Are you free to surf the internet as you please? If so, you’re luckier than those who cannot use the internet freely. Limitations, including those at school, work, and in certain countries, makes it so that the internet is a lot smaller for some people than it is for the rest of us.
Internet censorship is a reality for many people all over the world. It happens when the government, or an organization sanctioned by the government, suppresses what can be viewed and published online by the citizens.
Some countries have moderate censorship, while others block access to information such as news. There are also cases where internet surfers are prevented from accessing or participating in a discussion among fellow countrymen/citizens.
China has devoted considerable resources to creating a comprehensive censorship program. The term “The Great Firewall of China” has been used to describe it. North Korea is another country notorious for internet censorship. In fact, the World Press Freedom Index ranked Korea as one of the worst violators of freedom of information in the world.
Fortunately, there are some options for individuals, at home (for example), to bypass the limitation in these situations. An example is given in this article about implementing proxies to get around the limitations of internet access (censorship) in China. Of course, as with any situation, one would need to approach it appropriately for their circumstances (i.e. consider the risks, the ethics, etc.).
Limitations at Work
Depending on where you work, you might find yourself unable to access certain websites while on the job. This can be quite frustrating since those holding full-time jobs spend most of their waking hours at work and may sometimes want to surf the internet while enjoying a lunch break at their desk. However, most companies that provide internet access to their employees censor internet access for practical reasons. These practical reasons can vary, including avoiding malware. Other examples are described below, in the following examples.
For one, the business may want to prevent the internet from negatively affecting productivity. Checking Facebook, Twitter, and private email can be distracting for workers and take time away from doing what they’re paid to do. It is very easy to get distracted and not even realize how much time has been spent away from what you are supposed to be doing.
Another reason for censoring the internet at work is to prevent access to offensive material. Companies put measures in place to prevent access to sexual websites, as well as websites that are biased by race, religion, nationality, etc.
Limitations in Public Schools
In 2000, the Child Internet Protection Act (CIPA) was passed and mandated that all schools and public libraries allow funds to install the internet blocking software on all school and library computers. The idea was to protect children from inappropriate websites, though the act is open to interpretation by each school district.
For example, In 2011, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) issued a letter to all of its chapters that demanded that high schools remove bans on websites related to LGBT topics and LGBT youth. The ACLU says that over-filtering continues to be an issue in many school districts.
Limitations On College Campuses
Similar to workplace internet filtering, college campuses also have their reasons for filtering the internet. One reason to prevent overwhelming bandwidth use by limiting access to high-bandwidth sites such as video streaming websites. Some schools only limit access on certain on campus networks, such as the school library or resource center. Schools might also limit internet access to prevent security threats, such as viruses or spyware.
The next time you’re tempted to complain about your ISP or internet speed, just remember that you probably don’t have it as bad as those who can’t access certain parts of the internet at all. So, go, have fun with the internet!