Censorship – A Blessing or a Curse?

Aaron Bell, Centurion Staff Writer

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The Internet; for some, it is the source of much of their knowledge, be it consequential or trivial. For some, it is the source of entertainment. Undoubtedly, the internet has several practical and helpful uses for everyone. What exactly is the internet? Johnny Ryan, author of “The Essence of the Internet”, defines the internet as “a loose arrangement of connected but autonomous networks of devices” (7). The internet has evolved drastically over the course of a few decades. In fact, it has evolved to such an extent that currently, the internet is no longer only for private military use; it is now for public and commercial recreation. The internet serves several purposes to anyone that has a device capable of connecting to it. It serves as a means of gathering information, communication, entertainment, and many other helpful functions. Despite the internet’s several beneficial factors, the internet can, and is, often abused in the United States. The internet is undoubtedly very helpful in many ways; still, the internet too, has its downfalls. There is some content on the internet that the government arguably does not need to allow to the general public. There are many who use the internet to steal media and similar content, and there are also many who use the internet to amplify inappropriate material that is harmful to people.

Pirating is one of the major issues that are present with the uncensored internet. While it may be difficult to imagine today, piracy has long been defined in a way that has little to do with copyright or any other form of intellectual property. In fact, the practice of piracy originally had a positive (and even proud) reputation (5). However today, piracy is an illegal act of theft, defined by Cambridge Dictionaries as “the ​practice of using the ​internet to ​illegally ​copy ​software and ​pass it on to other ​people(6). You would think most people do not participate in piracy though, right? The fact is that most people have pirated before. Some of people may previously have regretted pirating in their sheer ignorance, while some people frequently neglect the fact that they pirate, in total shrewdness. When people want to download music from an artist, but do not want to pay for it on iTunes, what do they do? When people want to watch a movie, but do not want to purchase it, what do they do? Pirate media is typically the answer for both. This is more detrimental to people than not. Every time that media is pirated, everyone who had a part in producing it loses money. In fact, not only do those who help produce the media get paid less, but many of those people lose jobs as a result of pirating as well. Over 30 billion songs have been illegally downloaded between 2004 and 2009 (9). As a result, not only has this cost the music industry $12.5 billion in economic losses (3), but in addition, the Recording Industry Association of America revealed that over 71,000 jobs have been lost as a result of pirating (4). Piracy costs the U.S. economy between $200 and $250 billion dollars per year, and is responsible for the loss of over 750,000 jobs in the US (9) alone. To put that in perspective, a $250 billion dollar loss per year is the equivalent of taking almost $800 from every man, woman, and child in America (9), and the loss of 750,000 jobs annually is twice the number of those employed in the entire motion picture industry in 2010 (9).

Without censorship of the internet in the US, access to inappropriate material is also a prominent issue‒ especially for young children. Many children are getting wiser with the internet, and learning how to use it much earlier. As a matter of fact, The American Psychiatric Association estimates that by age 1, an American youth will have seen 1,000 simulated murders and 200,000 acts of violence in the media, including on the internet. (10) Still, violence is not the only inappropriate content that children may witness. Pornography, vandalism, crime, terrorism, racism, even suicide are just a few examples of what a child may encounter on an uncensored internet (1). To make matters worse, it has been proven that young children are spending more and more time around this type content. A study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that children [from] ages 8 to 18 spend more time in front of computers and similar devices than any other activity in their lives except sleeping (10). Spending that much time around inappropriate content, young children may become more likely to behave in aggressive or harmful manners toward others, and they may become desensitized to the pain and suffering of others (11). If censorship were to be put in place for inappropriate material on the internet, youth in particular would not have to see this type of inappropriate content. As a result, society would probably have less issues with people who may commit crimes based on negative childhood experiences.

An abundance of inappropriate information on the internet is an issue as well. Knowledge is power; but in the wrong hands, it can be used to hurt others, and unfortunately, even take lives. Bombs and weapons can be easily made by searching the internet in the US. As a result, there are many individuals such as terrorists that use this information available on the internet to create weapons, which can harm tens of thousands of people a year. To censor or not to censor? The lives of many are affected in this debate.

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