Internet Censorship: Definition, Types and How It Can Affect You (2023)

Internet censorship is a big problem. Gone are the days of total cyber freedom when corporations and governments encroached on the internet. Their involvement is ruining the cyber world for the rest of us in many ways, the most prominent being censorship.

Internet censorship is control or suppressionwhat can be accessed, posted or viewed online. This happens when governments, organizations or individuals restrict or block access to web content. In this article, we explain how censorship works, what impact it has on the internet, and how to avoid it.

What is internet censorship and how does it happen?

Some countries censor the internet because they don't want their citizens to see things that might upset them or make them think differently. They can also do this to discourage people from organizing protests or speaking out against the government.

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Its purpose is usually to make it difficult to get accurate information about what's happening in the world or to prevent people from freely expressing their opinions.

But theGovernment censorship of the Internet can occur for a variety of other reasons, including political, religious or moral reasons and restrictions on freedom of the press.

While government-level censorship is designed to shut out dissent, there are other reasons why organizations and groups of people restrict access to the Internet for others. An organization can block specific websites to protect its members from offensive or inappropriate content, or simply to increase productivity by restricting access to social media and entertainment websites.

Internet censorship happens in one of two directions:

  1. Censorship from top to bottomis when a government or organization tells service providers what content to block. In some cases, laws may require certain content to be censored. Users have no voice and cannot choose what they want to access.
  2. Self-imposed censorshipis associated with individuals or groups self-censoring and choosing what content to avoid. For example, someone might choose not to view certain websites because they know their government will censor the information, making it inaccurate.

Different Types of Web Censorship

Various things can be censored like specific images, words or entire websites and Internet protocols. There are also different ways of censoring things - blocking access to material altogether or restricting searches for censored terms.

Government level censorship

One type of censorship is when a government doesillegal to say certain things. In China, for example, the government has made it illegal to speak online about certain issues, such as democracy or human rights. They do this by censoring websites that discuss these topics and penalizing people who break the rules. Governments work with ISPs to enforce these restrictions, blocking access to websites entirely or redirecting traffic to similar regulated websites.

Platform Restrictions

Another type of censorship is at social media companiesblock certain content from their platforms. For example, Facebook has been criticized for censoring posts about body positivity and sex education. Similarly, YouTube has been accused of censoring videos about LGBTQ+ rights, mental health and COVID-19 awareness. In this case, the platforms will issue takedown notices followed by the removal of that content.

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It's not uncommon for governments to even force tech companies to impose content restrictions based on their own advertising. In that case, the government would force content providers to submit by threatening to ban their platforms outright. In counterpoint, Twitter has begun clearly labeling government-related profiles so users can quickly identify if the profile could be part of a propaganda machine. That's not much, but at least it helps fight internet censorship.

local restrictions

Finally, censorship can take place on a smaller scale within a single institution. For example, a school might restrict access to certain parts of the internet or even key phrases. This prevents students from using school computers to visit inappropriate websites such as adult websites or social networking sites.

Similarly, employers can block specific apps, services, and websites so employees can only access the software and websites they allow. While we discuss how to avoid content blocking and censorship using free VPNs and similar tactics, we advise caution in these situations.

How censorship works in different countries

Some countries have strict censorship laws while others have none. China is known for its internet restrictions, which some call "China's Great Firewall". The Chinese government blocks access to many websites and social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Like all other Google products, Google's search engine is also banned in China. The government censors search results and prevents certain words from being used online.

In Saudi Arabia, the government filters content based on religious and moral values. It generally blocks websites that contain pornography or material that can be considered offensive to Islam. In Iran, the government blocks websites that criticize the regime or contain information that could be used to foment dissent.

In Russia, a new law requires internet service providers to censor websites the government deems "extremist". These can also be foreign websites that are critical of the respective government or provide information about protests or other forms of resistance.

Censorship can also be done in less obvious ways. For example, many countries require internet companies to do thiscollect dataabout the activities of its users. This data can be used to track people and see what they are doing online. Of course, such laws disrupt net neutrality.

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effects of censorship

Increased censorship can have several negative effects. First of all, it limits people's ability to access information and ideas. This can lead to a loss of knowledge and opportunities for education and personal growth.

