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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Censorship is the suppression of speech, public communication, or other information, on the basis that such material is considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or "inconvenient".[1][2][3] Censorship can be conducted by a government[4] private institutions, and corporations.

Governments[4] and private organizations may engage in censorship. Other groups or institutions may propose and petition for censorship.[5] When an individual such as an author or other creator engages in censorship of their own works or speech, it is referred to as self-censorship. It occurs in a variety of different media, including speech, books, music, films, and other arts, the press, radio, television, and the Internet for a variety of claimed reasons including national security, to control obscenity, child pornography, and hate speech, to protect children or other vulnerable groups, to promote or restrict political or religious views, and to prevent slander and libel.

Nikolai Yezhov, the man strolling to Joseph Stalin's left, was executed in 1940. Because of Censorship in the Soviet Union the soviet censors edited him out of the photo.[6] Such retouching occurred commonly during Stalin's rule.
Book burning in Chile following the 1973 coup that installed the Pinochet regime.

Direct censorship may or may not be legal, depending on the type, location, and content. Many countries provide strong protections against censorship by law, but none of these protections are absolute and frequently a claim of necessity to balance conflicting rights is made, in order to determine what could and could not be censored. There are no laws against self-censorship.

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  • ✪ Media Regulation: Crash Course Government and Politics #45
  • ✪ Censorship Through The Collusion Of The Energy Industry And Government
  • ✪ Art Censorship Issues: Fire In My Belly
  • ✪ The Fear of Art: Who Does the Policing? What Is the Role of Self-Censorship?
  • ✪ Jeffrey Lockwood - The Energy Industry, Political Censorship, and Free Speech - Offstage Interview


