Filtering, also known as screening, censoring and blocking, is the permission or restriction to release or distribute items based on a laid down criteria (Kluver & Banerjee, 2005). Content filters try to limit access to internet content by scanning pixels.
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Filtering is typically done by use of technological tools, software or hardware, which are intended for that function alone. These technological tools also have a feature of human involvement, via which a supervisor can regulate the settings or take precise action to filter particular content.
In this study, I shall discuss several issues pertaining filtering and censoring among them being: countries rights or needs to filter the internet, internet, how the Great Firewall of China reflects a particular form of government and politics, the Australian government internet filter, appropriate material for children, whether parents should be the sole arbiters of their children’s online habits, filtering in educational institutions, how to handle offensive material such as child pornography, whether hate speech should be blocked and finally, where to draw the line between filtering and censorship.
Countries Rights or Needs to filter the Internet
Whether or not countries should filter internet content is a topic that has been debated for a long time. Different people have had different opinions on this topic.
Huang (1999) and Harris (2009) argue that any structure of regulation on the substance of the internet is an infringement of people’s right to freedom of expression. However Gupa (2001) explains that if governments fail to control the content spread by internet, the right of ethnic minorities to subsist free of cultural intimation and the right of children to be free from abuse will be undermined.
In China, citizens’ acceptance of internet control and supervision by the state can be traced from the chronological sense whereby the government is assumed to be largely liable for social control and public ethics (Bray, 2000; Oliver, 2007).
Since the solitary valid source of influence in many features of Chinese culture is the government, the Chinese expect their government to take the front in controlling and managing internet use (Fallows, 2008).
In my opinion, internet control by countries is essential. First, internet came into being because countries placed satellites in the continent so as to spy underneath. Thus if countries want to keep an eye on the content that is spread by the internet, it’s very simple since they have a way of doing it.
Second, it is important for every country to have an efficient internet control plan so as to protect its citizens from child molesters, burglars and all other corrupt people. Governments should ensure that control devices are entrenched in new computers to avoid too much private information being spread to the entire public.
How the Great Firewall of China, or the Internet Censorship in Iran, Reflect a Particular Form of Government and Politics
According to Barber (2003) “internet use in China enhances direct democracy and can be an instrument of strong democracy” (p.42).
However, the division of culture caused by the Internet evidently limits reflection and pursuit of the ordinary ground and demoralizes the politics of the democratic involvement, separating the community rather than linking it (Kalathil, 2003). Following this argument, the Great Firewall of China enhances democracy in the country as it blocks any content that communicates hatred.
On the other hand, internet control challenges democracy. The internet has the latent to support the intensification of democracy if no obstructions, such as legislative control or censorship, are opposing it (Endeshaw, 2004; Taubman, 1998). Unrestricted from censorship, the internet is capable of being a powerful instrument that can be used to increase democracy in China.
According to Huang (1999), “information and technology has an inherently democratizing force, one that is almost impossible to resist” (p.146). One manner in which the internet supports the growth of democracy is by motivating freedom of speech.
The internet offers a method for people to communicate with one another and with their state (Shie, 2004; Zhao, 1998). Nevertheless, the internet can only promote freedom of speech by motivating involvement in public deliberations, an important ingredient of democracy (McMillan and Hwang, 2002).
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The Australian government’s Internet Filter
The Australian government should not filter the internet for all Australian citizens. This is because the Australian internet filter is not the right way of disallowing access to unethical content. It will be a misuse of time and funds, allowing the state to have a larger influence on the opinions of the Australian community (Weger & Aakhus, 2003).
This filter will also result to infringement of the right to freedom of speech and information. In other words, it will result to the Australian citizens being silenced as they will not be in a position to share information and opinions on the internet.
Considering that the Australian Constitution does not include any articulate provision allowing Australians the right to freedom of speech, the state could lawfully mute the public, in case the opinions expressed contradict their desires (Research Center for Social Development, 2007).
