is the suppression of speech
or deletion of communicative material which may be considered objectionable, harmful or sensitive, as determined by a censor.
The rationale for censorship is different for various types of data censored:
- Moral censorship is the removal of materials that censor deems to be obscene or otherwise morally questionable. Pornography, for example, is often censored under this rationale, especially child pornography, which is censored in most jurisdictions in the world. In another example, graphic violence resulted in the censorship of the "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" movie entitled Scarface, originally completed in 1932.
- Military censorship is the process of keeping military intelligence and tactics confidential and away from the enemy. This is used to counter espionage, which is the process of gleaning military information. Very often, militaries will also attempt to suppress politically inconvenient information even if those information has no actual intelligence value.
- Political censorship occurs when governments hold back secret information from their citizens. The logic is to prevent the free expression needed to rebel. Any dissent against the government is thought to be a "weakness" for the enemy to exploit. Campaign tactics are also often kept secret: see the Watergate scandal.
- Religious censorship is the means by which any material objectionable to a certain faith is removed. This often involves a dominant religion forcing limitations on less prevalent ones. Alternatively, one religion may shun the works of another when they believe the content is not appropriate for their faith.
- Corporate censorship is the process by which editors in corporate media outlets intervene to halt the publishing of information that portrays their business or business partners in a negative light. Privately owned corporations in the business of reporting the news also sometimes refuse to distribute information due to the potential loss of advertiser revenue or shareholder value which adverse publicity may bring. See media bias. Trade secret law may be used by corporations as a censorship device. For example, trade secret law may help keep company-sponsored research confidential, when revealing it would reveal negative health effects of the product researched.
Censorship of state secrets and prevention of attention
In wartime, explicit censorship is carried out with the intent of preventing the release of information that might be useful to an enemy
. Typically it involves keeping times or locations secret, or delaying the release of information (e.g., an operational objective) until it is of no possible use to enemy forces. The moral issues here are often seen as somewhat different, as release of tactical information usually presents a greater risk of casualties among one's own forces and could possibly lead to loss of the overall conflict.
During World War I letters written by British soldiers would have to go through censorship. This consisted of officers going through letters with a black marker and crossing out anything which might compromise operational secrecy before the letter was sent. The World War II catchphrase "Loose lips sink ships" was used as a common justification to exercise official wartime censorship and encourage individual restraint when sharing potentially sensitive information.
An example of "sanitization" policies comes from the USSR under Joseph Stalin, where publicly used photographs were often altered to remove people whom Stalin had condemned to execution. Though past photographs may have been remembered or kept, this deliberate and systematic alteration to all of history in the public mind is seen as one of the central themes of Stalinism and totalitarianism.
Censorship of educational sources
The content of school textbooks is often the issue of debate, since their target audience is young people, and the term "whitewashing" is the one commonly used to refer to selective removal of critical or damaging evidence or comment. The reporting of military atrocities in history is extremely controversial, as in the case of the Nanking Massacre, The Holocaust (or Holocaust denial), and the Winter Soldier Investigation of the Vietnam War. The representation of every society's flaws or misconduct is typically downplayed in favor of a more nationalist, favorable or patriotic view.
Religious groups have at times attempted to block the teaching of evolution in publicly-funded schools as it contradicts their religious beliefs, or have argued that they are being censored if not allowed to teach creationism as science in those schools, though their arguments have been rejected by United States courts in cases such as Edwards v. Aguilard and Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District. The teaching of sexual education in school and the inclusion of information about sexual health and contraceptive practices in school textbooks is another area where suppression of information occurs. Political correctness sometimes prohibits the open discussion of divergent views.
In the context of secondary-school education, the way facts and history are presented greatly influences the interpretation of contemporary thought, opinion and socialization. One argument for censoring the type of information disseminated is based on the inappropriate quality of such material for the young. The use of the "inappropriate" distinction is in itself controversial, as it changed heavily. A Ballantine Books version of the book Fahrenheit 451 which is the version used by most school classes contained approximately 75 separate edits, omissions, and changes from the original Bradbury manuscript.
Suppression/falsification of scientific research
- For more information, see the article on scientific misconduct.
