The topic of censorship is one that triggers great debate, triggering the discussion of our individual rights and freedoms, as well as the greater good of our nation as a whole. Should censorship be banned as a whole, or is there a place for some degree of this influence in our society?
There are many countries in which extreme censorship is a way of life. In countries such as Eritrea, Africa, journalists who choose to defy the rules are imprisoned, some choosing to be exiled rather than risking arrest where they will often spend extended periods of time behind bars without actually being charged with a crime or tried in court, no end to their imprisonment in sight. For citizens in Eritrea, any potential contact with the outside world is limited, with only 1% of the population accessing the internet, and 5.6% in possession of a cell phone.
It is a reality that is so distant and foreign for the average American, that it is hard to truly comprehend. Here in the United States, the First Amendment protects our right to free speech, but just how far should we be taking this as a society?
It’s a conversation that has once again come into the spotlight with the recent banning of Alex Jones and Infowars from a number of different platforms including social media giant Facebook. A well-known conspiracy theorist who has been accused of hate speech, Jones has also been removed from YouTube, Spotify, and iTunes.
On one hand, there are those who argue that Jones’ removal from the sites was a violation of his first amendment rights. Pointing to the aforementioned countries known for their extreme censorship, they state that allowing platforms like these to silence Jones’ opinions is a step in that direction, a potentially slippery slope that starts with limiting our voices online and leads to control of our freedoms in the public.
However, there are also many Americans that are supportive of the decision. “He has with various kinds of content caused various different kinds of harm,” explained Susan Benesch of Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society. “Egregiously false conspiracy theories are bad for the functioning of democracy. How many other people have gotten their ability to understand the world and distinguish fact from fiction degraded by Alex Jones?”
In fact, a recent survey by Ipsos revealed that 26% of Americans agree that ‘the president should have the authority to close news outlets engaged in bad behavior’. Meanwhile, 72% of Americans believe that ‘it should be easier to sue reporters who knowingly publish false information’. As we find ourselves faced with the realization that we can’t always trust the news as it is presented to us, we begin to question whether there is a place for some level of censorship, control and accountability in the world today.
Perhaps, in a world full of hatred and violence we should be more selective about the information that is being put out in the world, influencing our nation. Of course, we also don’t want to lose the rights that made our country great to begin with, but are we treading on a slippery slope? What are your thoughts on this debate?
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