“The first condition of progress is the removal of censorship.”
George Bernard Shaw, Dramatist
Pros and Cons of Censorship
Censorship is the suppression of information flows and communication which is controlled by the government or other controlling instances.
While censorship can make sense in rather limited cases, it has many important problems.
In this article, the pros and cons of censorship are examined in detail.
Advantages of Censorship
- Censorship can help to avoid panic
- Can help to avoid the spread of fake news
- Censorship can keep the local population under control
- Politically correct behavior is encouraged
- Protection of sensitive information
- Can be important for military operations
- The current system can be sustained
- Censorship can make sense in the context of patents
- Lower level of conflict between the general public
- Censorship can make sense to protect our children
- Social media censorship can help to protect users
Censorship can help to avoid panic
One advantage of censorship is that it can help to avoid panic in case of emergency. For instance, imagine an unexpected adverse event happens which could threaten the lives of millions of people. This could be a nuclear accident or other catastrophes. In such a case, it is crucial that the government has time to make a plan in order to rescue as many people as possible.
If the general public is informed too early, chances are that many people will panic and that many people will also no longer behave according to the rules of the government. In turn, the whole evacuation plan may no longer work and many more people may die due to that.
Hence, in case of a serious disaster, it can make sense to cut off the general public from information flows for a certain period of time in order to prepare an emergency plan and to avoid panic among the general public.
Can help to avoid the spread of fake news
In our current state of the world, also the spread of fake news is a serious problem. Everyone can spread news over social media and many of this news is indeed not true. Moreover, in extreme cases, the social media profiles of celebrities get hacked and hackers spread false information from those profiles.
Quite often, people are encouraged to donate money to fake bank accounts or to other things that could potentially harm them. Therefore, it is quite important to have a certain level of social media censorship so that fake news cannot be spread that easily amongst the general public in order to protect people from financial losses.
Censorship can keep the local population under control
Another benefit of censorship is that it helps to keep the general public under control. Censorship is a quite convenient tool for authorities to control the behavior of the local population. If the government can control the information flows in a country, the government also has the power to push the general public in a certain direction.
Even though this might not be in the best interest of the local population, it can greatly benefit rulers of a country since they will be much better able to achieve their political goals.
Politically correct behavior is encouraged
Censorship also helps to foster behavior that is considered to be morally and politically correct by the government. People can be taught that they should behave in a certain manner since it is just the “normal” thing to do so. Depending on the moral values, this can be either beneficial as well as rather harmful for the general public.
For instance, if senseful moral values are spread, chances for a peaceful society increase. If harmful moral values are spread, chances for social instability and conflicts increase. Hence, whether the encouragement of politically correct behavior is good or bad for the general public depends on the intention of authorities that spread those moral ideas and values.
Protection of sensitive information
There is also some information out there that is simply too sensitive to share with the general public. For instance, this can include secret service information or also information that is connected to certain unlawful behaviors.
Hence, in such a case, it can definitely make sense to censor this kind of information and to hide it from the general public in order not to threaten the success of certain missions or investigations.
Can be important for military operations
Censorship can also make a lot of sense when it comes to military operations. Quite often, military information should not become public since other countries should never know about this sort of information.
Thus, also the general public in a country should never know it since information can be spread easily across the work in our current age.
Therefore, censoring sensitive military information can make sense in many cases.
The current system can be sustained
Another upside of censorship is that it can help governments to sustain their power. For example, dictators often use censorship as a tool to make themselves look much better for the general public. Through censorship, they can spread all the information that favors them, while at the same time preventing the spread of information that might potentially harm them.
Through this kind of censorship, dictators can keep their power for a quite long time since the general public will often get a flawed perception of the true success of those regimes. Of course, this kind of censorship is not necessarily beneficial for the general public, but it really helps dictators or other rulers to stay in power and to sustain the current political system.
Censorship can make sense in the context of patents
Censorship can also be helpful when it comes to the protection of new ideas. For instance, imagine you put plenty of effort and money into the invention of a new product.
In such a case, you want to protect this product with a patent so that nobody will be able to copy your product and take away your future returns from it.
Hence, censorship in the form of patents can make sense in order to assure the incentive for people to invent new products.
Lower level of conflict between the general public
Censorship can also help to lower the level of conflict between locals. If only certain mainstream ideas that are in line with cultural values and religions are spread in the media and from political leaders, chances are that the general public will like those ideas and that there will not be too much room for discussions and disputes between people.
Thus, even though the spread of those values may not make too much sense in some cases, the general public will still likely accept those values and act in a rather peaceful manner.
Censorship can make sense to protect our children
Since information can be spread and accessed quite easily in our current society through computers and smartphones, we also have to protect our children from inappropriate content. In fact, there is plenty of content out there on the internet which is not suitable for your children at all and we should have a layer of censorship regarding this content in order to prevent any mental damage from our kids.
