Bringing Transparency to Online Censorship

November 30, 2015

Censor internet conceptCensorship of online content is a global problem which appears to grow on a daily basis.  Governments and other institutions around the world routinely strive to remove or block access to a wide range of information and digital materials.  A recently announced initiative by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EF) and the organization, Visualizing Impact, is aimed at highlighting online censorship for the public to see.

Websites, blogs, social media, and an ever-expanding array of digital content make information and other materials readily available to people around the world.  They promote rapid public access to news and information.  The Internet and other forms of digital media thus contribute significantly to public scrutiny of the conduct of governments and other major institutions.

Governments and other established organizations are, however, frequently opposed to the increased openness and transparency made possible by online resources.  That transparency frequently results in public concern and activism which forces those institutions to be held accountable for their actions.  Such accountability can be embarrassing for the institutions involved, and can make their activities more complicated.

Governments and other major institutions now routinely censor digital media content they find to be troublesome or inconvenient.  This increased censorship of digital media content and resources poses a significant threat to public rights of information access and to the accountability of governments and other institutions.

EFF and Visualizing Impact launched a major initiative to help the public to become more aware of the scope of online censorship.  Through their new online platform, Onlinecensorship.org, they have established a system through which the public can identify specific examples of online content censorship.

This new platform enables users to identify specific online content that has been blocked or removed as a result of actions by governments or private parties.  By monitoring a range of online resources, this system can track content that was available online but was subsequently removed or blocked.  In this way, the system helps the public to track specific instances of digital content censorship.

The system also serves as a resource for individuals to challenge content censorship.  Onlinecensorship.org will assist people and organizations to exercise rights of appeal with regard to content censorship.  The organization will reportedly help interested parties and members of the public to prepare and submit appropriate appeals that challenge censorship actions.

Many of the benefits associated with the Internet and other forms of digital communications can only be fully realized to the extent that the material they process remains widely accessible to the public.  Censorship and denial of access to content pose serious threats to the value and effectiveness of digital media.  Initiatives such as Onlinecensorship.org play a vital role supporting public access to important information and content.  They are essential in the continuing struggle to enhance transparency and accountability with respect to the actions of governments and other major institutions.