Governments and organizations commonly implement Internet censorship, which in turn provides an established online reality for Internet users. This paper discusses whether there are differences in Internet censorship between western countries and if so, why do these differences exist. Background information on Internet censorship and the reasons for differences in censorship between western countries are initially examined. The reasons for the differences were found to be cultural variation and the different strategies to implement censorship.
Research was accordingly done to identify these differences with the examples of Britain and the USA. Furthermore, the change of reality perception caused by different Internet censorship strategies is discussed. To conclude, future implications and the importance for research to find social norms for Internet censorship are outlined. There are many people all around the world that are victims of Internet censorship, which underlines the significance of this paper. Keywords Internet Censorship, USA, Britain, Differences between Western Countries, Internet users Introduction Currently, media is most commonly on the Internet.
Online media, the main means of mass communication through technical means, can be dangerous due to the fact that it has become an increasingly important source of information, entertainment and social activities (Appraiser, 2011). There is no limit to what information can be put on the Internet or what can occur online. Therefore, countries around the world use Internet censorship in order to filter information that is bombarded at us everyday and presents a modified version of reality (Media Censorship, 2002).
In western countries such as Britain and The United States of America (USA) there are 85 Internet users ere 100 people and this means they are largely exposed to the dangers on the Internet (World Bank, 2013). Despite fighting against the same dangers, these western countries seem to have differences in Internet censorship. This paper aims at researching whether there are differences in Internet censorship between western countries and why they may exist. This is significantly relevant because, as above-mentioned, there exists many Internet users in similarly developed countries.
This research is presented in the following way. Firstly, background information on media censorship is given. Secondly, theories about why preferences may exist are discussed. Thirdly, media censorship differences between the USA and Britain are presented through case studies. Fourthly, the effects of the differences in Internet censorship are outlined. Lastly, a few implications of the research will be discussed. Background information In modern days, it has become extremely easy to capture and share information.
Within this world of information, there is a lot of hidden danger and the government of a country, some may claim, has the responsibility to protect their citizens from these dangers. This could include psychological harm, organization of dangerous activities, terrorism, cyber bullying, the access to private information or access to illegal information or substances (Shapiro et al, 2003). This demonstrates how much danger is on the Internet and despite protecting its citizens from the same type of harm, western countries have differences in Internet censorship.
These differences may exist because of a lack of social norms for using media on the Internet. Establishing norms around the world in general is difficult since we have different cultures and customs (Cert., 2012). These norms are used to create a sense of order and provide a more convenient way of living. Why are there differences? Internet censorship is a relatively new concept and due to this, establishing social norms for it is even more difficult. Norms for the Internet may include avoiding websites, pictures, and information available on the Internet (Cert., 2012).
Eventually, certain practices from countries will be merged in order to create these norms but this hasn’t occurred yet. Cert. (2012) labels this lack of norms as worrying. It is worrying because when a dangerous act has occurred online, we have not found a common set of guidelines for the way to behave in that situation. The implication of his is that countries such as Britain and the USA use different strategies of Internet censorship in order to protect their citizens.
The reasons for these differences is that media and information on the Internet doesn’t exist separately but exists in the real world of politics, economics, life styles, personal relationships and regulations and these still differ greatly from country to country. As well as protecting their citizens, governments and companies use Internet censorship in order to filter out information that is not deemed safe for the public (Shapiro et al, 2003). Some organizations may use it to control what information users dead, thus forcing them to form certain opinions and manipulating the information they see (Groom, 2013).
It is because of these different strategies within countries, protection and manipulating, that there may be even more differences in media censorship than Just the differences owing to the cultural variations around the world. Are there differences? Not many empirical studies have been done on the differences of Internet censorship in western countries due to the lack of systematic data (Humphreys, 1996). Despite this, there are still studies and information that support the differences among Internet censorship. For some countries such as the USA, the value of Internet freedom has increased (Dick, 2012).
The value of Internet freedom signifies freedom of speech and its importance to the USA, even online. This means that there may be a decrease in the use of Internet censorship. Britain, on the other hand, increased censorship since the period of Thatcher’s as outlines below (Humphreys, 1996). Britain especially focused on increasing censorship on controversial information. These views become the origin of the differences in media censorship between these western countries. Supporting evidence below may be used to confirm the differences.
Britain has had a variety of Internet censorship in the past few years focusing primarily on censoring pieces of information and news made public. Ownership of information online, whether owned by the government or private companies, has the power to influence audiences (Klan, 2002). This concept is otherwise known as agenda setting. Herman and Chomsky have found that in Britain, private owners often use their power to influence political processes, media Journalists and make certain news seem more important than others (Klan, 2002).
Davis (2012) states any information or news on the Internet and media sites is a separate business that operates in a capitalistic society and is affected according to that. This means that in Britain, there has been a restriction on alternative and critical news, reduction in investigative Journalism and encouraging audiences to read populist online news. Recently, Prime Minister David Cameron came out with a shocking statement outlining that the government would prohibit people that were suspected of being violent or inappropriate from posting comments and news in social media and news ties (Davis, 2012).
The British government has already asked Backbone and Twitter to take a greater responsibility for supervising the content posted on their sites (Dick, 2012). Turning to another western country, the USA has an almost opposite take on Internet censorship. Hilary Clinton (2011) has recently argued that the Internet should be a place where freedom of speech is allowed and this ranges from cutting- edge news to any ordinary behaviors or information from people. She takes an almost opposite stand point from David Cameron.
Instead of Internet censorship on Backbone, Twitter or the news, the USA has implemented Internet censorship in schools, on government information online and scientific and technical research (Shill, 1989). The censorship on government information has been recently identified by the situation concerning whistle blower, Edward Snowmen. Edward Snowmen, an American computer analyst recently revealed that the NSA has had surveillance on phone and Internet communication around the world (Tucker, 2013).
This demonstrates how far the American government has gone to control the Internet and how much the public knows and doesn’t know. The way in which social media and Internet covers government information is influenced by the government itself using first amendment rules and libel laws (Bank, 1990). To summarize, Britain controls public Internet communication by influencing Twitter and Backbone while the USA controls any governmental information including intellectual information provided for education. What do these differences mean?
These differences of Internet censorship do not Just signify differences in the web pages and information online but also differences in reality perception of the population. Perception can be defined as what a person sees while reality is what actually there Monsoons, 2011). Reality perception may also be present in attitudes, beliefs, behaviors and relations with others; anything that includes thought process. Over time, the reality perception of Internet users is molded to fit to the information they are continuously exposed to.
Therefore, if Internet censorship differs between western countries, their thought processes differ as well. The online world in Britain contains, portrays and emphasizes different information, advertisement and access to social sites compared to the USA. Regarding the Edward Snowmen situation, the laity perception of Americans, and even many others was clouded due to the lack of knowledge of the NSA surveillances. These occurrences and subtle changes will, over time, lead to different thought processes.
In short, censorship not only creates differences online, but also creates different reality perceptions. Conclusion In conclusion, western countries have differences in Internet censorship that are due to cultural variation and strategies to mold views of the population. This demonstrates that the research has managed to highlight differences in media censorship and offers theories to explain them. This is relevant to look at because anyone that reads this paper is a victim of media censorship, due to the increased use of media in our societies.
Despite the USA underlining the importance of freedom of speech, western countries face threats that require media censorship to protect their citizens. The next step would be to research the similarities of Internet censorship around the world and outline some social norms that could be used to govern Internet and media usage. Governments of countries have a lot of power over its population, especially when it comes to Internet censorship (Groom, 2013). If mom countries use censorship to manipulate opinions, then these social norms may protect citizens from their own government as well as any other existing dangers.