Internet censorship is simply the control on what can be published, accessed or viewed online. This practice is mostly carried out by governments as well as private organizations. Individuals may also take part in self censorship for religious, ethical or business reasons due to intimidation or other penalties. Different countries enforce different forms of internet censorship whether it is through banning or full blown censorship. However, they vary on how strict their enforcement is. Similarly, a couple of counter measures are undertaken by some people to thwart censorship efforts. Such people feel that the practice infringes on user`s internet privacy. They should be allowed to access any internet material they want.
One restriction practiced by some nations is referred to as content based blocking. Such nations target sites that stray from the government’s political views. Social sites that promote alcohol and drug abuse, negative sexuality and other subjects considered offensive to the youth or other members of the society face censorship. Countries block these kinds of website depending on how strict the current regime is.
Apart from that, companies carry out monitoring of the internet in their offices. This form of restriction is meant to block websites that are deemed leisure and unrelated to the work environment. IT departments may restrict access to particular domains that employees have no reason to visit during office hours. This move is meant to encourage workers to focus on the immediate task instead of other irrelevant issues which may affect their productivity.
Online community moderation is another method of censoring. In this case, blacklisted websites are censored on the portal of search engines. The portals mostly receive instruction to censor specific sites by the authorities. In essence, the sites are concealed and made to be invisible to the general public. Also, administrators of online community block content that is inappropriate and explicit from appearing in their online forums. People who post comments that do not comply with rules and regulations of the forums also face restriction.
Technology savvy individuals are now coming up with ways to counteract internet moderation efforts made by governments and countries. Circumventing the censors is one way being used to thwart these efforts. Use of proxy websites is one of the most popular methods of circumventing. The websites are preferred as they are easy to find and use. They are simply found by carrying out an internet search. For anonymous surfing, one can block his IP address. This is done by software such as Hotspot Shield, which is a proxy that encrypts one`s connection. In this way, one can surf freely without worrying about who is spying on his online activities.
Another popular technique is known as The Onion Router (TOR). This service enables users to stay undetected by traffic analyses. It works springing back the network connection across several gateways worldwide. Users do not gain direct entry to the websites they intend to visit; instead they go through an array of connections called relays. These connections get individual encryption and are sent to the next entry until it arrives at the exit node. Once these activities take place, the user can access the website he wanted to view.
Psiphon program was created so as to circumvent tight internet censorship in a number of conservative countries. In this case, traffic between users and servers is encrypted during data transfer. Users in the countries are able to log in and send an instruction to a server in another nation to access restricted sites.
Java Anon Proxy (JAP) is a circumvent that allows internet users to select the network they want to surf through, an activity enabled by independent establishment. Once picked, the data stream is jumbled and mixed data streams from other users. This prevents anyone from stealing or restricting data streaming as the flow is confounding the scrambled stream they see.
Sneakernets enable people to transmit electronic data by manually ferrying them on portable storage devices like CDs or USB drives. This technique goes hand in glove with other techniques of circumventing. In this way, encrypted data can be transmitted normally. Regardless of restriction, censoring or moderation techniques enforced by the authorities, this data can be freely transferred mainly because it does not have to travel over any network.
The seriousness exercised on internet censorship depends on a country or firm. The practice has been shunned on many occasions. It allegedly takes away the user`s right to individual privacy. A couple of services have been tailored to help users enjoy their privacy and avoid being censored by restrictive establishments. Still, the user is supposed to familiarize himself with his surroundings. He should also be aware of how restrictive or lax Internet usage policies are. He ought to use such information wisely before embarking on before embarking on any of the anonymous internet usage services. Policies will differ and range dramatically, according to the location. Thus, knowing the environment is a wise move towards staying protected while using the internet.
Buckley, Peter, Duncan Clark and Kennedy Angus. The Rough Guide to the Internet. New York: Rough Guides, 2008.
Oz, Effy. Management Information Systems. New York: Cengage Learning, 2008.
Walske, Zuchora. Internet Censorship: Protecting Citizens or Trampling Freedom? New York: Twenty-First Century Books, 2010.