Iran to discuss why their own censorship efforts should be acceptable, then it will only be a matter of time before many more countries have their own form of China’s internet police. This is one of those issues where everyone has something at stake whether they live in Iran, China, or the US. People are quickly conditioned to accept censorship as something that is normal or “right.” There is nothing right about censorship.