The Blocked Forum: State and Cultural Censorship in the Modern World (Guest Post)

by Carla at The Right Side of Truthusa-censorship

Censorship is a first step towards a totalitarian dystopia and the total reign of ignorance. No matter how good intentions might be, Americans, and everyone else around the world, must remain vigilant to the ever-more concerted efforts to censor information and ideas, regardless of how disagreeable they might be to any given group of people.

This trend towards censorship covers many spheres of life, attacking the values of the Western world under the guise of protecting various identity groups and perpetrating ostensibly righteous social causes. As a result, people all over the world are being watched and silenced.

State Censorship Across the Globe

To get a whole look at censorship, we need to consider countries outside the United States. The internet is an international platform, and an attack on any part of it is worth concern.

China is already a censored state, and we can see the effects on the populous. They often aren’t certain what to believe, and there is a generation that barely knows about the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.  For a more extreme example, one only need look at North Korea. Education in those places makes no attempt to conceal the fact that it is more about subservience to the State than teaching actual information.

We must make every effort to prevent the modern world’s countries from sharing a similar fate, and yet, thinking “it can’t happen here,” we are slipping. While currently there is little direct censorship in America, indirect censorship is ubiquitous. From Google and Facebook algorithms showing preference to left-leaning opinions and ideas, to campaigns based on fear or political correctness, we are on a freight train rocketing toward an America where free speech is a bygone relic.

We’re only one tragedy or political movement away from reaching a point of no return.

Surveillance and Other Tracking

Surveillance is a given in all modern countries, with China and several despot-states being obvious examples. But America has its own ubiquitous of tracking; there can be no denying this after the release of information by Edward Snowden. Whether one regards him as a hero or traitor, he has changed the landscape of American intelligence-gathering and politics forever. We know that the NSA, through the PRISM program (on top of whatever has been developed since then), is used to collect information on citizens under the guise of protecting us from threats. We know we are being recorded and tracked 24/7 for advertising purposes, but now also know that those same troves of “marketing data” are harvested by intelligence agencies.edward-snowden

Hypothetically, even if that information was only being used to combat terrorist threats (which it isn’t), would we be able to trust the next administration? The one after that? The data will not go away on its own, and it could be used against us at any point. A future Democratic president might use it to know how and where to suppress conservative views or vice versa. The existence of the power itself is what put our system of checks and balances at risk.

Most alarming is the fact that most of us have no choice in the matter, as regular internet usage is part of survival in the modern world. Careers require the level of connection only the internet provides, and families would be more split without it. That is not a coincidence.

Corporate Censorship and Bias Restricting Dialogue

Think a moment about the power certain tech giants such as Google and Facebook have over the national dialogue.  They have the right to run their businesses as they please, but people might be putting too much reliance on a few filters of information. Are people putting themselves into an intellectual bubble without realizing it? While removing clearly false content and scams is important, who decides what is a scam, and what qualifies them to do so?

While certain things might not get outright censored, it’s far too easy to adjust an algorithm or tweak search results to a corporation’s political agenda, and few people would be wiser for it. This is a great danger and a form of censorship that is outside the hands of the people, except to the extent that it is recognized and avoided simply by the public avoiding companies and products that track.

Additionally, with many people being monitored regularly, people are increasingly afraid of what they put on the record. There is a balance between the ability to say what one believes and the ability of the public to rebuke those words that must be upheld. While there is little legally that can be done which wouldn’t do more harm than good, society needs to much more seriously consider how it will tackle these issues without becoming a Soviet-style culture of fear where offending the official line can result in imprisonment or physical attack.

How People Are Resisting

As with any overreaching state actions, people are now resorting to methods to keep themselves free of censorship online. They will do whatever they can to make sure there is a free flow of information to and from them, and that involves using some tools on their devices. Here are a few:

  • Encrypted messaging apps (including but not limited to WhatsApp) have become extremely popular, especially in more totalitarian countries among resistance groups and journalists who don’t want to be found out. The main disadvantage is that more than one person needs the app to be effective, but the encryption has been protecting others for years now, making it a staple.
  • Proxies and Virtual Private Networks have become an extremely popular optianonymous-hackerson for people of all walks of life for protecting their data. They’ll hide the IP address of anyone that uses them, preventing surveillance states from putting a name to the traffic. They also encrypt communications and search history, keeping outside eyes out.
  • Alternatives to services provided by companies like Google and Twitter, which have been accused of political censorship and tracking, have emerged such as DuckDuckGo and Gab.ai.
  • Some still are using TOR or similar technologies to access information otherwise censored online. It should be noted, however, that people still need to be careful. Governments are aware of how they work and might try to entrap people. TOR itself was also an invention of the U.S. government and military-industrial complex.

It should also be mentioned that many people, at least in the Western world, are taking a more active political stance to avoid real or potential censorship. Both online and real world protests over net neutrality are frequent and at least partially effective. Corporations, for either selfish or unselfish reasons, often throw their support behind net neutrality (at least on paper).

If more people start resisting in these ways, we have some degree of hope that the fight for privacy and censorship has not already been completely lost.

What are your thoughts? What censorship are you seeing in the modern world today? Are you worried this trend will continue? The world is changing rapidly, and people will need to react faster to keep the channels of communication open. Please leave a comment below and tell us your thoughts.

About the Author

Carla is a writer and blogger who frequently writes about technological and political issues on The Right Side of Truth. She has studied censorship, both online and offline, for years now, and she hopes the information in this article allows you to take action appropriate with your beliefs. She will frequently find herself reviewing privacy policies to stay ahead and inform her followers of changes.

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