Censorship and its Implications

Historical Background

Since ancient times censorship was considered a legitimate mechanism for regulating the moral and political life of a nation's population. Indeed it was the view that held censorship as a benevolent public service in the best interests of the people that saw the first censorship law enacted in China, 300AD. Still prior to the official legislation against censorship the first recorded burning of text can be traced earlier to 213 BC when the Chinese Emperor Shih Haung-ti ordered for the destruction of texts said to contain “nothing but idle speculation and (which) only excited people to criticise the government” (Newth, M 2001).

However the origins of the English term censor can be traced to the Office of Censor in Rome 443BC. With the most synonymous act of censorship in ancient times was that of Socrates (399BC), sentenced to drink poison for claimed corruption of youth and belief in unorthodox divinities.

The invention of the printing press in 15th Century Europe was critical to the development of censorship in Western History. Subversive and heretical ideas spread as works were copied and disseminated. Reactionary to this was the introduction of the Index Librorum Prohibitorium issued by the Roman Catholic Church listing texts prohibited for the on their ideological and heretical content. And among the famous authors banned was Galileo in 1633.

The concept of censorship has concrete roots in traditional notions of state sovereignty.Preceding the enlightenment and its subsequent understandings of free speech as sacrosanct to 'civilised' society , Thomas Locke ( who some describe as the father of the concept of sovereignty), accounted for the need to control what was said in the public arena in order to secure the sovereignty of the state. In his infamous work Leviathan(1651), Hobbes explicitly states that the right to regulate the opinions that are propogated in public is an essential mark of governmental sovereignty.

Coming into the period of Enlightenment 17th-18th Century Western Europe and North America the concept of individual rights and liberty came into sharp political focus and increasing subject to legislative protection. Sweden was the first country to legislate guaranteed freedom of press in 1766 and then Denmark followed the trend in 1770.It is the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States 1787, that remains the beacon for freedom of expression in most Western States to this day. The French National Assembly reiterated such sentiments in 1789 with the statement; "The free communication of thought and opinion is one of the most precious rights of man; every citizen may therefore speak, write and print freely"
O'Neill, Rice and Douglas have referred recently to censorship as being "bans on the most worthless articles" that "are treated as if they represented the penultimate step down the slippery slope of totalitarianism" (2004: p420). While this may be a rather exaggerated view of censorship, it does reflect this post-Enlightenment era with such values as protecting individual rights, such as the Freedom of Speech, as priority.

Changing Models of Censorship

"Freud contended that it is a mark of the advance of civilization when men are no longer burned--merely their books. But many men and women were burned before this fateful advance to civilization occurred. "(Jansen, 1988) The controversy lies in the civilization of humankind needs cost. The same is true in the aspect of censorship. It is not as easy as what is imagined. The example of post-reformation Switzerland is interesting,effective and persuasive to demonstrate the point. So we human beings should pay the price before making progress. We have to work hard to improve the condition we live in.

The relationship between censorship and free speech

Thinkers such as Fish and Curry Jansen have come to the same conclusion that 'There is no such thing as free speech'. Fish literally called a chapter of his book by this name (and, in fact, the entire book which the chapter is from) and Curry Jansen refers to the omnipresence of censors who call themselves by other names: Corporations, who determine what we see, hear and essentially think to the point where we are less free as human beings.

Freedom of speech encourages a broad and open public debate to allow society to hear everything it should hear, whether it likes it or not.

"Liberalism did not eliminate censorship. It forced censors underground. It eliminated the warrant for censorship but not the need for it. It secularized the mana of control from fealty to realty." (Jansen, 1988). I agree with his point. Liberalism does not mean we do not need censorship. The key issue here is how to exert the right of citizens' free expression without posing threat to social moral standard? The society is making progress, and we can seek the proper way in the practice, such as film classification system in the United States is a big progress. There is no absolute and eternal truth in the world.

NB: A good example of the relationship between censorship and free speech can be seen in Curry Jansen's panopticon model.


What is "censorship"? What sort of material does it seek to suppress?