Hello. I'm Craig, and this is Crash Course Government and Politics. Today I'm gonna talk a little bit about the media. Specifically, the way the media interacts with the government itself, and more specifically, the way the government regulates the media. Some of you might be saying, "Craig, get real, the government doesn't regulate the media. We live in a free-market capitalist society and the only real regulation on what gets published or broadcast is determined by consumers, Craig." Right Clone: Right on. Craig: Except that there are things you can't say on television or print in a newspaper either because they're harmful or untrue, and there are a number of government agencies that exist to place limits on the media and to make sure that we have access to information. Left Clone: Right on! Craig: Don't you mean left on? [laughs] But wait, so you guys both agree then? Clones: No. Craig: Oh, I guess I misunderstood. [Theme Music] Let's start our discussion of government regulation of the media with a little review. The oldest form of media in the US is print, so you might think that it has been the most regulated, but you'll remember from our episode on the freedom of the press that this isn't really the case because of the pesky first amendment. The freedom of the press was written into the Bill of Rights because the framers wisely recognized that without a free press, Americans would be less able to have the information they needed to make good political decisions, which they do all the time. They also make bad political decisions, too. They just make a lot of decisions. So there are very few government regulations on what can and can't appear in the newspaper. Near v. Minnesota basically said that there could be no censorship in the form of prior restraint. In New York Times v. US, the Pentagon Papers case made it difficult for the government to use national security as an excuse to prevent publication of sensitive, or in that case, embarrassing material. There are still libel laws that allow individuals to sue newspapers and magazines when they print something that they don't like. But as far as public figures are concerned, the Supreme Court's decision in New York Times v. Sullivan makes it pretty hard to censor the press by suing for libel. So I can say anything I want about public figures. Public figures are dumb. In order to win this type of lawsuit, the plaintiff must show that the article, or advertisement, was both untrue and published with actual malice or reckless disregard for the truth, which is a very, very high bar. What this means in practice is that the first amendment pretty much protects print media from government regulation. Although as we saw in the last episode, the number of Americans getting their information from print is shrinking. So maybe the markets are doing the regulation after all. Although I don't think people are buying fewer newspapers as a way of regulating their content. They probably just don't want the papers cluttering up their house and they don't wanna get that ink on their hands, you know, the black ink the rubs off. The government is taking a larger role in TV and radio, possibly because it reaches the largest numbers. Broadcast media is the most tightly regulated among the information sources. The first and probably least transparent way that the government regulates broadcast media is through control of the airwaves, which is done through licensing. Broadcast spectrum is a limited resource and is technically owned by the public, so if you want to broadcast, you need to purchase a license from the federal government. This gives you the right to operate your television or radio station under certain well-defined conditions. These licenses must be renewed every five years and they almost always are. The licenses are granted and most of the government regulation of broadcasters is managed by the Federal Communications Commission, the FCC. It was founded in 1934 to oversee a chaotic radio industry and it soon expanded to include television. As part of its mission, the FCC required that in order for a station to be granted a license, it had to show that it was operating in the public interest. In terms of politics, this meant that the FCC has come up with some rules regarding what gets broadcast. Every channel has to have a CSI. The first rule, dating back to 1949, is called the Fairness Doctrine. This requires broadcasters to give equal time to each side of a public issue. So if a station airs a program criticizing a war, say the one in Vietnam or the one in Iraq, it has to air another program of equal length that supports the war. What this meant in practice was that stations shied away from controversial programming, even though the Fairness Doctrine was never rigidly enforced. The lack of enforcement and generally non-controversial nature of commercial broadcasting didn't stop Ronald Reagan's administration from pushing for the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine in 1983. Congress voted to reinstate it in 1987 when Democrats took control, but Reagan said "uh-uh," and he vetoed the legislation. As a result, the Fairness Doctrine is pretty much dead. Other rules related to the Fairness Doctrine are the Equal Time Rule, which requires that broadcasters not discriminate in selling time to political candidates, and the Right of Rebuttal, which ensures a political candidate will have the opportunity to respond to a personal attack if it gets aired. These rules do not apply to eagles, however. Yeah, you stay down. There's another important FCC rule that deals with media ownership, but I'm gonna talk about that later because the FCC didn't tell me I can't. The FCC also regulates what can be broadcast, but these rules doesn't relate to politics so much as obscenity, indecency, or profanity showing up on radio or television. Sometimes these FCC rulings and fines become Supreme Court cases as people raise concerns about whether they deny our precious, precious free speech. One of the most famous cases in this area, FCC v. Pacifica Broadcasting, dealt with comedian George Carlin's Seven Words routine, which I will not be repeating because Crash Course is a family-friendly educational channel. This case established that it's okay for the FCC to require that certain language and images not be broadcast during family times, which is before 10 PM. The FCC also hands out fines for f-bombs and wardrobe malfunctions to keep us safe and virtuous. I should point out here that these FCC rules only apply to broadcast media and not most basic cable channels, which is why there's so many naked people in Game of Thrones. I don't know if that's why there is, but that's why they can do it. Congress also tried to regulate broadcasters by passing legislation, as it tried to do with the 1996 Telecommuncations Act. This act was best known for its failed attempts to regulate the internet, but it had other more interesting effects, too. As with any congressional legislation, this act was subject to Supreme Court judicial review. The court did strike down part of the law, Title V, which was called the Communications Decency Act and was meant to regulate online pornography, because its definition of obscenity was overbroad, and the court said that it violated the first amendment. Speaking of the internet, unlike print and broadcast media, it's largely self-regulating. This is possibly because Congress has recognized that it changes so quickly that most laws and regulations will be out of date by the time they're finally written. But this hasn't stopped them from trying. After the court struck down the Communications Decency Act, Congress tried again with the Child Online Protection Act in 1998, and they failed. This one didn't make it all the way to the Supreme Court, but lower federal courts enjoined the government from enforcing it in 2007. A more effective way to regulate the internet has been through lawsuits, especially those around intellectual property. As viewers of our IP series know, this is super complicated, but basically people can use the courts to restrict the internet. A good example of this was the Napster case, where courts ruled against the file-sharing company and it was shut down. It takes individuals, and Metallica, and corporations to bring these suits, but they use the government to shape the internet to meet their interests, so it can be seen as government regulation. Speaking of corporations, this is a good place to bring up a couple of very complicated regulatory issues involving the internet, television and newspapers. The first one has to do with media ownership. Let's go to the Thought Bubble. Part of the 1996 Telecommunications Law, Title III to be more exact, dealt with the regulation of cable television. Actually, it was a deregulation of the cable industry, allowing for companies that own newspapers and radio and television stations to also own cable companies. This kind of cross-ownership was supposed to lower barriers to entry into the cable business, and it was clarified by the 2003 FCC ruling that allows a single company to own and operate the leading newspaper, television and cable companies in a single market. This has led to concerns about monopolization of the media as more and more companies merge. And it's hard to argue that this isn't happening. So the number of companies that provide media content and access has been shrinking precipitously in the past 30 years, which is probably why the FCC and Congress scrutinize media mergers so closely. Critics point out that these kinds of super-mergers can lead to a lack of diversity in media. This can lead to fewer points of view represented in our news coverage and our stories. Net neutrality has also been a big issue, you've probably head about it. The question revolves around whether the FCC should pass rules that allow internet service providers to charge differential rates to companies that use their bandwidth. For example, internet service providers sometimes sell faster or better service to large companies like Netflix at the expense of smaller competitors or individuals who don't pay as much. Thanks, Thought Bubble. The net neutrality issue is a really complex regulatory question, but the debate over it, which takes place in Congress, on television, on the internet, and even through the FCC's website, where anyone's allowed to make public comments on proposed rules, has been fascinating and it points out a number of key issues involving government regulation of the media. First, it shows that a lot of media regulation involves a number of actors. In this case, George Clooney. No, no, no, not those kinds of actors. Private media companies, media organizations themselves and executive agencies like the FCC. It also points out that the overarching regulatory structure is built by Congress but that the real key actors are the regulatory rule makers and enforcers of the executive branch. And George Clooney. He has aged so well. Even more important though, are the questions that lie behind the debate. When we think about regulation, what comes to mind is regulation of content or censorship, but with net neutrality rules as with FCC cross-ownership rules, what we're really looking at is regulation of access and how much media will be available at a given price. Those who argue that the internet should be regulated like a public utility rather than just another set of corporations that take their cues from the market are getting at something. The media is different from other corporate entities because it serves a public function, something that the framers realized when they wrote freedom of the press into the first amendment. Without a robust media, Americans may have less access to information that they need to make smarter political choices. Of course, all the access we have doesn't mean that we necessarily will make smarter choices, but in this case, being able to hear more points of view is better than only hearing a few. That's why we're skeptical of censorship and why many people wanna keep the internet as open as possible. Thanks for watching, I'll see you next time. Crash Course Government and Politics is produced in association with PBS Digital Studios. Support for Crash Course US Government comes from Voqal. Voqal supports nonprofits that use technology and media to advance social equity. Learn more about their mission and initiatives at Crash Course is made with the help of all these monstrous jerks. That's not libel, they're public figures. Go ahead, try and sue me. Thanks for watching.



