One vital and contentious web issue that has continued to generate divergent views based on its social and economic acceptability is Internet Censorship. A class of thought has argued that access to information should be deemed a basic human right, thus freedom of expression should be guaranteed on the internet; another views internet as a medium that should be governed in a manner to secure the community from harmful information. Internet censorship remains the control or total suppression of what can be published, viewed or accessed on the internet. It can be accomplished by private organizations or governments at the bidding of regulators, government or even by private institutions, although Proxy websites have remained a simple route to accessing banned websites in censored countries.
The degree of internet filtering varies by countries the same way the drive for censorship ranges from power and politics, social norms and morals, security issues such as in the event of copyrights, elections, defamation, protests, harassment and obscene data. Noteworthy is that applications and networking tools used in dissemination of information in this regards are equally put through filtering and blocking.
Several methods have been successful in filtering websites. Some of the approaches include the use of non-technical filtering, and technical censorship which include Internet Protocol address blocking, domain name system filtering and redirection, Uniform Resource Locator filtering, packet filtering, connection reset, network disconnection, portal censorship and search result removal, computer network attacks as well as use of commercial filtering software.
Whatever the method adopted in internet filtering, website proxies have the capacity to unblock websites. Web proxy list exist and is accessible at www.proxy.org. In the same vein, accessing a blocked site is easy using a virtual private network which guarantees the user a secure identity in a more permissible country.
One common approach used by most web service operators is the reservation of rights to remove contents or pre-screen contents considered obscene or not in compliance with the ethical standards of the web services. With such phrases as ‘at our sole discretion,’ social sites like Facebook in its statement of rights and responsibility noted that they can remove content considered hateful, threatening, pornographic, or containing gratuitous violence or nudity, unlawful, malicious, misleading and discriminatory contents.
In the same vein, YouTube in its terms of service noted that it reserves the right to decide whether contents violates its terms for reasons other than copyright infringement such as but not limited to pornography, obscenity and excessive length and as such can remove such content or terminate user’s account for submitting such material in violation of it terms of service.
Whichever way one looks at it, there will continue to be aggressive and vibrant proponents and opponents of internet censorship. Although, the method used by anonymous—an internet hacktivist collective which express its opposition to Internet censorship through online hacking is gaining wide attention, the people who carry out web filtering are equally harnessing their resources. Whichever way, the debate rages on.
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