Nowadays, Internet has become an indispensable part of the personal or professional life of most people. However, beyond the facilities it offers by enabling quick access to a wide range of information and entertainment, the Internet raises an issue regarding the content of certain websites or images with obscene message.
On one hand, we observe that the number of users increases annually, and, on the other hand, more and more web pages explicitly show a content with pornographic implications or having a violent nature. Being spread over an extensive virtual area, the information can influence several vulnerable users, namely minors, in a negative way. Thus, if censorship on certain content on the Internet was imposed, children would be more protected because there would be no risk of being exposed to some information or virtual processes which are not consistent with their level of psychic development. The more often they get in contact with obscene or violent materials, there will be an increase in the cases of deterioration of social skills, isolation and predisposition to aggressive behavior.
Those who are against the idea of Internet censorship invoke as first argument the right to freedom of expression, stipulated in the constitution as fundamental feature of a democratic society (Art. 30 (1): the freedom of thought and expression, of opinion or belief, and the freedom of creation of any kind, using words, writing, pictures, sounds or other means of public communication are inviolable. Furthermore, another democratic principle provides for the freedom of information which the Internet censorship would clearly violate.
However, we must be aware of the fact that exercising the right to freedom of expression implies several duties and responsibilities as well, which are meant to be taken into account. The person who publishes a certain content becomes responsible for the impact created by them on social masses that can be easily influenced, such as minors. Given that web surfing is done anonymously, it is difficult to hold someone accountable for certain inappropriate posts. However, what can be done is implementing some restrictions and conditions in case of published information, based on rules prescribed by the law, without infringing constitutional principles related to the freedom of expression, because there is a need of guarding public security and establishing moral order.
What some people are concerned about is the fact that some data circulating on the Internet violates the protection of reputation or of certain rights that belong to others. In this case, this category of users considers censorship to be the best way to prevent the disclosure of some confidential information.
There are currently around 24 countries which practice Internet censorship, but this practice becomes abusive among countries such as China, Iran or South Korea. The supervision of websites containing political or social information is carried here in a very strict manner. Any attempt of expressing disagreement with the political regime, or of informing about some concepts based on freedom and democracy are strictly suppressed, sites of this nature being blocked.
Those who manifest their disagreement with this initiative of Internet censorship base their argument on these situations when censorship is excessively used. Thus, the University of Toronto, Cambridge, Oxford and Harvard demonstrate in a recent study that once they get in contact with the extraordinary potential of censorship programs, most advanced countries begin to use them abusively, restricting access to a wider range of more or less sensitive topics. They range from pages with pornography or gambling, to those belonging to religious or political organizations, especially those that disclose information on human rights and freedoms.
So to censor or not to censor the Internet is becoming a sensitive issue in the context of a society that wants to be democratic.
Adelina-Mihaela Poenaru & Raluca Marin