Chinese troops destroyed the statue Goddess of Democracy in Tiananmen Square in 1989, and continue to censor information about those events.[7] This statue, now known as the Victims of Communism Memorial, was recreated by Thomas Marsh in Washington, DC.
Chinese troops destroyed the statue Goddess of Democracy in Tiananmen Square in 1989, and continue to censor information about those events.[7] This statue, now known as the Victims of Communism Memorial, was recreated by Thomas Marsh in Washington, DC.

In 399 BC, Greek philosopher, Socrates, defied attempts by the Greek state to censor his philosophical teachings and was sentenced to death by drinking a poison, hemlock. Socrates' student, Plato, is said to have advocated censorship in his essay on The Republic, which opposed the existence of democracy. In contrast to Plato, Greek playwright Euripides (480–406 BC) defended the true liberty of freeborn men, including the right to speak freely. In 1766, Sweden became the first country to abolish censorship by law.[8]


The rationale for censorship is different for various types of information censored:

  • Moral censorship is the removal of materials that are obscene or otherwise considered morally questionable. Pornography, for example, is often censored under this rationale, especially child pornography, which is illegal and censored in most jurisdictions in the world.[9][10]
  • Military censorship is the process of keeping military intelligence and tactics confidential and away from the enemy. This is used to counter espionage.
  • Political censorship occurs when governments hold back information from their citizens. This is often done to exert control over the populace and prevent free expression that might foment rebellion.
  • Religious censorship is the means by which any material considered objectionable by a certain religion is removed. This often involves a dominant religion forcing limitations on less prevalent ones. Alternatively, one religion may shun the works of another when they believe the content is not appropriate for their religion.
  • Corporate censorship is the process by which editors in corporate media outlets intervene to disrupt the publishing of information that portrays their business or business partners in a negative light,[11][12] or intervene to prevent alternate offers from reaching public exposure.[13]





Cuban media used to be operated under the supervision of the Communist Party's Department of Revolutionary Orientation, which "develops and coordinates propaganda strategies".[14] Connection to the Internet is restricted and censored.[15]


The People's Republic of China employs sophisticated censorship mechanisms, referred to as the Golden Shield Project, to monitor the internet. Popular search engines such as Baidu also remove politically sensitive search results.[16][17][18]

Eastern Bloc

Strict censorship existed in the Eastern Bloc.[19] Throughout the bloc, the various ministries of culture held a tight rein on their writers.[20] Cultural products there reflected the propaganda needs of the state.[20] Party-approved censors exercised strict control in the early years.[21] In the Stalinist period, even the weather forecasts were changed if they suggested that the sun might not shine on May Day.[21] Under Nicolae Ceauşescu in Romania, weather reports were doctored so that the temperatures were not seen to rise above or fall below the levels which dictated that work must stop.[21]

Possession and use of copying machines was tightly controlled in order to hinder production and distribution of samizdat, illegal self-published books and magazines. Possession of even a single samizdat manuscript such as a book by Andrei Sinyavsky was a serious crime which might involve a visit from the KGB. Another outlet for works which did not find favor with the authorities was publishing abroad.