Scientific studies may be suppressed or falsified because they undermine sponsors' commercial, political, religious or other interests or because they fail to support researchers' ideological goals. Examples include, failing to publish a study which shows that a new drug is harmful, or truthfully publishing the benefits of a treatment while failing to describe harmful side-effects. Scientific research may also be suppressed or altered to support a political or religious agenda. In the United States some government scientists, including NASA climatologist Drew Shindell
, have reported governmental pressure to alter their statements regarding climate change
Censorship in music and popular culture
American musicians such as Frank Zappa have repeatedly protested against censorship in music and pushed for more freedom of expression. In 1986, Zappa appeared on CNN's Crossfire to protest censorship of lyrics in rock music, denying that harm will be done or unrest caused if controversial information, lyrics, or other messages are promulgated.
In countries like Sudan, Afghanistan and China, violations of musician's rights to freedom of expression are commonplace. In the USA and Algeria, lobbying groups have succeeded in keeping popular music off the concert stage, and out of the media and retail. In ex-Yugoslavia musicians are often pawns in political dramas, and the possibility of free expression has been adversely affected.
Music censorship has been implemented by states, religions, educational systems, families, retailers and lobbying groups – and in most cases they violate international conventions of human rights.
A related example is dance censorship, which can be found across the globe, both today and historically. Dancing's associations with youth, sexuality, and expression have often made it a target for religious reformers and government control.
Copy, picture, and writer approval
Copy approval is the right to read and amend an article, usually an interview, before publication. Many publications refuse to give copy approval but it is increasingly becoming common practice when dealing with publicity anxious celebrities. Picture approval is the right given to an individual to choose which photos will be published and which will not. Robert Redford
is well known for insisting upon picture approval. Writer approval is when writers are chosen based on whether they will write flattering articles or not. Hollywood publicist Pat Kingsley
is known for banning certain writers who wrote undesirably about one of her clients from interviewing any of her other clients.
Censorship of maps
Google Earth censors places that may be of special security concern. The following is a selection of such concerns:
- The former Indian president APJ Abdul Kalam had expressed concern over the availability of high-resolution pictures of sensitive locations in India.
- Indian Space Research Organization says that Google Earth poses a security threat to India and seeks dialogue with Google officials.
- The South Korean government has expressed concern that the software offers images of the presidential palace and various military installations that could possibly be used by North Korea.
- Operators of the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor in Sydney, Australia asked Google to censor high resolution pictures of the facility. However, they later withdrew the request.
- The government of Israel also expressed concern over the availability of high-resolution pictures of sensitive locations in its territory, and applied pressure to have Israeli territory (and the Occupied Territories held by Israeli forces) appear in less clear detail.
- The Vice President of the United State's residence (Naval Observatory) in Washington, DC has been pixelated, as has the Federal Gold Depository at Fort Knox.
- In Morocco, the partially government owned Maroc Telecom Internet access provider banned all its subscribers for over two years for using Google Earth, but early in 2008 the censorship was removed.
In this form of censorship, any information about existence of censorship and the legal basis of the censorship is censored. Rules of censoring were classified. Removed texts or phrases were not marked.
In this form of censorship, censors rewrite texts, giving these texts secret co-authors.
Censorship is regarded among a majority of academics in the Western world as a typical feature of dictatorships
and other authoritarian
political systems. Democratic nations are represented, especially among Western government, academic and media commentators, as having somewhat less institutionalized censorship, and as instead promoting the importance of freedom of speech
. The former Soviet Union
maintained a particularly extensive program of state-imposed censorship. The main organ for official censorship in the Soviet Union
was the Chief Agency for Protection of Military and State Secrets
generally known as the Glavlit
, its Russian acronym. The Glavlit
handled censorship matters arising from domestic writings of just about any kind — even beer and vodka labels. Glavlit
censorship personnel were present in every large Soviet publishing house or newspaper; the agency employed some 70,000 censors to review information before it was disseminated by publishing houses, editorial offices, and broadcasting studios. No mass medium escaped Glavlit
's control. All press agencies and radio and television stations had Glavlit
representatives on their editorial staffs.
Some thinkers understand censorship to include other attempts to suppress points of view or the exploitation of negative propaganda, media manipulation, spin, disinformation or "free speech zones." These methods tend to work by disseminating preferred information, by relegating open discourse to marginal forums, and by preventing other ideas from obtaining a receptive audience.
