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Internet Censorship and the Pursuit of Transparency

5 June 2023

The internet, an open space for information exchange and communication, has become an indispensable part of our lives. However, the freedom it offers is not without limitations.

Internet censorship refers to the control and regulation of online information and communication by governments, organizations, or internet service providers (ISPs). It involves restricting or blocking access to certain websites, content, or online services.

The reasons for internet censorship can vary depending on the country or organization implementing it. The issue of internet censorship is complex and multifaceted, involving considerations of free speech, national security, cultural values, and the power dynamics between governments, ISPs, and individuals.

Types of Censorship on the Internet

The internet is a vast and diverse platform where various forms of censorship manifest. Here are some common types of censorship on the internet:

1. Content Filtering

Content filtering is a prevalent form of internet censorship. It involves the selective blocking or restricting of access to certain websites, web pages, or online content. Governments, organisations, and internet service providers (ISPs) often employ this method to control the information flow and ensure compliance with their respective guidelines or policies.

Some common forms of this type of censorship is geo-restriction deployed by all streaming services across the world. For instance, due to copyrights, services like Hulu, Peacock, NBC, ESPN+, and many more are restricted to the US only.

2. Website Blocking

Website blocking, also known as web censorship, entails preventing users from accessing specific websites or web services entirely. This type of censorship is often implemented by governments or organisations to suppress dissenting opinions, restrict access to illegal content, or maintain control over the flow of information.

3. Throttling

Throttling refers to deliberately slowing down internet connection speeds for specific websites, applications, or online services. Internet service providers may engage in throttling to prioritise certain content or limit access to bandwidth-intensive services, potentially stifling online freedom and innovation.

4. Keyword Filtering

Keyword filtering, also known as keyword censorship, is a method that targets specific keywords, phrases, or search terms to prevent users from accessing related content. This form of censorship is commonly used to restrict access to information deemed sensitive or threatening by governing bodies or organisations. It is also used to control the narrative.

Censorship Across the World

Let’s look at some examples of censorship across the world.

i) USA

The United States, known for its commitment to freedom of speech and expression, faces its own unique challenges when it comes to internet censorship. The US has a history of banning books. For example, during the Cold War, books positively portraying anarchism, socialism, or communism had been banned.

The United States' Federal Government initiated legal action against Edward Snowden, accusing him of breaching prepublication commitments regarding his book, Permanent Record. This move was perceived by many as a form of isolation, obstructing Snowden's ability to freely express his thoughts and ideas.

In the pursuit of national security, the US government has implemented surveillance programs and initiatives to monitor online activities. The tension between protecting citizens from potential threats and safeguarding privacy rights raises concerns about the extent of government surveillance and its impact on internet censorship.

ii) UK

Another country that has a tight grip on the internet and cyberspace is the UK. Up till now, the British authorities have regulated areas such as hate speech, violence, terrorism and such. However, in pursuit of creating a safe digital platform, regulators have often inadvertently censored content.

In the UK, site regulators often censor content based on keywords after the approval of Online Safety Bill in 2022. It often results in restriction of educational websites and human rights groups that are trying to document war and abuses.

iii) South Korea

North Korea and South Korea signed a ceasefire in 1953. However, the South Korean government blocks access to all websites and media that speaks about the North Korean regime.

However, the government has taken it a bit too far. The Information and Communications Ethics Committee of South Korea imposes restrictions on a diverse array of subjects on the internet. To ensure compliance, search engines are obligated to verify the age of users for specific keywords. Users are required to provide their national identity number as part of the age verification process.

A Bleak Future for Transparent Internet

In many instances, we often focus solely on the top 10 countries with the highest levels of censorship or hear about human rights violations through media outlets, which gives the impression that such issues are far removed from our own lives.

However, the reality is that censorship manifests itself in subtle ways in our daily lives. It can be as inconspicuous as a web page being taken down, a DNS host failing to resolve, or encountering the message "This video is not available in your country." These seemingly minor occurrences indicate a growing trend of increased digital censorship and highlight how easily modern software can suppress freedom of expression.

Furthermore, surveillance software is increasingly prevalent, collecting vast amounts of data and analysing it to identify potential criminal activities.

The future remains uncertain, and we can never predict what lies ahead. Last year, it would have been difficult to anticipate the complete blocking of ProtonMail by Russian authorities. Similarly, no one could have foreseen the ban on TikTok in the US.

How to Protect Your Digital Rights

Despite the bleak future, there are a few things you can do to protect your online privacy and combat censorship.

Opt for a trustworthy VPN provider like Trust Zone. By utilising a VPN service, your IP address is concealed, and your internet traffic is encrypted, making it more challenging for external parties to monitor your online actions.

However, exercise caution when it comes to free VPNs that compromise your data privacy and exploit your information for their own gain. A reliable VPN not only enhances your online security but also enables you to circumvent restrictions and enjoy unrestricted access to the internet.

A VPN hides your IP address and all the information related to it like:

Your country

Region

City

ZIP code

Longitude

Latitude

When you connect to a VPN server, you are assigned a new IP address. In the process, it hides your real IP address so websites and online platforms cannot know where you are trying to access it.

This way, you can access restricted websites, social media platforms, and content. For example, if you are in a state that bans Tiktok, you can change your IP address with a VPN, and access its content with ease.

FAQs

What is internet censorship?

Internet censorship refers to the control or suppression of information on the internet, either by governments, organisations, or ISPs. It involves various methods such as content filtering, website blocking, and throttling.

Why do governments censor the internet?

Governments may censor the internet to maintain political control, suppress dissent, prevent access to illegal content, protect national security, or regulate the flow of information.

Is internet censorship a violation of freedom of speech?

Internet censorship can be seen as a violation of freedom of speech, as it restricts individuals' ability to express themselves and access information freely. However, the balance between censorship and protecting societal interests remains a subject of debate.

How can individuals bypass internet censorship?

Individuals can bypass internet censorship by using virtual private networks (VPNs), proxy servers, or other tools that encrypt and reroute internet traffic, making it difficult to detect or block.

Conclusion

The internet, once hailed as a beacon of freedom and information, has its dark side—internet censorship. We have explored several types of censorship that governments, organisations, and ISPs employ to regulate and control the online landscape. While some argue that censorship is necessary to protect society, others view it as a threat to individual freedoms and the open exchange of ideas.


Understanding the various methods used for internet censorship enables us to navigate this complex digital world more effectively. With a VPN like TrustZone, you can have internet freedom and unrestricted access to the internet.

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