Iraq under Baathist Saddam Hussein had much the same techniques of press censorship as did Romania under Nicolae Ceauşescu but with greater potential violence.[citation needed]

North Korea


According to Christian Mihr, executive director of Reporters Without Borders, "censorship in Serbia is neither direct nor transparent, but is easy to prove." [22] According to Mihr there are numerous examples of censorship and self-censorship in Serbia [23] According to Mihr, Serbian prime minister Aleksandar Vučić has proved "very sensitive to criticism, even on critical questions," as was the case with Natalija Miletic, correspondent for Deutsche Welle Radio, who questioned him in Berlin about the media situation in Serbia and about allegations that some ministers in the Serbian government had plagiarized their diplomas, and who later received threats and offensive articles on the Serbian press.[23]

Multiple news outlets have accused Vučić of anti-democratic strongman tendencies.[24][25][26][27][28] In July 2014, journalists associations were concerned about the freedom of the media in Serbia, in which Vučić came under criticism.[29][30]

In September 2015 five members of United States Congress (Edie Bernice Johnson, Carlos Curbelo, Scott Perry, Adam Kinzinger, and Zoe Lofgren) have informed Vice President of the United States Joseph Biden that Aleksandar's brother, Andrej Vučić, is leading a group responsible for deteriorating media freedom in Serbia.[31]


In the Republic of Singapore, Section 33 of the Films Act originally banned the making, distribution and exhibition of "party political films", at pain of a fine not exceeding $100,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years. The Act further defines a "party political film" as any film or video

(a) which is an advertisement made by or on behalf of any political party in Singapore or any body whose objects relate wholly or mainly to politics in Singapore, or any branch of such party or body; or
(b) which is made by any person and directed towards any political end in Singapore

In 2001, the short documentary called A Vision of Persistence on opposition politician J. B. Jeyaretnam was also banned for being a "party political film". The makers of the documentary, all lecturers at the Ngee Ann Polytechnic, later submitted written apologies and withdrew the documentary from being screened at the 2001 Singapore International Film Festival in April, having been told they could be charged in court. Another short documentary called Singapore Rebel by Martyn See, which documented Singapore Democratic Party leader Dr Chee Soon Juan's acts of civil disobedience, was banned from the 2005 Singapore International Film Festival on the same grounds and See is being investigated for possible violations of the Films Act.

This law, however, is often disregarded when such political films are made supporting the ruling People's Action Party (PAP). Channel NewsAsia's five-part documentary series on Singapore's PAP ministers in 2005, for example, was not considered a party political film.

Exceptions are also made when political films are made concerning political parties of other nations. Films such as Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 911 are thus allowed to screen regardless of the law.

Since March 2009, the Films Act has been amended to allow party political films as long as they were deemed factual and objective by a consultative committee. Some months later, this committee lifted the ban on Singapore Rebel.

Soviet Union

Independent journalism did not exist in the Soviet Union until Mikhail Gorbachev became its leader; all reporting was directed by the Communist Party or related organizations. Pravda, the predominant newspaper in the Soviet Union, had a monopoly. Foreign newspapers were available only if they were published by Communist Parties sympathetic to the Soviet Union.


Online access to all language versions of Wikipedia was blocked in Turkey on 29 April 2017 by Erdoğan's government.[32]

United Kingdom

United States

In the United States, censorship occurs through books, film festivals, politics, and public schools.[33] See banned books for more information. Additionally, critics of campaign finance reform in the United States say this reform imposes widespread restrictions on political speech.[34][35]


Censorship also takes place in capitalist nations, such as Uruguay. In 1973, a military coup took power in Uruguay, and the State practiced censorship. For example, writer Eduardo Galeano was imprisoned and later was forced to flee. His book Open Veins of Latin America was banned by the right-wing military government, not only in Uruguay, but also in Chile and Argentina.[36]

State secrets and prevention of attention

Wieczór Wrocławia – Daily newspaper of Wrocław, People's Republic of Poland, March 20–21, 1981, with censor intervention on first and last pages—under the headlines "Co zdarzyło się w Bydgoszczy?" (What happened in Bydgoszcz?) and "Pogotowie strajkowe w całym kraju" (Country-wide strike alert). The censor had removed a section regarding the strike alert; hence the workers in the printing house blanked out an official propaganda section. The right-hand page also includes a hand-written confirmation of that decision by the local "Solidarność" Trade Union.
Wieczór Wrocławia – Daily newspaper of Wrocław, People's Republic of Poland, March 20–21, 1981, with censor intervention on first and last pages—under the headlines "Co zdarzyło się w Bydgoszczy?" (What happened in Bydgoszcz?) and "Pogotowie strajkowe w całym kraju" (Country-wide strike alert). The censor had removed a section regarding the strike alert; hence the workers in the printing house blanked out an official propaganda section. The right-hand page also includes a hand-written confirmation of that decision by the local "Solidarność" Trade Union.

In wartime, explicit censorship is carried out with the intent of preventing the release of information that might be useful to an enemy. Typically it involves keeping times or locations secret, or delaying the release of information (e.g., an operational objective) until it is of no possible use to enemy forces. The moral issues here are often seen as somewhat different, as the proponents of this form of censorship argues that release of tactical information usually presents a greater risk of casualties among one's own forces and could possibly lead to loss of the overall conflict.

