Do you agree that censorship negates the freedom of speech and expression? Give reasons in support of your answer.
Question 12. Do you agree that censorship negates the freedom of speech and expression? Give reasons in support of your answer.
Answer – Introduction
Yes, censorship negates the freedom of speech and expression. Censorship is the suppression of speech, public communication, or other information. This may be done on the basis that such material is considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or “inconvenient”. Censorship can be conducted by governments, private institutions and other controlling bodies.
Blocking of content for the political benefits or theft of personal information is also a violation of freedom of speech and expression. There should be a law that is transparent enough which citizens can trust with their personal information.
Freedom of Speech vs Censorship
The liberal view with respect to this argument states that free speech should be permitted in all forms and in almost all the cases and censored only in exceptional cases. There are three major reasons for the same:
- Democracy: Censorship as stated earlier has always been a tool for suppressing the voice of the minority and underprivileged people. This results in an antithesis of Democracy and the system starts going towards oligarchy (A Government of the few).
- Personal Autonomy: Our identity is let out in the world through our expressions and speech. Censorship targets this very aspect of our inclination towards personal identity.
- Discovering Truths: New truths and discoveries are possible when one expresses freely without restrictions. Censorship undermines this very effort.
Internet censorship is the legal control or suppression of what can be accessed, published, or viewed on the Internet. Censorship is most often applied to specific internet domains (such as Wikipedia.org) but exceptionally may extend to all Internet resources located outside the jurisdiction of the censoring state.
Pros and cons of internet censorship
- Internet censorship helps to eliminate misinformation present everywhere. Misinformation present online is basically fake because of the fact that people can easily give their opinions on the website without having proper knowledge about the particular topic.
- Internet censorship can help to limit trafficking activities and the adult content that is present on the net. In today’s times, privacy issues have reached an all-time high because many multinational companies have their eyes on an individual’s personal data for their respective beneficial purposes. A place on the internet is called a dark web where personal data (medical records, social security numbers, etc.) of people which are mostly stolen can be sold at a price. This place mostly contains child pornography, hate speech, sex trafficking, etc. Internet censorship can easily control and detect their place of origin.
- It plays a positive role in the security of an individual. The personal data that is available on the website can be sold at a certain price. Most of the data that is present online is not illegal but it can lead to more dangerous things but at the end of the day, it is still an invasion of privacy.
- A group of people, i.e., the regulators, get power over another set of people. There should be an organization that looks after the internet censorship where things can be reported, otherwise, it becomes a situation of monopoly. The person who sets the criteria of internet censorship cannot be censored or one cannot censor their views. The defect of this kind of authority is that a set of people get authority over another and there is nobody to monitor the things they do and what their ideas of social control and moral standard are.
- Internet censorship is very costly. The countries that have internet censorship, it costs them a fortune to maintain it.
- The information is controlled. According to a survey done by the World Economic Forum, internet censorship is common to one out of four people in the world who are using the internet. Many people face penalties because of their online conduct. If the nation has stricter laws with respect to internet censorship, then the people of that country face penalties for trivial actions also.
- Economic availability and opportunities get hindered by internet censorship. Any country that follows internet censorship, requires an individual to undergo the process for approval of their content so that it can get published. This means that any creative or business mind has to get approval for his project from a government official. There are chances that the official may not understand the work of the person.
Restrictions on freedom of speech and expression
Owing to the restrictions that should be imposed on the freedom of speech and expression so that we can prevent unrest in the society, clause (2) of Article 19 lays down the required restrictions. Pertaining to these restrictions, the tool of internet censorship can be used to remove or alter the content available online.
- State Security
With respect to Article 19(2), when it comes to the security of the state, the freedom of speech and expression can be restricted. ‘Security of State’ means war against the State, rebellion, insurrection excluding any riot and unlawful assembly. This concludes that when it comes to the safety of our nation then freedom of speech and expression can be restricted.
- Incitement to an offence
Through the Constitution (First Amendment) Act, 1951, this provision was added. The right to incite people to commit offense cannot be protected by Freedom of speech and expression.
- Friendly relations with foreign states
This criterion was added by the First Amendment itself in 1951. This was added so that people cannot misuse their right to freedom of speech and expression which may hinder the country’s relation with other foreign states. In India, the Foreign Relations Act (XII of 1932), provides punishment for libel by Indian citizens against foreign dignitaries. However, the interest of friendly relations with foreign, would not justify the suppression of fair criticism of the foreign policy of the government.
Internet censorship has been a roller coaster ride that has many ups and downs. Ups(pros) and downs(cons) have been discussed earlier. For a democracy, freedom of speech and expression is a very vital component. There should be a right balance between freedom of speech and expression and other components such as privacy, security, etc. So far, internet censorship has not been up to expectations and it is quite inadequate.
Politicians and businessmen have always been benefited whether there is a law or not regarding freedom of speech and expression. Blocking of content for the political benefits or theft of personal information is also a violation of freedom of speech and expression. There should be a law that is transparent enough which citizens can trust with their personal information. Personal information of the citizens often gets stolen for their voting benefits, preferences, etc.