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This house would censor the internet

The Internet is growing at a fantastic rate and is a huge resource for mass communication and information distribution. It can be used to spread information anywhere in the world at a minimal cost and, due to the increase of computers or other electronic devices in the home [1]. It is one of the most accessible forms of information in the world. However, not all the information on the internet has a benevolent use. In the past few years, there has been growing concern over information available on the Internet which could be used to attack or damage society and vulnerable individuals; for example, radical political or opinion websites, including social networking sites, which can be used to attack and bully individuals [2] or to promote group violence [3].

Currently, countries which censor such culturally controversial internet sites include China [4], Pakistan [5], North Korea [6], Syria [7], The United Arab Emirates [8] and Saudi Arabia [9]. These often focus on seemingly low-risk sites such as social networking sites like Facebook [10]. While the specific sites which are banned by each country varies according to what these countries deem to be a threat, the general case in the debate is to argue that the government should have a right to censor whatever material they see fit. This makes the debate an interesting discussion of the harms or benefits of censorship, and government power over the freedom on information.

This debate will focus on the concept that a government should be able to ban whatever internet material they feel is not in the public interest to view, or which may actually pose a threat to that nation. For example, it would be legitimate for the government in a strictly Muslim country such as Iran to block overly ‘Westernised’ websites such as www.amazon.com and www.youtube.com, which indeed they already do as they believe that it threatens their culture. Countries would also be allowed to block social networking sites if they believed that it was having a negative impact on the population, for example inciting violence or losing work hours through procrastinating on Facebook [11]. Websites which feature things such as child pornography are already banned within the EU [12] for violating child rights and in countries across the Middle East [13] as it is seen to ‘mock Islamic beliefs’, therefore while somedebates on increasing censorship would include it for the purposes of this debate it is excluded.

[1]  Thinkquest, ‘The Impact of the Internet
[2]  Salkeld, Luke, ‘Facebook bully jailed: Death threat girl’ 18, is first person put behind bars for vicious internet campaign
[3]  Pollard, Ruth, ‘Elite college students proud of ‘pro-rape’ Facebook page, The Sydney Morning Herald 
[4]  Branigan, Tania, ‘Internet censorship in China’, guardian.co.uk 
[5]  GlobalVoices, ‘Internet Censorship in Pakistan’
[6]  Zeller jr., Tom, ‘In North Korea, the Internet is only for a few’ 
[7]  Opennet Initiative, ‘Syria’  
[8]  Opennet Initiative, ‘United Arab Emirates’   
[9]  Black, Ian, ‘Saudi Arabia leads Arab regimes in internet censorship’, guardian.co.uk 
[10] AsiaNews.it, ‘Internet censorship tightening in Vietnam’ 
[11] BBC News, ‘Facebook ‘costs businesses dear’’  
[12] BBC News, ‘Child web porn law updated by EU to erase images’ 
[13] Ramezanpour, Ali Asghar, ‘Iran rounds up ‘porn site bosses’’, BBC News