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Internet Censorship: What You Need to Know

The United States allows just about any type of business or content provider to operate on the internet with access to potentially millions of virtual visitors all over the world. Should this exposure be controlled? Some foreign governments believe so. According to the U.S. Office of International Communications and Information Policy, however, ensuring that everyone in the world is given the opportunity to benefit, without censorship,  from the innovations, information, and mediums of expression that the internet provides is a “foreign policy priority” for the United States.

Of course, not all internet censorship stems from a government’s desire to thwart their citizens’ access to information from around the world. Web filters are often employed to protect children from content that is not age-appropriate or that can expose them to risk. Major social media websites have policies in place to protect their respective communities from certain types of content. Recently, Facebook’s community standards have been under fire over several instances of content removal. Reddit shut down five forums last year that had become overrun with hate spam, and Twitter has implemented shared block lists. Many people see this as blatant internet censorship.

“The motivations for internet censorship range from well-intentioned desires to protect children from unsuitable content to authoritarian attempts to control a nation’s access to information. No matter what the censors’ reasons are, the end result is the same: They block access to the Web pages they identify as undesirable.”

Source: How Censorship on the Internet Works

Just like concerned parents and website owners can control content, some foreign governments choose to limit what can be viewed in their countries. Are the laws of certain countries affecting the visibility of your website there? You bet. If you have a global target audience, you should find out if your website or any of its content is being blocked in certain markets.

So what are the ten most internet-censored countries?

“Internet access is highly restricted in countries under Communist Party rule-North Korea, Vietnam, China, and Cuba. In Cuba (10th most censored), the Internet is available to only a small portion of the population, despite outside investment to bring the country online. China, despite having hundreds of millions of Internet users, maintains the “Great Firewall,” a sophisticated blend of human censors and technological tools, to block critical websites and rein in social media.”

Source: 10 Most Censored Countries