The answer to both questions is: almost anything.
The modern (i.e. 1933) definition of a censor given in the Oxford English Dictionary is 'an official in some countries whose duties is to inspect all books, journals, dramatic pieces...etc, before publication, to ensure that they shall contain nothing immoral, heretical , or offensive to the government'. In this narrow sense, which some pedants regard as its true meaning, censorship printed material disappeared in Britain in 1695, and of plays in 1968. Only in totalitarian lands of the Right or the Left does it, by and large, remain in this form. Yet it would seem perverse to say there is no censorship in the liberal democracies. Most dictionaries and encyclopedias have therefore abandoned this pedantic distinction and settles for definitions of censorship like, 'restriction on ideas prior to, or protection following, their publication' (p161). Prior control is designated as 'pre-censorship'. Like post-censorship it is more complex and subtle than is generally recognised.
Curry Jenson believes that censorship, 'like the census... a form of surveillance, is a mechanism for gathering intelligence that the powerful can use to heighten control over people or ideas that threaten to disrupt established systems of order.' Therefore it basically gives more power to those in control of censoring. The act of censorship can be seen as a form of repression in which a totalitarian or authoritarian state or country would be seen using, however, this is not the case because censorship is everywhere - regardless of type of political regime. Jansen's definition of the term encompasses all socially structured proscriptions or prescriptions which inhibit or prohibit dissemination of ideas, information, images and other messages through a society's channels of communication whether these obstructions are secured by political, economic, religious, or other systems of authority. (Jansen, p221)
A history of censorship is part of the history of society. For it is related to the ideological and practical needs of communities, or, as some would say, their rulers, constricting and relaxing as social pressures wax and wane. There is, therefore, no such thing as censorship in the abstract. If there were no new ideas, there would of course, be no need to regulate them. But the ideas that rise in individual minds, and especially those that flow readily from minds to other minds, are not fortuitous but responses to specific social situations.
The history of censorship is therefore a local, or a national, or an imperial, or a religious study, confined to those areas where there is enough homogeneity of ideas to recognise what is orthodox and what is not. Its operation is as varied as social anthropology itself. (p47) Although decisions taken in one place (E.g. Hollywood), may have far-flung consequences, there will not be a true world censorship unless or until there is a world state.
In theory it could be that Governments, such as Australia's (being a 'Liberal Democracy'), could take into account the views of its citizens on what should and should not be accessible to the public, find a middle ground and then employ (through policies and laws) this newly found level of censorship. However, in practice, these abstract concepts re-confirm how the definition of censorship lies not in its meaning but in its practice. This type of Government intervention that seeks to increase participation in the censorship process, demonstrates firstly how censorship is not a democratic possibility; and secondly how censorship is a complex consideration that never fully satisfies everyone.
Furthermore, "a state that carries out routine operations behind closed doors is not a democracy" (Jansen,p.24) a liberal democracy should facilitate both transparency and free debate about issues uninfluenced by any particular group. It should facilitate a free flow and exchange of thoughts, however "minds changed, cultivated, or colonized to facilitate the purposes, priorities, and plans of distant elites are not free minds" (Jansen, p.24).
Jansen in the censor’s new clothes suggests that censorship has “removed a powerful emancipatory concept from the vocabulary of the people” (Jansen, 1988). What she means here is that censorship no longer facilitates the freedom for people to think freely without influence of some sort. Jansen sees it as “liberalisms good lie” denying the very liberties that a liberal society is entitled to. The very core function of censorship, to provide a moral check and balance on society no longer exists. Instead the very meaning of censorship is moving further away from its core activity and becoming a tool for “political and economic interests of powerful elites” (Jansen, 1988). In essence, Jansen argues that the once liberal use of censorship now serves to pursue the interests of what she calls the ‘corporate state’. In this case the corporate decision makers become “the mediators of public morals” (Jansen, 1988) only encouraging the interests of societies corporate community or what Jansen calls societies ‘elites’. In other words, society becomes dominated by powerful wealthy elites, these people are put in a position where they can impose ideas upon the non elite members in a society because “modern liberalism protects the political and economic interests of a plurality of powerful elites” (Jansen, 1988).