During World War I letters written by British soldiers would have to go through censorship. This consisted of officers going through letters with a black marker and crossing out anything which might compromise operational secrecy before the letter was sent.[37] The World War II catchphrase "Loose lips sink ships" was used as a common justification to exercise official wartime censorship and encourage individual restraint when sharing potentially sensitive information.

An example of "sanitization" policies comes from the USSR under Joseph Stalin, where publicly used photographs were often altered to remove people whom Stalin had condemned to execution. Though past photographs may have been remembered or kept, this deliberate and systematic alteration to all of history in the public mind is seen as one of the central themes of Stalinism and totalitarianism.

Censorship is occasionally carried out to aid authorities or to protect an individual, as with some kidnappings when attention and media coverage of the victim can sometimes be seen as unhelpful.[38][39]


Censorship by religion is a form of censorship where freedom of expression is controlled or limited using religious authority or on the basis of the teachings of the religion. This form of censorship has a long history and is practiced in many societies and by many religions. Examples include the Galileo affair, Edict of Compiègne, the Index Librorum Prohibitorum (list of prohibited books) and the condemnation of Salman Rushdie's novel The Satanic Verses by Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Images of the Islamic figure Muhammad are also regularly censored. In some secular countries, this is sometimes done to prevent hurting religious sentiments.[40]

Educational sources

Historic Russian censorship. Book Notes of my life by N.I. Grech, published in St. Petersburg 1886 by A.S. Suvorin. The censored text was replaced by dots.
Historic Russian censorship. Book Notes of my life by N.I. Grech, published in St. Petersburg 1886 by A.S. Suvorin. The censored text was replaced by dots.

The content of school textbooks is often an issue of debate, since their target audience is young people. The term whitewashing is commonly used to refer to revisionism aimed at glossing over difficult or questionable historical events, or a biased presentation thereof. The reporting of military atrocities in history is extremely controversial, as in the case of The Holocaust (or Holocaust denial), Bombing of Dresden, the Nanking Massacre as found with Japanese history textbook controversies, the Armenian Genocide, the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, and the Winter Soldier Investigation of the Vietnam War.

In the context of secondary school education, the way facts and history are presented greatly influences the interpretation of contemporary thought, opinion and socialization. One argument for censoring the type of information disseminated is based on the inappropriate quality of such material for the young. The use of the "inappropriate" distinction is in itself controversial, as it changed heavily. A Ballantine Books version of the book Fahrenheit 451 which is the version used by most school classes[41] contained approximately 75 separate edits, omissions, and changes from the original Bradbury manuscript.

In February 2006, a National Geographic cover was censored by the Nashravaran Journalistic Institute. The offending cover was about the subject of love and a picture of an embracing couple was hidden beneath a white sticker.[42][42]


Author Ozzie Zehner self-censored the American edition of his environmental book, Green Illusions,[43] due to food libel laws that enable the food industry to sue researchers who criticize their products.
Author Ozzie Zehner self-censored the American edition of his environmental book, Green Illusions,[43] due to food libel laws that enable the food industry to sue researchers who criticize their products.

Self-censorship is the act of censoring or classifying one's own discourse. This is done out of fear of, or deference to, the sensibilities or preferences (actual or perceived) of others and without overt pressure from any specific party or institution of authority. Self-censorship is often practiced by film producers, film directors, publishers, news anchors, journalists, musicians, and other kinds of authors including individuals who use social media.[44]

According to a Pew Research Center and the Columbia Journalism Review survey, "About one-quarter of the local and national journalists say they have purposely avoided newsworthy stories, while nearly as many acknowledge they have softened the tone of stories to benefit the interests of their news organizations. Fully four-in-ten (41%) admit they have engaged in either or both of these practices."[45]

Threats to media freedom have shown a significant increase in Europe in recent years, according to a study published in April 2017 by the Council of Europe. This results in a fear of physical or psychological violence, and the ultimate result is self-censorship by journalists.[46]

Copy, picture, and writer approval

Copy approval is the right to read and amend an article, usually an interview, before publication. Many publications refuse to give copy approval but it is increasingly becoming common practice when dealing with publicity anxious celebrities.[47] Picture approval is the right given to an individual to choose which photos will be published and which will not. Robert Redford is well known for insisting upon picture approval.[48] Writer approval is when writers are chosen based on whether they will write flattering articles or not. Hollywood publicist Pat Kingsley is known for banning certain writers who wrote undesirably about one of her clients from interviewing any of her other clients.[citation needed]

By media


Nazi book burning in Berlin, May 1933.
Nazi book burning in Berlin, May 1933.

Book censorship can be enacted at the national or sub-national level, and can carry legal penalties for their infraction. Books may also be challenged at a local, community level. As a result, books can be removed from schools or libraries, although these bans do not extend outside of that area.