Consequently, censorship can also make sense in the context of protecting your children from sensitive or even dangerous information that is available on the internet.
Social media censorship can help to protect users
In general, censorship can not only protect our kids, but also the general public from inappropriate content or from potential computer viruses. Moreover, since so many fake news and other false information is spread over social media, it is crucial that social media companies react and implement proper filters to find and to delete inappropriate content and false information in order to protect users.
This is crucial in order to reassure the general public that those networks are safe and also to avoid any panic related to the spread of fake news.
Disadvantages of Censorship
- Censorship takes away a significant level of freedom from people
- Religion is often misused to promote censorship
- May lead to a flawed perception of reality
- People will often have a quite narrow horizon
- Education may suffer due to censorship
- May conflict with human rights
- Censorship can lead to the discrimination of minorities
- Can also be harmful in an economic context
- Spread of information is slowed down
- Can slow down technological progress
- Small elites can govern a country
- Censorship can adversely affect the values of a society
- Freedom of speech is confined
- Tensions between countries
- Censorship can lead to unpleasant political outcomes
- International trade may suffer from censorship
- Censorship can be used for political goals and manipulation
- Opponents claim that there is no need for censorship at all
- Censorship can be cost-intensive
- Privacy issues
Censorship takes away a significant level of freedom from people
Even though there are many important advantages related to censorship, this concept also has serious downsides. One problem of censorship is that it can take away a significant level of freedom from the general public.
If people only get filtered information that is in line with the preferences of governments, they will get a wrong impression of what’s going on in the world and their decisions may also be based on false claims and assumptions.
Hence, this suppression of human freedom can lead to quite unpleasant outcomes. Moreover, freedom is quite a valuable good and censorship tries to confine our overall level of freedom.
This can be considered to be quite problematic and it is questionable whether governments should really be able to hide important information from the general public.
Religion is often misused to promote censorship
In many cases, religion is often involved when it comes to censorship. Religion is a powerful tool when it comes to controlling the behavior of the general public. Quite often, religious beliefs are used by governments in order to justify censorship and to push people into a certain direction.
For instance, if governments don’t like the increasing rise of freedom, they may use religion to find arguments to confine this upcoming level of freedom in order to sustain their power. Hence, misusing religion to sustain power is another problem that arises from censorship.
May lead to a flawed perception of reality
In general, censorship often leads to a rather flawed perception of reality for the general public. We are all biased in our perception of reality through information flows we experience each day.
For instance, if information is quite present in our media channels, the awareness of the general public regarding this information increases dramatically.
Yet, this doesn’t mean that certain issues hadn’t been there before, it just means that the general public is now better informed about these topics.
In turn, if we restrict information flows through censorship, people will only get a smaller fraction of what is really going on in the world and therefore, the general public will often get a quite flawed perception of reality since too much information is simply not available to the local population.
People will often have a quite narrow horizon
Another disadvantage of censorship is that people often get a rather narrow horizon. If people don’t have access to several different information sources, they will only perceive the world in a way that is in line with the preferences of governments in the specific country.
For instance, if the government wants people to shift their focus on a specific topic, chances are that the local TV and media channels will report more frequently about that topic and that they may exclude other topics that are not in line with government preferences.
In turn, since people only get this one-sided information, they are more likely to develop a rather narrow horizon and don’t get the full picture regarding how the world actually works.
Education may suffer due to censorship
Another downside of censorship is that our overall education levels may suffer quite a lot. If information is censored by media channels or governments, the general public will not have access to a variety of different information sources and the overall learning experience may greatly suffer due to that.
For instance, I really like to pull up several different information channels all over the web in order to get a profound view of the respective topic. However, if my access to information was restricted, I would not be able to provide objective information to you anymore.
Hence, in order to spread high-quality information and to ensure that people are able can supply themselves with the best information possible, any sort of censorship should be avoided.
May conflict with human rights
Opponents of censorships also often claim that censoring information can be regarded as a violation of human rights. In fact, free access to information is crucial for us to succeed in all parts of our daily life and therefore, confining this important right may not be justified at all.
Therefore, in order to comply with our human rights, censorship should only be used where it is crucially necessary and should be avoided for all other things.
Censorship can lead to the discrimination of minorities
Censorship can also be quite harmful to minorities in a certain country. If governments or other political leaders spread information that damages the reputation of certain minorities, chances are that those minorities are treated quite poorly by the general public.
Quite often, this even leads to the social isolation of ethical or religious minorities. Hence, in order to avoid the discrimination of minorities, political leaders should stop using censorship to make flawed claims against these minorities.
Can also be harmful in an economic context
Censorship can also be harmful when it comes to financial decisions of people. If the general public doesn’t get access to proper financial education, chances are that investment decisions of the local population will be quite poor. In turn, this can lead to serious financial problems and may also contribute to old-age poverty.
