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Hackernoon logoCensorship: From Ancient Greece To Today's Big Tech - A Brief Overview by@reggi3j

Censorship: From Ancient Greece To Today's Big Tech - A Brief Overview

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@reggi3jReggie

JD lover, Arm Chair activist, Founder Gather Network

It is no secret that big tech has been actively monitoring and censoring users.  The past three years have seen a big rise in reported censorship events by the likes of  Youtube, Google, Facebook, and Twitter.

According to John Wolfsohn’s article on Brown Political Review; quoting here: “Every 60 seconds, 3.8 million questions are entered into the Google Machine – an international hegemon that has 1.7 billion users and a market value of $990 billion.

According to a November 2019 Wall Street Journal investigation, Google has been found to be manipulating search results, creating politically-partisan algorithms, and maintain blacklists to prevent users from accessing certain websites.

Facebook, which has a market value of $572 billion, and Twitter, which has a market value of $28 billion, hold considerable economic and political clout in our society, as 68 percent of Americans periodically use social media as a source for news.”

What is more alarming is that such censorship is getting worse, case in point  - the US elections - we will come to that later in the article. Below depicts a diagram of censorship in the world, notice anything?

Western countries seem to have the most free speech, but is that really so? Let’s rewind the clocks back and take a look back at recent history. 

What Exactly Is Censorship?

Most people should be familiar with what censorship actually is, but for people who are not, here is the good old Oxford dictionary definition:

The act or policy of censoring books etc..

Thanks Oxford.

Great definition. Here is a better version according to a user on the popular (and probably more relevant) website Urban Dictionary:

Stopping the free flow of art and ideas.

Here is a working example of what censorship is, again from a user on the popular site UrbanDictionary. 

Very eloquently explained, Yosheek. 

When Did It Start?

Many years ago when myspace was still a thing, and people were still using Limewire to wait two hours to download the latest hits  - online censorship was still in its infancy.

Why?

Largely due to the fact the dominant social media platforms were still coming up.

But, online censorship did exist.

Take the case of Myspace, according to MoveOn, they claimed that; “that the website practices censorship by not showing anti-media ads, removing fake profiles for high-profile media executives like Rupert Murdoch, and attempting to force users away from using certain third-party Flash applications on their profiles.”

This is just one example of censorship within the budding social media platform. I digress, moving on. 

While Myspace is just one example, Censorship in various forms has existed for millennia, the earliest recorded example being was in 443 BC when the first office of the censor was established in Rome.

In fact, in the ancient Greek communities, Censorship was viewed as an honorable task.

China followed it through with a Censorship law in 300AD. From here Censorship kept evolving and started to proliferate into many forms of society in Print media, television ads, and now social media.

The key difference is that the general public was not as acutely aware as they are now, largely due to technology, and the rapid spread of information.

Index Librorum Prohibitorum (1564) - The list of Banned or Prohibited books

Why Does It Exist?

While many may think that censorship has no place in the world, it does serve a purpose.

Now what that purpose is, may be debatable.

From stopping the spread of misinformation, or to further a party(ies) hidden agenda, for either direct or in-direct monetary gains.

An example being censoring a certain individual who looks like an orange Cheeto to “supposedly” provide a material advantage to his aged opponent (None of this is proven fact, Jack please don’t block my 200 follower Twitter account).

This is an extreme example, however, there are other “grey” examples of big tech flexing:

Banning Youtube crypto accounts or Facebook banning Crypto ads, albeit Youtube did reinstate some of the accounts, it just goes to show that even in the “free world” big tech is acting like big brother and the moral police.

Let’s not forget the poor souls in China whose nine to five include going through thousands of questionable videos to censor them.

While the above include some questionable acts of censorship, let’s not forget that depiction of acts of terrorism, child pornography, violence, and other clear examples of why we need censorship.

It is a fine balance, between respecting free speech, and keeping the peace.  

Final Thoughts

Recent events have shown the dark side of censorship, but it is a needed evil. However the question is about the fine line here, and respect for that fine line.

Censoring actual content that is harmful or dangerous, and not using some vague justification to censor content that is in the grey area or open for interpretation.

To put it more plainly. - Big Tech, stop abusing your power, censorship is needed but in legitimate cases only. Stop using censorship to further your agendas. 

And for those companies that will continue to abuse their power, 

I have three words for you:

Go. Fornicate. Yourself.

With Warm Regards,

Reggie

All of the above is my personal opinion and does not represent the opinions of any organizations, parties, politically exposed individuals, individuals that look like flaming cheetos, dictators or anyone else. None of this constitutes any form of advice let alone financial advice or solicitation.

You can solicit me for a drink though. 

Preferably JD honey.

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