Aside from the usual justifications of pornography and obscenity, some films are censored due to changing racial attitudes or political correctness in order to avoid ethnic stereotyping and/or ethnic offense despite its historical or artistic value. One example is the still withdrawn "Censored Eleven" series of animated cartoons, which may have been innocent then, but are "incorrect" now.

Film censorship is carried out by various countries to differing degrees. For example, only 34 foreign films a year are approved for official distribution in China's strictly controlled film market.[49]


Music censorship has been implemented by states, religions, educational systems, families, retailers and lobbying groups – and in most cases they violate international conventions of human rights.[50]


Censorship of maps is often employed for military purposes. For example, the technique was used in former East Germany, especially for the areas near the border to West Germany in order to make attempts of defection more difficult. Censorship of maps is also applied by Google Maps, where certain areas are grayed out or blacked or areas are purposely left outdated with old imagery.[51]

Individual words

Under subsection 48(3) and (4) of the Penang Islamic Religious Administration Enactment 2004, non-Muslims in Malaysia are penalized for using the following words, or to write or publish them, in any form, version or translation in any language or for use in any publicity material in any medium: "Allah", "Firman Allah", "Ulama", "Hadith", "Ibadah", "Kaabah", "Qadhi'", "Illahi", "Wahyu", "Mubaligh", "Syariah", "Qiblat", "Haji", "Mufti", "Rasul", "Iman", "Dakwah", "Wali", "Fatwa", "Imam", "Nabi", "Sheikh", "Khutbah", "Tabligh", "Akhirat", "Azan", "Al Quran", "As Sunnah", "Auliya'", "Karamah", "False Moon God", "Syahadah", "Baitullah", "Musolla", "Zakat Fitrah", "Hajjah", "Taqwa" and "Soleh".[52][53][54]

Publishers of the Spanish reference dictionary Real Acádemia Española received petitions to censor the entries "Jewishness", "Gypsiness", "black work" and "weak sex", claiming that they are either offensive or non-PC.[55]

One elementary school's obscenity filter changed every reference to the word "tit" to "breast," so when a child typed "U.S. Constitution" into the school computer, it changed it to Consbreastution.[56]


British photographer and visual artist Graham Ovenden's photos and paintings were ordered to be destroyed by a London's magistrate court in 2015 for being "indecent"[57] and their copies had been removed from the online Tate gallery.[58]

Artworks using these four colors were banned by Israeli law in the 1980s
Artworks using these four colors were banned by Israeli law in the 1980s

A 1980 Israeli law forbade banned artwork composed of the four colours of the Palestinian flag,[59] and Palestinians were arrested for displaying such artwork or even for carrying sliced melons with the same pattern.[60][61][62]


Internet censorship and surveillance by country (2018)[63][64][65][66][67]       Pervasive   Substantial   Selective     Little or no   Not classified / No data
Internet censorship and surveillance by country (2018)[63][64][65][66][67]

Internet censorship is control or suppression of the publishing or accessing of information on the Internet. It may be carried out by governments or by private organizations either at the behest of government or on their own initiative. Individuals and organizations may engage in self-censorship on their own or due to intimidation and fear.

The issues associated with Internet censorship are similar to those for offline censorship of more traditional media. One difference is that national borders are more permeable online: residents of a country that bans certain information can find it on websites hosted outside the country. Thus censors must work to prevent access to information even though they lack physical or legal control over the websites themselves. This in turn requires the use of technical censorship methods that are unique to the Internet, such as site blocking and content filtering.[68]

Unless the censor has total control over all Internet-connected computers, such as in North Korea or Cuba, total censorship of information is very difficult or impossible to achieve due to the underlying distributed technology of the Internet. Pseudonymity and data havens (such as Freenet) protect free speech using technologies that guarantee material cannot be removed and prevents the identification of authors. Technologically savvy users can often find ways to access blocked content. Nevertheless, blocking remains an effective means of limiting access to sensitive information for most users when censors, such as those in China, are able to devote significant resources to building and maintaining a comprehensive censorship system.[68]

Views about the feasibility and effectiveness of Internet censorship have evolved in parallel with the development of the Internet and censorship technologies:

  • A 1993 Time Magazine article quotes computer scientist John Gillmore, one of the founders of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, as saying "The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it."[69]
  • In November 2007, "Father of the Internet" Vint Cerf stated that he sees government control of the Internet failing because the Web is almost entirely privately owned.[70]
  • A report of research conducted in 2007 and published in 2009 by the Beckman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University stated that: "We are confident that the [censorship circumvention] tool developers will for the most part keep ahead of the governments' blocking efforts", but also that "...we believe that less than two percent of all filtered Internet users use circumvention tools".[71]
  • In contrast, a 2011 report by researchers at the Oxford Internet Institute published by UNESCO concludes "... the control of information on the Internet and Web is certainly feasible, and technological advances do not therefore guarantee greater freedom of speech."[68]