Additionally, digital censorship can stifle creativity and critical thinking.. No access to the online world can limit people's ability to express themselves freely. When people are only exposed to one side of an issue, it can be difficult to form a complete opinion. Seeing only one aspect of the big picture can also lead to misinformation.

Censorship can create an atmosphere of fear and mistrust. People can be afraid to speak their minds or share their ideas, which can lead to feelings of isolation and disconnection.

Why internet freedom matters

People have been fighting for freedom online since the dawn of the internet. The internet has become such an integral part of our lives that in 2016 the UN resolution made internet access a basic human right. Internet censorship denies us this fundamental right.

Internet access means access to information, education and communication. This allows us to connect with friends and family and participate in the global community. It is essential for companies and the economy, which the pandemic years have particularly confirmed. When regulations are imposed on the type of content we can access, serious problems can arise, such as when medical websites violate restrictions that people need.

Cyberspace is also a powerful tool for democracy and human rights. The UN recognized the importance of the internet in a resolution passed in 2016, declaring it a basic human right. The general belief is that the Internet is something that everyone should have access to. Restricting access to parts of the Internet affects human rights, community rights, learning and prosperity in this modern world.

Internet Censorship: Definition, Types and How It Can Affect You (1)

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How to bypass censorship

If you live in a country with restricted internet, there are several ways to bypass the restrictions and gain access to all internet content.


Web proxies are the easiest and fastest way to bypass internet censorship and geo-restrictions. They route your traffic through another server, so the website you're trying to visit doesn't know your real IP address. This can be used to bypass simple content filters like your school or workplace might have.

However, web proxies are not perfect. They can be slow and don't always work with all websites. Also, your traffic is still routed through another server, which means the proxy owner could snoop on your traffic and detect fake IP addresses. More importantly, your ISP, and therefore the government, may still know what you've scoured.


Another way to gain access to censored websites is by using a virtual private network. VPNs create a private and secure connection between two devices that can be used to access restricted websites. When you use a VPN that doesn't log data, your traffic is encrypted, so your ISP or anyone else can't see what you're doing online. More importantly, no data is stored on the provider side as if you never used the service.

While VPNs are legal in most parts of the world, some countries block them and can even fine you if you get caught. If you're using a VPN in a country that doesn't allow it, or you're just worried about the repercussions, you may need to use a different method to access restricted websites.

Tor Browser

Finally, you may just need to change your internet browser to a more secure one. Tor is a free browser that lets you surf the web anonymously. By encrypting traffic and routing it through a distributed network of relays, Tor makes it difficult for anyone to track a user's online activity.

The main disadvantage of using Tor is that it can be slow. Because traffic is routed through multiple relays, each with their own bandwidth limitations, Tor users may experience slowdowns while browsing the web. In addition, some websites can block traffic from known Tor relays, making them inaccessible to Tor users.

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final thoughts

As discussed earlier, internet censorship can be a difficult problem. On the one hand, it is important to protect people from offensive or harmful material. On the other hand, it is important to give people free access to information and freedom of expression.

After all, since the Internet is already considered a basic human right, imposing such restrictions is a sign of dictatorship and not a sign that the government really cares about pressing issues.


What are the types of internet censorship? ›

An example is the increased censorship due to the events of the Arab Spring. Other types of censorship include the use of copyrights, defamation, harassment, and various obscene material claims as a way to deliberately suppress content. Support for and opposition to Internet censorship also varies.

How does internet censorship affect you? ›

Internet censorship can limit individuals' freedom of expression by restricting access to sites where they can speak freely. Some internet censorship may also include the government monitoring citizen's internet activity and speech. This monitoring could lead to people feeling uncomfortable with expressing themselves.

What is meant by internet censorship? ›

1. The control or suppression of what can be accessed, published, or viewed on the Internet. It may be carried out by governments or by private organizations at the behest of government, regulators, or on their own initiative.

What are the dangers of censorship? ›

Censorship may lead to lack of information and subsequent development of apathy, ignorance, conformism and general stagnation. It may threaten democracy and encourage subversive activities. It may equally foster idealism through indoctrination and strengthen governmental control.

How many types of censoring are there? ›

There are three types of censored data; right censored, left censored, and interval cesored. Data for which the exact event time is known is referred to as complete data.

