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What is censorship?

Jan 10, 2024   |   4 mins
What is censorship?

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The Internet is a space of free and open expression. Unfortunately, Internet censorship is becoming more prevalent worldwide for diverse reasons, including national, information, and private security. The double-edged sword of technology provides tools for Internet censorship while also providing ways to fight back.

What is censorship?

Censorship refers to suppressing or controlling information, ideas, or artistic expression by an authority, such as governments, organizations, or individuals. Censorship aims to restrict or manipulate what people see, hear, or read, often to maintain control, protect specific values, or suppress dissenting opinions.

Internet-wide censorship varies from country to country. Some countries moderately censor the Internet, while others restrict access to news and other information, thereby stifling and suppressing public debate.

What's the history of censorship?

The history of censorship stretches back thousands of years and has evolved alongside human societies. Let's follow the course of history to understand the development of censorship better.

Censorship has a long history, dating back to ancient civilizations. In ancient Greece, the works of playwrights and poets had to be submitted for approval before a public performance.

In the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church established the Index of Forbidden Books to censor works that challenged religious teachings. The Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries promoted freedom of expression and the exchange of ideas, but censorship still exists in many parts of the world.

Recently, censorship has appeared in various forms during wars or political upheavals. In the digital age, governments and businesses are working to regulate online content, monitor distribution channels, and manage the spread of misinformation.

Why is censorship allowed?

Censorship exists in various forms and is allowed for various reasons, though the justifications can vary depending on the context and the governing body.  

But from a country, a community, to a company, everyone needs to have systems and rules in place for the whole society to run smoothly. Based on common characteristics, censorship is allowed to exist for specific reasons.

It can strengthen national security by keeping information away from enemies. It can protect people from slander intentionally making a false accusation or claim against someone in order to hurt their reputation or violent threats.

Forms of censorship

How does censorship happen?

In today's digital society, censorship can be enforced at any point when browsing the Internet. The websites you try to visit, the accounts you log into, your browsing history, and all Internet traffic is recorded.

It includes your device (smartphone, laptop, etc.). Your local network (your home WiFi, your work WiFi, etc.), usually seen on university or workplace WiFi networks with these types of blocking that restrict users from accessing certain content.

Your Internet Service Provider (ISP), the ISP has access to most of your information and has the power to block specific websites or the entire Internet from operating or not. The government can force ISPs to censor, effectively blocking censored content from everyone in the country.

Governments or organizations may employ technology tools to filter or block specific websites, social media platforms, or online content. The most common technical approach for content filtering is through IP blocking: Blocking Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, denying access to a specific IP address.

How can censorship limit people's freedom?

Internet censorship can limit individuals' freedom of expression by restricting their access to websites where they can speak freely. For example, social media platforms and general news sites are blocked in different regions every year. Such censorship may include government monitoring of citizens' Internet activity and speech.

Censors attempt to restrict freedom of thought and expression by limiting spoken language, print, symbolic messages, freedom of association, books, art, music, movies, television programs, and Internet sites. When the government engages in censorship, First Amendment freedoms are implicated.

While official agencies can use significant resources to create and maintain censorship systems, most Internet users still have difficulty accessing blocked sensitive information.

How to defeat the online censorship?

Using a VPN (Virtual Private Network)

VPN creates an encrypted tunnel between your device and the VPN server to protect your privacy. Your Internet traffic, including DNS queries, passes through the VPN server so that your ISP cannot monitor the websites you are trying to access or block you in any way.

TOR (The Onion Router)

TOR allows anonymous access to the internet and is often used to access blocked websites.

Proxy servers

A proxy server is a computer that acts as an intermediary between the user's computer and the internet. It allows you to bypass blocked sites.

DNS server change

By changing the DNS server on your device, one can bypass site blocks and access content.

Use of HTTPS

HTTPS encrypts your communication, allowing you to access blocked content.

As technology advances and society evolves, censorship changes and promotes greater attention to updating and optimizing technology. X-VPN fully supports the protection of user privacy and the preservation of fundamental freedoms.

Contemporary challenges and resistance

Today, censorship remains a contentious issue globally. Some countries moderate Internet censorship, while others restrict access to news and other information, thereby stifling and suppressing public debate. Internet censorship may also occur in response to or anticipating elections, protests, and riots. Activists, journalists, and organizations continue to fight for freedom of expression, access to information, and protection of individual rights in the face of censorship.