Censorship

Though journalism was once designed to expose corruption and wrongdoings in government, it would seem the government has gained the upper hand. Our media is being censored to keep us in the dark, both through internet providers and mobile services. From blocked text messages to erasure from online databases, the media is losing the battle against the world’s leaders.

Anyone with a mobile phone can be affected by governmental censorship. In September of 2007, Verizon blocked any messages coming from pro-abortion group NARAL. Though many phone companies boast the service of blocking unwanted spam, those who were receiving these messages had to sign up to get them, meaning they were not unwanted. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch states that “Verizon cited its policy against services that ‘promote an agenda or distribute content that, in its discretion, may be seen as controversial or unsavory to any of our users.’ This is the phone company acting as your mother.” This article is right. Companies are now deciding for us what we can and can’t know. It’s important for every citizen to stay informed, especially on important issues of interest such as this. Controversial or otherwise, we must not remain in the dark simply because a corporation wants us to. This is violating our basic freedoms as American citizens.

Internet providers are just as guilty of censorship. Journalist Matthew Lee wrote about several abuses of human rights in the United Nations, and has now been delisted from Google News. Google sent him an email saying “We periodically review news sources, particularly following user complaints, to ensure Google News offers a high quality experience for our users. When we reviewed your site we’ve found that we can no longer include it in Google News.” Why would such a trusted database keep the truth from coming out? Lee believes the company was pressured by the United Nations in order to cover for their mistakes. After asking Google why they failed to sign the anti-censorship compact upon partnering with the UN, he received a “less-than-friendly response” from the corporation. Lee said “I think that Google got involved with the U.N. on these Millennium goals and thought, this is the United Nations, if they tell you some small Web site is a thorn in their side and there’s a credible reason you could remove them from your news service, you do it.”

This is not the only case of online erasure. In China, dissident professor Guo Quan found that his name had been blocked from search engines like Google and Yahoo after speaking out against the Communist Party. He claimed to be a leader of the  New People’s Party with 10 million fellow members both in China and abroad. Since citizens are not allowed to speak out against communism, it’s clear why the government wanted to block Quan from online databases. “They have infringed my right to my name, and also the rights of anyone called Guo Quan because you can find no information for this name,” Quan says. Not only had Chinese search engines like baidu.com been coerced by the government to take down his information, but  foreign companies had done the same.

As Americans, it’s easy to dismiss problems like this to be something only found in strict communist regimes like China. However, if big companies here at home like Verizon and Google are following suit, it becomes obvious that America is just as susceptible to censorship reminiscent of Orwell’s 1984. The government is gaining complete control over what we do and what we learn. It is crucial to keep the government in check, but if they take away our rights to freedom of press and freedom of speech, it will be impossible to avoid collapsing into the hands of corrupt, power-hungry leaders. Censorship can easily be the first step to the formation of a dictatorship; the most important thing for any of us is to stay informed and not back down to the firm grips of our leaders.

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