What are some negative effects of the Internet? ›

Articles focus on major privacy scandals and security breaches, the proliferation of fake news, rampant harmful behaviours like cyber-bullying, cyber-theft, revenge porn, the exchange of child porn and internet predation, internet addiction, and the negative effects of the internet on social relations and social ...

How does the Internet affect us negatively? ›

Less interaction with the family leads to the breakdown of family relationships. Less time spent bonding with real-world friends leads to a breakdown in social relationships. Exposure to false information and negative propaganda mislead children and make them easy victims of indoctrination.

How does internet censorship affect freedom of speech? ›

Censors seek to limit freedom of thought and expression by restricting spoken words, printed matter, symbolic messages, freedom of association, books, art, music, movies, television programs, and Internet sites. When the government engages in censorship, First Amendment freedoms are implicated.

Who is affected by internet censorship? ›

However, that means that private companies, schools, internet providers, and other entities outside of Congress can censor their students, customers, employees, and more. For example, if a private workplace censors its employees' internet access, that is legal as the company is not Congress.

How has the Internet affected your life? ›

The Internet has also changed the way we interact with our family, friends, and life partners. Now everyone is connected to everyone else in a simpler, more accessible, and more immediate way; we can conduct part of our personal relationships using our laptops, smart phones, and tablets.

How can we prevent internet censorship? ›

Virtual private network (VPN): Using a VPN, A user who experiences internet censorship can create a secure connection to a more permissive country, and browse the internet as if they were situated in that country. Some services are offered for a monthly fee; others are ad-supported.

What are the five types of censorship? ›

  • Political.
  • State secrets and prevention of attention.
  • Religion.
  • Educational sources.
  • Economic induced censorship.
  • Self-censorship.
  • Copy, picture, and writer approval.
  • Reverse censorship.

How does censorship affect students? ›

Censorship is particularly harmful in the schools because it prevents youngsters with inquiring minds from exploring the world, seeking truth and reason, stretching their intellectual capacities, and becoming critical thinkers.

What are the cons of internet censorship? ›

What Are the Cons of Internet Censorship?
  • Who watches the watchers? ...
  • It stops information. ...
  • It is a costly process. ...
  • It provides a negative economic impact. ...
  • It shifts where responsibilities lie. ...
  • It prevents individuals from accessing a freedom of expression. ...
  • A lack of truth leads to ignorance.
Jul 22, 2017

What are the four types of privacy? ›

There are four different types of privacy protection: physical, virtual, third-party and legislation. Physical types of protection include the use of locks, pass codes or other security tools to restrict access to data or property.

What is the difference between Type I censoring and the type II censoring? ›

Two types of independent right censoring: Type I : completely random dropout (eg emigration) and/or fixed time of end of study no event having occurred. Type II: study ends when a fixed number of events amongst the subjects has occurred.

What are the four primary modes of regulation of the Internet? ›

Aside from blatant censorship of the Internet in nations like China, Saudi Arabia, or Iran, there are four primary modes of regulation of the internet: Laws, Architecture, Norms, and Markets.

What are the types of Internet governance? ›

IGP's analysis of the Internet governance space is informed by institutional economics, which identifies three broad categories of governance: markets, hierarchies and networks. Markets are driven by private transactions and the price mechanism.

What are the three 3 major Internet privacy issues? ›

But the “top 3” privacy issues with most data breaches are “tracking, hacking and trading.” Let's take a closer look at each one and see how it impacts your privacy.

What are the 3 types of privacy? ›

Types of privacy
  • Information privacy.
  • Communication privacy.
  • Individual privacy.

What are the 4 main threats to information privacy? ›

The key privacy threats include surveillance, disclosure, targeted advertisements [1], identity theft, information disclosure without consent, personal abuse through cyber stalking [2], studying emotions and mood of the people by accessing profile pictures, tweets, likes and comments to find emotionally weak, people ...


1. How Internet Censorship Works
(The Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society)
2. Internet censorship in China | The Great Firewall of China | SHIFT
(DW Shift)
3. How China censors the internet
(South China Morning Post)
4. When censorship becomes necessary | David Shanks | TEDxChristchurch
(TEDx Talks)
5. Introduction to Censorship
(ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom)
6. Internet Censorship I What is Internet Censorship
(Technojaan Infocom)
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