What is internet censorship and why it exists

What is internet censorship and why it exists

What is internet censorship? A report on cybercensorship, prepared by University of Pretoria in South Africa and its findings on the reasons for internet censorship existence.

According to Wikipedia, censorship is “the suppression of speech or other public communication which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or inconvenient to the general body of people as determined by a government, media outlet, or other controlling body”.


According to the Global Internet Liberty Campaign, Censorship — the control of the information and ideas circulated within a society — has been a hallmark of dictatorships throughout history. In the last Century, censorship was achieved through the examination of books, plays, films, television and radio programs, news reports, and other existing forms of communication for the purpose of altering or suppressing ideas found to be objectionable or offensive.

Not all censorship is equal as stated by Global Internet Liberty Campaign.

Meta-censorship is another form of censorship in which any information about existence of censorship and the legal basis of the censorship is censored, rules of censoring are classified, and removed texts or phrases are not marked.

According to Wikipedia, Internet censorship is the control or suppression of what can be accessed, published, or viewed on the Internet enacted by regulators, or on their own initiative. Individuals and organizations may engage in self-censorship for moral, religious, or business reasons, to conform to societal norms, due to intimidation, or out of fear of legal or other consequences.

The University of Pretoria says that: “Internet censorship as a form of censorship is still under-researched”. It varies widely based on country, culture and context, and may range from child pornography to gambling as well as censorship of dissident content.

Although motivations for Internet censorship differ from country to country, Cohen (1997) identifies a number of concerns common to many countries that lead to censorship, namely:

  • National security (weapons’ making, illegal drugs and protection from terrorism)
  • Protection of minors (abuse, forms of marketing, violence and pornography)
  • Protection of human dignity (incitement to racial hatred or discrimination)
  • Economic security (fraud, pirating of credit cards)
  • Information security (malicious hacking)
  • Protection of privacy (unauthorised communication of personalised data, electronic 
harassment, spamming)
  • Protection of reputation (defamation, unlawful comparative advertising)
  • Intellectual property (the unauthorised distribution of copyrighted works such as music, 
software, books, etc.)

Discover more on how to counteract internet censorship in our blog. If you are affected by internet censorship or plan to travel to one of the countries that limits the internet content, don’t forget to install Le VPN before.

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