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What are the reasons for internet censorship?

Ever since the internet first came into existence there have been attempts to censor it. A lot of people believe that the internet should be a place where all information is allowed to flow freely. Clearly the governments of most countries do not share this belief. These days the internet is censored to some extent pretty much everywhere. There are several different reasons that the internet might be censored in a particular country.

There are a lot of specific reasons that websites get censored but really they fall into one of three categories. The most controversial of these categories is for political reasons. This is almost always in countries that do not have free and fair elections and where rulers are trying to hold on to power. The censorship is usually to limit access to the sites of minority groups or that contradict what the government has told people. In some cases this can also include censorship of sites that are religious in nature. For the most part this type of censorship is about making sure that information that could be a threat to the ruling powers does not get seen by the people.

The next reason that the internet may be censored is to protect social norms. In some cases this type of censorship gets widespread support like laws against child pornography or hate speech. However this type of censorship can also be extended to areas where there is far less agreement. For example in some countries sites that are seen to promote homosexuality are often censored. There are also some countries where certain religious sites are not allowed because they differ from the predominant religion. Censorship to protect societal norms is often engaged in even in countries that normally allow for free speech.

The third reason that the internet may be censored is for security reasons. This is generally done to block sites that belong to terrorist groups and other extremists. It can also be extended to making sure that sensitive information is not made available to the public. To a certain extent all countries engage in this type of censorship although clearly to much different extents.

It should be obvious that most forms of censorship can fall into more than one category. This can be a problem since it gives the authorities an excuse to extend their censorship. People may well support some forms of censorship but the danger is that it will be too easy to extend it beyond the original intention. For example in the United States the rules that were intended to prevent sites that belonged to terrorist sites have been used to shut down gambling sites. If this can happen in a country that takes great pride in the freedom that it provides to its citizens then it can certainly happen almost anywhere.