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Online Censorship

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Today we are experiencing the online censorship of doctors, nurses, economists and politicians; in fact anyone who has something different to say than the mainstream narrative in mainstream media, but when did this modern censorship of free speech in so-called democratic civilised society begin?

Two years ago the award-winning film Stare into the Lights my Pretties critically evaluated the negative effects of modern screen culture; today this topic has reached new heights thanks to The Social Dilemma, a documentary on Netflix which is being hailed as “the most important documentary of our times.”

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists have set the Doomsday Clock at 100 seconds to midnight due to COVID-19, cyber-enabled information warfare, the collapse of both international security and the international political structure, as well as climate change and the threat of nuclear war.

However, under the radar of modern mass media, a global movement is gaining momentum; people and communities are cooperating, collaborating and learning from each other to create a positive future instead.

The following materials present a context (background) for the topic of Online Censorship, and can be used in class:

Online Censorship Playlist

Online Censorship Background

Online censorship is a very controversial topic in today’s world. It all began in June 2013 when The Guardian and Washington Post reported that Five Eyes (UK, USA, OZ, NZ, Canada) are using Google, AOL, Yahoo!, Skype, Microsoft, YouTube, Facebook and Apple to collect everyone’s online data. The Guardian and the Washington Post were awarded the highest accolade in journalism, the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. Edward Snowden, the former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee who leaked the information, became an enemy of the state. Snowdon’s leaks divided the world. Some see him as a hero. Others see him as a traitor. His bravery, or stupidity, seemed to change very little.

Politics is now deeply embedded in the ethos of the internet’s biggest corporations. In October 2018, Facebook deleted hundreds of Pages from people who challenge the political status quo. The Free Thought Project, Police the Police, Press for Truth, Anti-Media, Right Wing News, Reasonable People Unite, Reverb Press, as well as Rachel Blevins (a correspondent for RT America) all had their Pages deleted. No clear explanation for any of these deletions was given.

Online censorship goes beyond social media. In June 2013, Amazon signed a deal with the U.S. government worth $600 million to create a private cloud service for the CIA. In March 2019, Amazon removed all anti-vaccine documentaries from Amazon Prime. In June 2019, Google removed Dr. Mercola, who is pro natural medicine and anti pharmaceutical drugs, from Google search engine results. Some see this as successfully removing quackery from the internet. Others see it as an outright attack on freedom of speech. Censorship is becoming the new norm.

Online censorship could soon have serious implications for people in the real world. In September 2018, Apple started experimenting with reviewing customer phone calls and emails in order to assign Apple users with a “trust score”. That same month, Twitter deleted Alex Jones’s profile. Alex Jones is a controversial news reporter who claims that a secret elite is controlling the planet. Alex Jones did not break Twitter’s terms and conditions. The company deleted his account because of his behaviour in the real world. The government in China has already introduced a credit score app which all Chinese citizens must use by 2020. Citizens with low scores will be banned from trains, planes, dating apps, certain schools, hotels and government jobs. The Chinese government state openly that this is just the beginning.

The question is: Does government-internet company collaboration increase or decrease public safety and well-being? To what extent are continual data collection, the deliberate removal of online content and the scoring of people’s behaviour helpful in this regard?

Lesson Ideas

University of Nottingham (UoN), Summer 2019

The UoN prepares international students with the academic skills to be able to study a degree by tutoring how to “write an academic paper on a controversial issue” (cite).

Students learn how to write a controversy paper based on a heated debate within their own discipline in order to develop a deep level of criticality, or critical thinking.

This means looking at facts with open-minded objectivity, which in turn challenges us to question our preconceived ideas and perspectives, thus enabling us to make informed decisions by forming conclusions based on evidence.

The full breakdown of lesson ideas is available on WUWE here.

In a Nutshell

The Oxford Dictionary defines cybersecurity as “The state of being protected against the criminal or unauthorized use of electronic data” but it also includes protection from the “disruption or misdirection” of the services we use.

Ultimately, services that use our data and us as the product will not be secure by default in order to access said data, but also, when we as the product are no longer considered useful or desired, we can be expunged at any time.

The solutions is to put our trust in a different narrative instead, in services that keep our data and us safe; services from people and companies passionate about cybersecurity.



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Teaching at Nottingham University, Summer 2019

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