Spread of information is slowed down
In general, through censorship, also the spread of information is slowed down a lot. This can be harmful when people need information fast. For instance, if you are a trader on a stock exchange, you often have to have access to all the information in real-time in order to make profits.
Yet, if you lack access to this information due to censorship, chances are that you will not be able to exploit financial opportunities that might be there.
Can slow down technological progress
Censorship can also slow down our overall global technological progress. If people don’t have access to latest research findings, they will not have an opportunity to base their research on those findings and in the long run, plenty of research time will be wasted.
In turn, our global technological progress will be slowed down, which can be detrimental since we need fast technological progress in order to solve our environmental problems in time.
Small elites can govern a country
An additional problem of censorship is that it gives small political elites a powerful tool to control the general public and to govern a country. In many cases, those elites make political decisions not to the best of the local population, but in order to benefit themselves and to sustain their power.
Hence, censorship is a powerful tool that is often used by small elites to support the interests of a few people or corporations instead of representing the preferences of the general public.
Censorship can adversely affect the values of a society
Censorship can also be used to spread certain values in society. For instance, if dictators want to keep the general public under control, they will likely spread information that helps them to sustain their power while they will withhold information that may contribute to the rise of revolutionary movements.
Freedom of speech is confined
Another serious downside of censorship is that the overall freedom of speech will be confined quite a lot. In fact, in some countries of our planet, people can even be sentenced to jail in case they express certain political views.
Yet, our freedom of speech is quite an important human right in order to assure our overall freedom in our society. Therefore, the concept of censorship should also be questioned in this regard.
Tensions between countries
Censorship can also lead to serious tensions between countries. Liberal countries who propose and support the freedom of information flows often get into trouble with countries that propose strict censorship and chances are that political relationships between countries will greatly suffer due to those different views.
Censorship can lead to unpleasant political outcomes
Information censorship can also lead to quite unpleasant and even dangerous political outcomes. Many dictatorships have only been possible due to excessive levels of censorship and the resulting manipulation of the general public. Hence, in order to avoid unfavorable political outcomes in the future, censorship should not be done in an excessive manner.
International trade may suffer from censorship
Since political relationships between countries can suffer quite a lot from censorship, chances are that also international trade relationships may suffer quite a lot.
For instance, some countries may refuse to trade with other countries which are known to engage in strict censorship in order to increase the political pressure on those countries to change things.
Yet, this can also lead to a state where the overall international trade volume will decrease, which can hurt our global economy quite a lot.
Censorship can be used for political goals and manipulation
In general, censorship has always been a powerful tool to manipulate the general public in order to achieve certain political goals. This had been true for the past and will also be true for the future. Hence, in order to protect the local population from serious levels of manipulation, censorship should be limited to a certain level.
Opponents claim that there is no need for censorship at all
In fact, in many cases, there will simply be no need for censorship. Accessing reliable information sources is quite important to get a profound view on reality and those information sources should not be made unavailable to the general public through censorship.
Censorship can be cost-intensive
Censorship of all sorts also implies significant costs. In order to monitor and supervise information flows, a high number of people have to be employed. Moreover, this type of supervision also requires plenty of hardware, which will also be quite costly in the long run. Hence, plenty of taxpayers’ money has to be spent for censoring information.
Censorship may also imply serious privacy issues. For instance, governments or other political authorities may be able to supervise the general public by using computer viruses or other programs while the general public will not even know about it since information flows regarding this topic will be restricted.
Top 10 Censorship Pros & Cons – Summary List
|Censorship Pros||Censorship Cons|
|Can help to avoid panic among the public||Censorship takes away freedom of people|
|Avoidance of the spread of fake news||Privacy issues|
|Can be helpful to govern a country||Can help to suppress people|
|Censorship can help to keep control||Discrimination of minorities|
|May lead to politically right behavior||Overall decrease in education levels|
|Important for military operations||Problematic for the economy of a country|
|Censorship can help in the context of patents||Can hurt international trade|
|Important to avoid social media shitstorms||Tensions between different countries|
|Censorship can protect your children||Censorship implies significant costs|
|Can help to protect users||Can be used to manipulate people|
While there are some important benefits of censorships, this concept also implies numerous serious problems. In my opinion, censorship should only be used in a pretty limited manner in order to guarantee access to important information for the general public.
About the author
My name is Andreas and my mission is to educate people of all ages about our environmental problems and how everyone can make a contribution to mitigate these issues.
As I went to university and got my Master’s degree in Economics, I did plenty of research in the field of Development Economics.
After finishing university, I traveled around the world. From this time on, I wanted to make a contribution to ensure a livable future for the next generations in every part of our beautiful planet.
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