A BBC World Service poll of 27,973 adults in 26 countries, including 14,306 Internet users,[72] was conducted between 30 November 2009 and 7 February 2010. The head of the polling organization felt, overall, that the poll showed that:

Despite worries about privacy and fraud, people around the world see access to the internet as their fundamental right. They think the web is a force for good, and most don’t want governments to regulate it.[73]

The poll found that nearly four in five (78%) Internet users felt that the Internet had brought them greater freedom, that most Internet users (53%) felt that "the internet should never be regulated by any level of government anywhere", and almost four in five Internet users and non-users around the world felt that access to the Internet was a fundamental right (50% strongly agreed, 29% somewhat agreed, 9% somewhat disagreed, 6% strongly disagreed, and 6% gave no opinion).[74]

Social media

The rising usages of social media in many nations has led to the emergence of citizens organizing protests through social media, sometimes called "Twitter Revolutions". The most notable of these social media led protests were parts Arab Spring uprisings, starting in 2010. In response to the use of social media in these protests, the Tunisian government began a hack of Tunisian citizens' Facebook accounts, and reports arose of accounts being deleted.[75]

Automated systems can be used to censor social media posts, and therefore limit what citizens can say online. This most notably occurs in China, where social media posts are automatically censored depending on content. In 2013, Harvard political science professor Gary King led a study to determine what caused social media posts to be censored and found that posts mentioning the government were not more or less likely to be deleted if they were supportive or critical of the government. Posts mentioning collective action were more likely to be deleted than those that had not mentioned collective action.[76] Currently, social media censorship appears primarily as a way to restrict Internet users' ability to organize protests. For the Chinese government, seeing citizens unhappy with local governance is beneficial as state and national leaders can replace unpopular officials. King and his researchers were able to predict when certain officials would be removed based on the number of unfavorable social media posts.[77]

Research has proved that criticism is tolerable on social media sites, therefore it is not censored unless it has a higher chance of collective action. It isn't important whether the criticism is supportive or unsupportive of the states' leaders, the main priority of censoring certain social media posts is to make sure that no big actions are being made due to something that was said on the internet. Posts that challenge the Party's political leading role in the Chinese government are more likely to be censored due to the challenges it poses to the Chinese Communist Party.[78]

This represents how different types of social media are censored based on what is appropriate to share with the public.
This represents how different types of social media are censored based on what is appropriate to share with the public.

Video games

Since the early 1980s, advocates of video games have emphasized their use as an expressive medium, arguing for their protection under the laws governing freedom of speech and also as an educational tool. Detractors argue that video games are harmful and therefore should be subject to legislative oversight and restrictions. Many video games have certain elements removed or edited due to regional rating standards.[79][80] For example, in the Japanese and PAL Versions of No More Heroes, blood splatter and gore is removed from the gameplay. Decapitation scenes are implied, but not shown. Scenes of missing body parts after having been cut off, are replaced with the same scene, but showing the body parts fully intact.[81]

Surveillance as an aid

Surveillance and censorship are different. Surveillance can be performed without censorship, but it is harder to engage in censorship without some form of surveillance.[82] And even when surveillance does not lead directly to censorship, the widespread knowledge or belief that a person, their computer, or their use of the Internet is under surveillance can lead to self-censorship.[83]

Protection of sources is no longer just a matter of journalistic ethics; it increasingly also depends on the journalist's computer skills and all journalists should equip themselves with a "digital survival kit" if they are exchanging sensitive information online or storing it on a computer or mobile phone.[84][85] And individuals associated with high-profile rights organizations, dissident, protest, or reform groups are urged to take extra precautions to protect their online identities.[86]


Censored pre-press proof of two articles from "Notícias da Amadora", a Portuguese newspaper, 1970
Censored pre-press proof of two articles from "Notícias da Amadora", a Portuguese newspaper, 1970

The former Soviet Union maintained a particularly extensive program of state-imposed censorship. The main organ for official censorship in the Soviet Union was the Chief Agency for Protection of Military and State Secrets generally known as the Glavlit, its Russian acronym. The Glavlit handled censorship matters arising from domestic writings of just about any kind—even beer and vodka labels. Glavlit censorship personnel were present in every large Soviet publishing house or newspaper; the agency employed some 70,000 censors to review information before it was disseminated by publishing houses, editorial offices, and broadcasting studios. No mass medium escaped Glavlit's control. All press agencies and radio and television stations had Glavlit representatives on their editorial staffs.[citation needed]

