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Various Aspects of Internet Censorship

When the internet was first available as a tool for common man, it was given the name ‘information superhighway’. The name represented the capability of the web to provide fast access to information. Today, a lot of users may have that fast access to limitless amount of data. But for some, there are certain roadblocks on this information highway, created by what is known as internet censorship.

The reasons for internet censorship can be many. Sometimes, it is a good intention to protect children from content that is not suitable for them. But on other occasions, censorship is a tool used by government authorities to control the information that is accessible to the nation. The end result of internet censorship is that the web pages deemed undesirable by some authorities are blocked.

Governments and parents are not the only ones who are responsible for internet censorship. There are various products in the market that are known as web filters, or censorware, which are used for blocking sites.

Here are details about various levels of internet censorship and steps that are being taken to fight it.

Web filters and firewall

Internet censorship first begins at home. The web contains a lot of content that parents would not like their children to see. This includes adult sites, gambling rooms, and sites that publish hate speeches. Most parents feel that it is not possible to oversee their children all the time and resort to web filters.

Most of the web filters use either keyword blocking or blacklists for filtering sites. A blacklist is usually a list of sites which are blocked by the filter. The list keeps changing over time and companies provide updates of these lists. In case of keyword blocking, the filter goes through the page as it is being opened. If there are certain keywords present in the page, then the filter does not open it.

Installing a firewall is another option that can be utilized for blocking. Firewalls are not as intuitive as web filters and require more effort from the network administrator. Those who cannot use a firewall usually prefer web filters.

Corporate censorship

Most of the corporations restrict their employees from visiting certain sites. They do this to increase productivity. Internet is a tool for communication and research but it is also possible that the employees use the web as a form of distraction. Companies can also censor online content, when they find some employees accessing objectionable material on the web. However, the drawback is that other employees find this necessary and may even feel harassed.

National level censorship

Internet censorship takes place on a global scale as well. Many countries censor online content and some do not even allow access to internet. The web filtering done at national level mainly falls into four categories.

Social: Under this category, pages that might not be socially acceptable because of their content are blocked.

Political: Under this category, pages which are not in sync with the country’s policies are blocked.

Internet tools: Certain countries also block sites that provide internet tools like instant messengers and methods of circumventing censorship.

Security: Countries often block pages that are related to war and other conflicts.

Battling censorship

Various projects like the OpenNet Initiative and Censorware project have been working to raise awareness about internet censorship. There are a few other groups which provide information about bypassing web filters. Some of them provide proxy servers as a method to bypass censorship. You can use these proxy servers to shop without being tracked or to surf the net anonymously.

While it will certainly take time for the internet to fulfill its actual potential, the possibility of it reaching that level can be through corporate and national policy changes, and not just technological advancements.

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