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Revision as of 19:09, 16 October 2007 by Jeffrey Scott Bernstein (Talk | contribs) (added para.; let others decide if it's *too* dramatic. Tee hee.)

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Censorship is the act of preventing or the controlled revision of specifically defined ideals, concepts, images, or messages from being available to a given population. For example, the "great firewall" that is run by the Chinese government, is a means to control the influence of outside politics from entering the country through media and information channels, such as the internet.

Strictly speaking, and in its original usage, censorship refers to the control of information by governments. Sometimes, however, non-governmental entities are said to practice censorship. Censorship is sometimes said to be employed by corporations in order to shape public perception. Legal means such as Non-Disclosure Agreements, information security classification (Top Secret, Secret, Classified, For Official Use Only), and contract stipulation can provide legal ramifications for violating terms of agreement that specify what can or cannot be said.

The prominence of censorship can be always debated depending on the position, viewpoint, and motivation of the parties involved in the dispute. It may be difficult to prove censorship claims as evidence supporting this position is usually a pre-requisite. But what if the evidence itself is censored? This makes a claim even more difficult to prove. Such cases are highly ambiguous, and would most likely warrant an investigation to prove any element of wrong-doing.

In some situations, organizations or individuals that are self-tasked with promoting "appropriate social norms" may seek to promote censorship in certain realms.

  • Jack Thompson started a public advocacy campaign in 1997 against violence in video games in order to promote censoring of the kinds of content depicted in them for youths.
  • Lawrence Flynt was a target of public censorship and prosecution by religious and moral groups for the production of his well-known magazine in the 1970s and 1980s.
  • Theodore B. Olson, when he was Solicitor General of the United States, wrote, in an Amicus Brief for the Supreme Court (Warren Christopher, Former Secretary of State, Et Al., v. Jennifer K. Harbury, No. 01-394, January 2002): “The perhaps unfortunate reality is that the issuance of incomplete information and even misinformation by government may sometimes be perceived as necessary to protect vital interests."[1] Two months later, on March 17, 2002, in oral argument for the same case, Olson told the Supreme Court: “There are lots of different situations where the Government quite legitimately may have reasons to give false information out.”[2]