Sometimes, public knowledge of the existence of a specific document is subtly suppressed, a situation resembling censorship. The authorities taking such action will justify it by declaring the work to be "subversive" or "inconvenient". An example is Michel Foucault's 1978 text Sexual Morality and the Law (later republished as The Danger of Child Sexuality), originally published as La loi de la pudeur [literally, "the law of decency"]. This work defends the decriminalization of statutory rape and the abolition of age of consent laws.[citation needed]

When a publisher comes under pressure to suppress a book, but has already entered into a contract with the author, they will sometimes effectively censor the book by deliberately ordering a small print run and making minimal, if any, attempts to publicize it. This practice became known in the early 2000s as privishing (private publishing).[87]


Artistic allegory of communist press censorship, 1989
Artistic allegory of communist press censorship, 1989

Censorship has been criticized throughout history for being unfair and hindering progress. In a 1997 essay on Internet censorship, social commentator Michael Landier claims that censorship is counterproductive as it prevents the censored topic from being discussed. Landier expands his argument by claiming that those who impose censorship must consider what they censor to be true, as individuals believing themselves to be correct would welcome the opportunity to disprove those with opposing views.[88]

Censorship is often used to impose moral values on society, as in the censorship of material considered obscene. English novelist E. M. Forster was a staunch opponent of censoring material on the grounds that it was obscene or immoral, raising the issue of moral subjectivity and the constant changing of moral values. When the novel Lady Chatterley's Lover was put on trial in 1960, Forster wrote:[89]

Lady Chatterley's Lover is a literary work of importance...I do not think that it could be held obscene, but am in a difficulty here, for the reason that I have never been able to follow the legal definition of obscenity. The law tells me that obscenity may deprave and corrupt, but as far as I know, it offers no definition of depravity or corruption.

By country

Censorship by country collects information on censorship, internet censorship, press freedom, freedom of speech, and human rights by country and presents it in a sortable table, together with links to articles with more information. In addition to countries, the table includes information on former countries, disputed countries, political sub-units within countries, and regional organizations.

See also


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Works cited

  • Crampton, R. J. (1997), Eastern Europe in the Twentieth Century and After, Routledge, ISBN 978-0-415-16422-1
  • Major, Patrick; Mitter, Rana (2004), "East is East and West is West?", in Major, Patrick, Across the Blocs: Exploring Comparative Cold War Cultural and Social History, Taylor & Francis, Inc., ISBN 978-0-7146-8464-2

Further reading

  • Abbott, Randy. "A Critical Analysis of the Library-Related Literature Concerning Censorship in Public Libraries and Public School Libraries in the United States During the 1980s." Project for degree of Education Specialist, University of South Florida, December 1987.
  • Birmingham, Kevin, "The Most Dangerous Book: The Battle for James Joyce's Ulysses", London (Head of Zeus Ltd), 2014, ISBN 978-1594203367
  • Burress, Lee. Battle of the Books. Metuchen, NJ: The Scarecrow Press, 1989.
  • Butler, Judith, "Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative"(1997)
  • Foucault, Michel, edited by Lawrence D. Kritzman. Philosophy, Culture: interviews and other writings 1977–1984 (New York/London: 1988, Routledge, ISBN 0-415-90082-4) (The text Sexual Morality and the Law is Chapter 16 of the book).
  • Gilbert, Nora. "Better Left Unsaid: Victorian Novels, Hays Code Films, and the Benefits of Censorship." Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2013.
  • Wittern-Keller, Laura. Freedom of the Screen: Legal Challenges to State Film Censorship, 1915–1981. University Press of Kentucky 2008
  • Hoffman, Frank. "Intellectual Freedom and Censorship." Metuchen, NJ: The Scarecrow Press, 1989.
  • Mathiesen, Kay Censorship and Access to Information Handbook of Information and Computer Ethics, Kenneth E. Himma, Herman T. Tavani, eds., John Wiley and Sons, New York, 2008
  • National Coalition against Censorship (NCAC). "Books on Trial: A Survey of Recent Cases." January 1985.
  • Parker, Alison M. (1997). "Purifying America: Women, Cultural Reform, and Pro-Censorship Activism, 1873–1933," University of Illinois Press.
  • Biltereyst, Daniel, ed. Silencing Cinema. Palgrave/Macmillan, 2013.
  • Ringmar, Erik A Blogger's Manifesto: Free Speech and Censorship in the Age of the Internet (London: Anthem Press, 2007)
  • Terry, John David II. "Censorship: Post Pico." In "School Law Update, 1986," edited by Thomas N. Jones and Darel P. Semler.
  • Silber, Radomír. Partisan media and modern censorship: media influence on Czech political partisanship and the media's creation of limits to public opposition and control of exercising power in the Czech Republic in the 1990s. First edition. Brno: Tribun EU, 2017. 86 stran. ISBN 978-80-263-1174-4.
  • Silber, Radomír. (2018) On Modern Censorship in Public Service Broadcasting. Cultural and Religious Studies, Volume 3, 2018, ISSN 2328-2177.
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