The Politics of Censorship on obscenity

Mills noted that the only legitimate power that can be exercised over people is to "prevent harm to others". Obscenity is considered to be a form of harm against the traditional moral construction of society. Censorship decisions had previously made by reference to the concept of obscenity(that is, the tendency to deprave and corrupt),future decisions would be made by allowing more flexible entity of community standards. Although citizens were entitled to 'as little censorship as possible within the limited set by the community standards', and were ultimately responsible as individuals for their own censorship decisions, citizens were also members of a state established for their common good. Thus, there were limits on both individual liberties and the degree of government intervention with respect to censorship. This approach sought a new balance between individual rights and the demands of the common good and, as such resembled the modified liberal deployed during the 1960s.Sullivan(1997:102)

In commenting on the balanced approach toward film classifications, Sullivan(1997:133) pointed out that the repudiation (refusal made by public authority to acknowledge a contract) of 'extreme permissiveness" were more important than the extension of individual freedoms because 'permissiveness…eventually sows..the…seeds of (social)deconstruction'. J.S.Mill(member of Commonwealth Parliament) argued ,'some significant social harm must be shown to be caused before free speech should be interfered with.' In this approach, any determination of the common good was regarded as both arbitrary and repressive. As a consequence, Australia's censorship laws and practices were exacerbated by what was said to be the irrationality.

Libertarian Bill Heyden and Clyde Cameron argued for a de-censorship of sexual material in relation to adult, however there was a need to maintain its control over the representation of violence. Sociology studies often relate anti-social behaviour and the viewing of violent films, particularly among children, but the evidence is often lacking.
The libertarian approach to censorship argued that, even though a representation was offensive or objectable, it could not legitimately be removed because the basis of all personal liberty and though. Representations were only "ideas" and should not be object to government action, and the clear distinction between idea and actions was an important feature of libertarian approaches to pornography and censorship.(Sullivan(1997:188)

The harm principle attracts vast attention on the questions in relation to the extend of "harm" to be considered as social responsibility, and what is harm anyway? Libertarian often question on the definition of obscenity in law, Chipp reported that ''the greatest obscenity we can inflict upon our young people is the obscenity of denying them the truth.... Distorting the telling of truth of life and human behaviour is to circulate uncontested in public domain."Sullivan(1997:143)


