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The media provide our access to news and information. The citizens of a nation need to stay informed and thus come to trust the media that brings the news and information they desire without fear that it is a lie, an agency of an evil foreign power or in any other way not the closest to the truth possible. Censoring the media is tantamount to mind control of the citizenry. This issue is everyone’s problem.
Canada is in many ways a free country, particularly by world standards.
It is also, however, a nation that has always tolerated a remarkable amount of censorship, and spawned dismaying numbers of self-appointed guardians of taste and morality.
Since governments almost always have an interest in controlling the free flow of information, official censorship is something that must be constantly guarded against. In our society, however, large corporations are a more common source of censorship than governments: Media outlets killing stories because they undermine corporate interests, advertisers using their financial clout to squelch negative reports; powerful businesses using the threat of expensive lawsuits to discourage legitimate investigations.
The most frequent form of censorship is self-censorship: Journalists deciding not to pursue certain stories that they know will be unpopular with the boss.
In contrast to state censorship, which is usually easy to recognize, self-censorship by journalists tends to be obscured. It is particularly murky and insidious in the emerging media environment, with routine pressures to defer to employers that have massive industry clout and global reach.
In some parts of the world, the media are controlled by the government. This means that no one can broadcast or publish anything that the government considers to be immoral or harmful, or that threatens the country’s stability (i.e., the government’s own power base). This is what we usually think of when we hear the word censorship. Democratic countries, on the other hand, take pride in upholding the principle of freedom of speech. People are free to say and write whatever they wish, with some carefully defined exceptions. But there is another controlling power at work in a market economy the power of money. For example, in North America most mainstream publications depend on two income sources: subscriptions and advertisers. Both influence decisions about content. Readers must find the content relevant, interesting, tasteful, and entertaining or they will drop their subscription. Advertisers will cancel their accounts if they consider the content to undermine or challenge their message about the product they sell. For instance, the tobacco industry has enormous advertising power in the U.S., with annual expenditures of over $5 billion (or $75 for every adult smoker). Since cigarette advertising was banned on radio and TV in 1970, most of this money has been spent on expensive ads in the print media.
Some will argue that censorship is unconstitutional. In the first Amendment to the American Constitution, all people are guaranteed the right to freedom of speech. In the case of, for example, censoring of albums and V-chip technology, it does not technically violate the Constitution, it does violate the spirit of the Constitution. The First Amendment in the American Constitution suggests that all people also have the right to have their opinions heard in their original form. It does not say anything about whether or not a person has the right to censor that which offends them, as many attempts at censorship are. If these violations of Constitutional rights continue, dire consequences could result.
The censorship of media is helping to sterilize music, television, and books. If this trend continues, we will soon be seeing only one kind of entertainment, light, romantic, insubstantial. All of the daring that has driven all of the great human artistic achievements through history will be lost as promising young artists are squashed by efforts to censor their work. However, today’s parents are too busy to do anything more than plop their children in front of a TV set or stereo and leave the parenting to the media. Education is the key to “protecting” children, and those who dont know any better. Some people grew up watching violent movies and reading Stephen King novels, and they have never done anything extremely violent in their lives.
At first the use of filtering/blocking software may seem like a simple, reasonable solution, free from any threat to the freedom of expression of adults. Once one examines this proposal more thoroughly, serious problems arise when filtering/blocking software providers select the sites and program the categories to be blocked, since this constitutes permitting a private company to make censorial decisions for the public. The frequently proposed alternative solution is to have the filtering/blocking software block sites on the basis of self-classification — what the industry has dubbed self-labeling — by each individual who operates a web site, bulletin board.
As citizens in a nation, and inhabitants of a global megalopolis, there are questions which the control of content on the Internet forces us to confront regarding the issue of how far we are willing to have freedom of expression and communication in an adult world governed by a standard designed to protect the possible, but apparently indemonstrable harm that might be done to children or other adults: do we really wish to control freedom of access of intelligent teenagers, much less some adults who have access only to public, filtered terminals, from participating in small discussions between a group of interested adult individuals; do we condone restricting in any way access to the online equivalent of libraries, museums, universities, and agencies disseminating news, do we wish to inhibit a multitude of other useful services becoming available on the Internet, to such a standard? That’s why the Internet makes a lot of people very nervous. Because it can’t be effectively, and efficiently, controlled. It is wrong to assume that the Internet has no rules, and is friendly to the exchange of objectionable materials. In fact the Internet is a virtual community’ of users with a distinct culture incorporating diverse views but finding consensus in opposition to censorship and access control. There is also strong opposition to the exploitation of children; in fact, many Internet users have cooperated in attempts to identify those who create and distribute child pornography.
