Censorship on Social Media — Essay
Hello everyone. I hope that you all are doing great. I will be posting 500-word essays on various topics. This is the 2nd essay of the series. The topic is “Censorship on Social Media”.
Censorship means to withhold certain information from the public which doesn’t suit the agenda of the organization making the censor laws. The moment we hear this word we think of China, Russia or North Korea. It’s a misconception that only they have censorship laws. All countries have certain censored things. Governments use censorship to control the data which is available to citizens. They do this either because of national security or to hide their indiscretions. Communist or dictators use this to maintain their grip on their ‘throne’. This might be beneficial for them but comes at society’s expense as they don’t get to know about their govt’s activities. When Panama leaks happened it was a concern among the journalists that Chinese or Russian govt might censor social media to cover the leak. Govt is able to censor the data by monitoring the internet traffic, then using filters to filter out the words they deem inappropriate and then manipulating the search results.
When media is censored the only way to reach other people is social media. Social media was also used during Panama Leaks to spread the leaks in countries where hardcore censorship was practised. For a whistleblower who can’t approach the media, social media is the best way for him/her to expose the wrongdoings. But with the rapid advances in technology, the censorship on social media is becoming more and more stringent.
The legal area around censorship is grey. Last week when Trump incited a mob to lay siege on Capitol, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube suspended his accounts. This sparked a controversy regarding whether the ban was censorship or a socially responsible action. Currently, there are no definitive laws regarding which kind of data to censor so it is open to interpretations of social media giants.
Proponents of censorship are generally found in the upper echelon of power who wants information to be withheld from the public whereas the masses opposing censorship are generally journalists, media houses and public.
Whenever we talk about censorship, Free Speech comes into the picture. Censoring is actually in violation of free speech but this doesn’t mean that we are free to share or say anything we like. Anything unlawful attracts legal punishment. Governments have been found to misuse the national security angle to withheld various forms of data which if released would contribute to a public outcry against leaders. Censorship has also been used to suppress MeToo or LGBTQ movements.
But this has not always been the case. It has been very helpful in reducing cyber-crimes. By censoring pornographic websites, global human trafficking rates have also been reduced. Terrorist recruitment activities on social media have also reduced. Hate speech has been massively reduced on social media.
With the growing prowess of technology, monitoring is becoming easy thus making censorship easy. There is a dire need to formulate laws regarding this. Lawmakers need to come up with strict laws regarding what type of data needs to be censored whilst not suppressing the right to free speech. There needs to be a balance.