Sue Curry Jansen: in greater detail

Sue Curry Jansen in her chapter "The Censor's New Clothes" argues that censorship today is a misused term. In the legal settings that censorship is now considered, censorship has gone from having an historical fabric of meaning, to one whose use has 'removed a powerful emancipatory concept from the vocabulary of the people' (p15). What Jansen means by this is that censorship no longer denotes the moral check and balance it once used to own, rather it is the tool for the protection of the 'political and economic interests of powerful elites' (p15). Essentially, Jansen argues that the Liberal use of censorship permits, what she calls, the 'corporate-state' to deny the very liberties that Liberal societies profess to encourage.
The picture of censorship is now painted as very bleak. As corporations are now what the Church was (and still is in some cases) to the State in pre-Enlightenment times, corporate decision makers become the 'mediators of public morals' (p16) - while only encouraging the interests of the corporate community (naturally consisting of the powerful and wealthy corporatist or capitalists).
Jansen has also mentioned in The Censor's New Clothes that "Liberalism did not eliminate censorship. It forced censors underground. It eliminated the warrant for censorship but not the need for it. It secularized the mana of control from feality to realty. The marketplace, not the priest or feudal lord, became the ultimate arbiter of liberal power-knowledge. The immediate effect of this secularizing of Liberal power-knowledge. The immediate effect of this secularizing process was to radically democratize the criteria for classifying people and ideas." (p.16)
Those who do not 'fit' into the interests of the 'market censors' (p16) are silenced. To make matters worse, those who 'critique' such a system tend to be elitist members of society themselves as they are not those distracted by work and survival. They critique and undermine 'mass culture' because it is a product of industrialisation and capitalism - which in reality is 'manufactured by the elites to make money and to inhibit the development of authentic cultures of resistance among members of the underprivileged classes' (p19). A nasty and vicious cycle or what Jansen calls 'the dirty little secret' (p19).
In this model, Jansen argues that 'everything' has become mediated by corporate controlled communication networks. This has resulted in a deflection of criticism from the system. It has reduced our way of life to the mercy of corporate interests and has most importantly restricted human freedom.
She uses Bentham's Panopticon to illustrate her point. Bentham's 'Panopticon', started as a specially designed Prison model in which authorities were able to monitor all prisoners at the same time. This model worked efficiently in what it was designed to do, as prisoners tended to generally behave better because of the conscious thought of be watched by prison guards. 'Since industrialisation has lead to the mass production of commodities (education, manufactured products and even art), there exists in each of these a centralised control system'. Even television for Jansen represents a mass production that is centralised. She argues how Television is an example of how mass production provides a distraction from critical thought of Liberal society. Individuals who adjust their lives around the television, for example, are removing personal interaction, conversation and thus the opportunity for debate and critical thought. Not to mention Television's capacity to censor what we watch!
Since Jansen's article in 1988, it would be very interesting indeed to hear her analysis on the internet and mediums for censoring (collecting information and preventing its distribution) such as Google, Facebook or email. On one hand, it could be argued that these are our new 'electronic panopticons' (p24). Mainstream news and entertainment websites are able to map precisely and in real time how many unique browsers they have at any one time and which items they are most interested in.
It could be argued there is an element of democracy here as the browser's preferences shape the content, but such outlets manipulate the base human desire for sensation and excitement by promoting the most frivolous elements of mass culture - those same icons promoted by older Panopticon formats like television and radio - to maximise their viewership and draw maximum financial benefit from advertiser exposure. The glaring recent example is the drama surrounding the Kyle and Jackie O radio show. Their obvious breach of broadcasting standards was recycled by television and internet outlets alike under the guise of debating the issue but was really about feeding off the outrage and voyeurism surrounding the case to increasing viewer / browser numbers and therefore profit and control.
Jansen might also take the view that the internet is not a passive device and that the range and variety of content is so vast, it instead provides the opportunity to circumvent the traditional panopticon. But ultimately the increased capacity for surveillance provided by internet connectivity - and also vulnerability to both legal and illegal predators - makes the technology merely a new tool in solidifying liberal censorship.
These distracting mediums change and censor how we think whether we acknowledge it or not; and for Jansen they impede the possibility for Participatory Democracy . This is because the censor is not open to public scrutiny; they have 'phantom objectivity' (p24).
For Jansen, the problem is not censorship as an outcome but as an act. It must be made transparent and accountable to not only allow for Participatory Democracy, but to be justifiable.
The task that censorship endows us then, is its analysis. What kind of censorship is there? Who makes it? Where is it?

Her seven types of censorship are:

  1. Legal: used by liberal states, usually in extreme circumstances (i.e wartime)
  2. Nationalist
  3. Market-subject to regulation on the level of competitiveness.Not only excessive control could create constraints to the accessibility by people; but the act of liberalising the market (privatisation of public sector) tend to be even more problematic these days, especially when "censorship"-monitor agencies(ACCC,ASC,ASIC etc) are not performed to regulate to a market (monopoly).
  4. Subterranean
  5. Constitutive: censors ideologies of regulative censorship which is the visible, codified laws or regulations enacting censorship
  6. Regulative-monitoring agencies like ATO, auditors
  7. Institutional

Differences between Formal and Informal censorship:

Formal censorship
Governmental censorship:
  • Film, literature, games, print media
  • Customs Acts
    -part of the legal formal censorship
    -define what material can come across the border, what can be imported.
  • Internet
  • Legal
    -Defamation, Contempt of court, (racial) vilification
    -restrict what people can say
Institutional censorship:
  • Codes of ethics
    - what place agreements
    - most workplaces have codes of ethics
    - eg. AJA (Australian Journalist Association) code of ethics

Informal censorship
  • Social/Community censorship
    -eg. Religious communities, media ownership, whistleblowers, news corporations such as fairfax etc..
  • Self censorship- This goes back to the idea of the penopticon, where one censors their own actions because of the fear of being caught or punished.

Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman: "A Propaganda Model"

These contemporary thinkers on censorship define it as "all socially structured proscriptions or prescriptions which inhibit or prohibit dissemination of ideas, information, images and other messages through a society's channels of communication whether these obstructions are secured by political, economic, religious, or other systems of authority" (p221).