But, consider these possible analogies to the Internet:
I do, however, believe in such “censorship” techniques as movie ratings and album advisory labels. These, in actuality, are not censorship, but actually help the artist to exercise creative freedom. These warnings help parents to decide if a work is appropriate for them or for their children. Thus, more is acceptable artistically. For example, an album such as rapper Ludacris would never have been able to be released before the advent of the warning label. So, in that sense, warning techniques help to protect artists’ freedoms, as well as the innocence of children.
Firstly, censorship remains imperative in maintaining order in a society. It impedes the dissemination of seditious content on the internet, thereby preventing any form of unhealthy social discourse and maintaining harmony among people. The dawn of the internet age has empowered people to voice out their own opinions whilst behind the perceived security of their keyboard. This freedom of speech enabled by the internet inevitably calls for some form of oversight over its users. Not long ago, online furore erupted over notorious sex bloggers Alvin and Vivian, who posted a photo of themselves eating “Bak Kut Teh” or pork ribs soup.
What caused the controversy here was the catchline of the photo which read, “Happy breaking fast” in english. This resulted in a huge uproar from the muslim community as many felt that he was making a mockery out of the muslim tradition of fasting and abstinence from pork. Such racially insensitive remarks might damage the social fabric of a society, resulting in undesirable social implications and disrupting the racial harmony of a society. With censorship, such seditious content can be contained and order will be preserved.
Censorship is also necessary to protect the young from the hordes of violent and sexual content found on the media. Along with the expansion of the internet, malicious content has proliferated across the media. Youths of today are being exposed to the media from a very young age and they are highly susceptible to influence from the media. Reality television shows such as WWE(World Wrestling Entertainment) portray scenes of violence as men take on one another in wrestling. What is particularly worrying here is that most of these scenes are acted out and amplified for dramatic effect. Young children may not be able to discern reality from the virtual world and they may be influenced by the violent content. While there is no hard scientific data or causal link between media violence and real life aggression, psychiatrists have proven with empirical evidence that constant exposure to violent content ultimately has an impact on behaviour. Besides, the proliferation of pornographic content on the internet is another cause for concern.
With the internet, pornography is easily accessible to children and minors are viewing pornography at a very young age. The extreme nature of pornography might distort their views on relationships and promote a more liberal and permissive attitude towards sex among teenagers. This might be the cause of the rise in teenage pregnancies ,sexually transmitted diseases and other societal issues. In this respect, we can clearly see the need for censorship on the internet in order to protect the young from being negatively influenced by the media.
However, censorship is a powerful weapon which can be abused by depraved individuals as tools of oppression. In authoritarian states where the media is controlled by the state, censorship allows for the incumbent to have complete control over its people. North Korea comes to mind where censorship and oppression is concern. The state-controlled media in North Korea censors nearly everything from the outside world and selectively reveals information to the people. This carefully orchestrated media campaign is used to boost the image of their supreme leader Kim Jong Un and build a cult of personality around him. Censorship in North Korea also helps in manipulating the masses. By blocking access to the outside world, people are unable to be discerning about the information they receive from the state media and they are blinded from the truth. From this perspective, we can see how censorship, when used unwisely, becomes a tool of oppression.
Lastly, censorship is also ineffective in fulfilling its purpose and it is, in some cases, self defeating. Censorship has given rise to what is now known as the Streisand effect- whereby the act of trying to suppress information results in the greater spread of the information in question. Where censorship is practiced, there would certainly be attempts to circumvent the system and access the censored content. Such is the case of the Great Firewall of China. While it is considered by many to be a huge success, there has been many methods of bypassing the system since its instatement in 2003. This illustrates the ineffectiveness of censorship in withholding information from the people. In this regard, we can see that censorship is not the best method in regulating the media.
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