Appropriate Material for Children
There is a need to guard children against unethical internet material. Such material mainly includes pornography and violence scenes (Bird & Robert, 2000; Myers, 2006). This sort of content is rapidly increasing, making the quantity of unethical content that is simply accessible to children massive. Naive searches for obvious terms can result to pornographic pictures being exhibited together with the results.
Though the chief objective of the projected internet filter is to guard people, especially children, from this type of material, executing it will not achieve this objective. This is due to the enormous shortcomings projected to be experienced by the filter.
For instance, the firewall is intended to use blacklists to manage unethical material. Obviously, some sites that contain unethical material will lack in this list. Again, new websites are being established every day.
Should Parents be the Sole Arbiters of their Children’s Online Habits?
Parents cannot be the sole arbiters of children online habits. At homes, devices that aid internet access, for instance mobile phones and computers, are not at all times placed in the table room but rather in a study room or bedroom (Myers, 2006). Realistically, a parent cannot keep on watching the child on every move. Thus, even as parents practice responsibility, they are supposed to be assisted by use of other approaches.
Filtering in Educational Institutions
Filtering in schools is important as it reduces accountability together with reducing the quantity of malware that patrons involuntarily install in equipment. According to Zittrain (2004) another ground for using content filters in education institutions is to “scan and block Java and ActiveX which attempts to perform malicious, or otherwise questionable, operations” (p.90).
Various filtering software let the outgoing content, like address, phone number and name, to be blocked. Others give an account of the internet sites that have been opened. Schools that make use of filtering software have reported that it has intrigued a positive action towards shielding learners from offensive substance (Lacharite, 2003).
Handling Offensive Material such as Child Pornography
Though Internet censorship is detrimental in several ways, it has one chief benefit, which is limiting pornography. Governments should employ specific filter software to obstruct pornographic material on internet or else censor pornography.
Internet cafes that distribute pornographic material should be heavily fined by the public authorities. However, the control of pornography should not be used an excuse by any country to deny its citizens information that pertains democracy.
Governments should collaborate with parents and schools to ensure that children are guided on how they make use of the internet. So far, a technology that can stop children from being exposed to unsuitable material or involving them in risky behavior has not yet been established.
Thus, programs enlightening children to use the internet safely and think sensibly and critically are the most efficient measures that an educational foundation can take to guard children against unsafe situations or unsuitable content on the internet.
Technology guard measures ought to be defined largely to incorporate educational programs directed towards educating children how to shield themselves from dangerous or unsuitable situations related to technology.
The government should assist in offering children training on helpful internet search skills, the meaning of protecting their private information on the internet, how to keep away from risky circumstances, and how to establish whether a web site is likely to be suitable or unsuitable.
Finally, those found guilty of disseminating information related to child pornography should be heavily punished as they infringe the rights of children. Every child has a right towards protection from abuse and molestation, which should be the role of parents, schools and the entire public to see that these rights are not compromised.
Should Hate Speech be Blocked?
It is important for all governments to consider blocking any internet material that is likely to cause chaos in a country. For instance, the Klu Klux Klan or neo-Nazi writing which communicates great hatred should be blocked. This is because every government is entrusted with the role of protecting all its citizens, regardless of racial background and other diversities.
Drawing the Line between Filtering and Censorship.
Though filtering and censorship are words that are usually used interchangeably, there are differences that exist between them. First, filtering seeks to guard the right of the person who uses internet while censorship tries to guard the user himself from the imaginary effects of his internet usage. Second, the filter has confidence in the acumen of the user while the censor only believes in itself.
Third, filtering is autonomous while censorship is dictatorial. Fourth, the objective of filtering is to encourage safe use of internet while censorship bars people from accessing the internet. Finally, whereas filtering promotes self expression, censorship hinders it.
In conclusion, there is need for countries to filter or censor internet content so as to guarantee the right of ethnic minorities to subsist free of cultural intimation and the right of children to be free from molestation and abuse.
Although children need to be protected from unethical internet content by the parents, there is need for the government and schools to come in as parents cannot manage to be the sole arbiters of their children’s online habits.
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