Sometimes, a specific and unique information whose very existence is barely known to the public, is kept in a subtle, near-censorship situation, being regarded as "subversive" or "inconvenient". Michel Foucault's 1978 text "Sexual Morality and the Law" (later republished as "The Danger of Child Sexuality"), for instance - originally published as La loi de la pudeur [literally, "the law of decency"], defends the decriminalization of statutory rape and the abolition of age of consent laws, and as of July 2006, is almost totally invisible throughout the Internet, both in English and French, and does not appear even on Foucault-specialized websites.
Suppression of access to the means of dissemination of ideas can function as a form of censorship. Such suppression has been alleged to arise from the policies of governmental bodies, such as the FDA
in the United States
of America, the CRTC
, newspapers that refuse to run commentary the publisher disagrees with, lecture halls that refuse to rent themselves out to a particular speaker, and individuals who refuse to finance such a lecture. The omission of selected voices in the content of stories also serves to limit the spread of ideas, and is often called censorship. Such omission can result, for example, from persistent failure or refusal by media organizations to contact criminal defendants (relying solely on official sources for explanations of crime). Censorship has been alleged to occur in such media policies as blurring the boundaries between hard news and news commentary, and in the appointment of allegedly biased commentators, such as Nancy Grace
, to serve as anchors of programs labeled as hard news but comprising primarily commentary.
The focusing of news stories to exclude questions that might be of interest to some audience segments, such as the avoidance of reporting cumulative casualty rates among citizens of a nation that is the target or site of a foreign war, or in the prevention, treatment, and curing of disease, is often described as a form of censorship. Favorable representation in news or information services of preferred products or services, such as reporting on leisure travel and comparative values of various machines instead of on leisure activities such as arts, crafts or gardening has been described by some as a means of censoring ideas about the latter in favor of the former.
Self-censorship: Imposed on the media in a free market by market/cultural forces rather than a censoring authority. This occurs when it is more profitable for the media to give a biased view.
Censorship by country
Citations and notes
- Abbott, Randy. "A Critical Analysis of the Library-Related Literature Concerning Censorship in Public Libraries and Public School Libraries in the United States During the 1980s." Project for degree of Education Specialist, University of South Florida, December 1987. ED 308 864
- Burress, Lee. Battle of the Books. Metuchen, NJ: The Scarecrow Press, 1989. ED 308 508
- Butler, Judith, "Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative" (1997)
- Foucault, Michel, edited by Lawrence D. Kritzman. Philosophy, Culture: interviews and other writings 1977-1984 (New York/London: 1988, Routledge, ISBN 0-415-90082-4) (The text Sexual Morality and the Law is Chapter 16 of the book).
- O'Reilly, Robert C. and Larry Parker. "Censorship or Curriculum Modification?" Paper presented at a School Boards Association, 1982, 14 p. ED 226 432
- Hansen, Terry. The Missing Times: News media complicity in the UFO cover-up, 2000. ISBN 0-7388-3612-5
- Hendrikson, Leslie. "Library Censorship: ERIC Digest No. 23." ERIC Clearinghouse for Social Studies/Social Science Education, Boulder, Colorado, November 1985. ED 264 165
- Hoffman, Frank. "Intellectual Freedom and Censorship." Metuchen, NJ: The Scarecrow Press, 1989. ED 307 652
- Marek, Kate. "Schoolbook Censorship USA." June 1987. ED 300 018
- National Coalition against Censorship (NCAC). "Books on Trial: A Survey of Recent Cases." January 1985. ED 258 597
- Ringmar, Erik A Blogger's Manifesto: Free Speech and Censorship in the Age of the Internet (London: Anthem Press, 2007)
- Small, Robert C., Jr. "Preparing the New English Teacher to Deal with Censorship, or Will I Have to Face it Alone?" Annual Meeting of the National Council of Teachers of English, 1987, 16 p.
- (Arguing that an English teacher should get advice from school librarians in preparing to encounter three levels of censorship:
- Rejection of adolescent fiction and popular teen magazines as having low value,
- Experienced colleagues discouraging "difficult" lesson plans,
- Outside interest groups limiting students' exposure. ED 289 172)
- Terry, John David II. "Censorship: Post Pico." In "School Law Update, 1986," edited by Thomas N. Jones and Darel P. Semler. ED 272 994
- Supreme Court rejects advocates' plea to preserve useful formats
- World Book Encyclopedia, volume 3 (C-Ch), pages 345, 346