While it is more difficult to see such a propaganda system at work in nation-states where formal or official censorship is absent and media is privately owned, Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky point out that censorship is largely self-censorship “by reporters and commentators who adjust to the realities of source and media organizational requirements, and by people at higher levels within media organizations who are chosen to implement, and have usually internalized, the constraints imposed by proprietary and other market and governmental centres of power” (xii). And it is within the observable pattern of “ indignant campaign and suppressions, of shading and emphasis, of selection of context, premises, and general agenda”(xv) that we come to understand how a highly prejudiced elite consensus create the state propaganda that present the ‘news’.

Interestingly they come to the conclusion that structure is the only possible explanation to describe the systematic pattern of behaviours and performance in corporate news media in the United States. They argue that the structural factors derive from the fact the mass media are firmly embedded in the “guided market system” (xii) . Such censorship is symptomatic of the "guided market system" where the elites (government bodies, business leaders, media owners and senior executives) are a small enough group that they can sometimes act in unison - almost an oligarchy or "like sellers in a small market with few rivals" (p xii). They cannot suppress dissent but are able to push it to the dark corners or diminish it by claiming that reportage is "pessimistic" or even adversarial - that it contributes to any bad outcomes and is therefore "against the interests of the nation".

Another piece from the 1980s, the authors target the hypocrisy of US media coverage of Nicaragua and the criticism the country's leaders endure despite their nation being "more democratic than El Salvador and Guatemala in every non-Orwellian sense of the word" (p xiii). Their case is that the US media reflects the interests of the nation's elite, who have a vested interest in anti-democratic activities throughout Central and South America. It is stated that the censorship is not the heavy hand of the totalitarian state but the persuasive self-censorship of reporters and commentators who "adjust to the realities of source and media organisational requirements, and by people at higher levels within media organisations who are chosen to implement, and have usually internalised, the constraints imposed by proprietary and other market and governmental centers of power" (p xii).

Herman & Chomsky highlight a model in which bias is shaped through self-censorship without need for significant coercion (xii). Illustrating that when media interlock with other institutions they effectively circumscribe their ability to remain analytically detached and represent unbiased viewpoints. Presenting a series of five filters through which media content must pass through Herman and Chomsky argue each of these ‘filters’ invariably serve as propagandists for the interest of the elite class (McChesney, 1989).

1. Ownership: According to E.S. Herman, the dominant media are intertwined with 'profit-seeking' corporations. Large companies will merge to form giant corporations, which means media ownership is controlled by fewer but more powerful institutions. These corporations then have the means to control the media and what it broadcasts to the public. A news item threatening the credibility or reputation of a company holding ownership over that medium will be altered to better suit the company's interests, but at the same time blinding the public of a more truthful information.

2. Advertising: The commercialism of media content and responsible for most of media revenue. This filter can also go under the heading of 'Funding'. Serving advertisers' clients in the modern world has become a primary objective within the news/media realm. For example, the costs of running a newspaper corporation are always increasing, so the involvement of advertising and its funding is crucial for its survival. However, because the buisnesses behind the advertising are obviously looking to increase profits, the newspapers will undoubtedly keep these companies content and avoid publishing any compromising news stories that may 'offend' the buisness and lead to the termination of revenue.

3. Sourcing: The media must be careful not to antagonise their corporate and government sources which are an important supplier for media content, themselves large bureaucracies adept as 'managing' the media. The relationship between governing institutes and the media. The corporate and government bodies provide news stories directly to media corporations, giving them access to first hand insiders information, a treasure for journalists and media companies. In order to maintain such a valuable source of information, these media corporations will hesitate to print anything negative about the fountains of information, and consequently give the public a distorted and subjective viewpoint.

4. Flak: The development of corporate 'flak' producers disciplining mass media and pressuring them to follow the corporatist agenda. The term 'flak', according to Herman and Chomsky, refers to the negative responses to a media statement of program. 'Flak machines' consist of public relations companies uniting with corporate businesses. Their aim is to discredit any negative views that might pose a threat towards a company or institute and promote a good reputation to the public. Public relations agents are increasingly overtaking the number of journalists, working closely with the media to monitor and recontruct any negativity towards their employers (Herman, 1996).

5. Anticommunist ideology: which continue to frame the issues in “us” versus communist “them”. This filter concerns the dominant ideology that governs the media of the time. It acts upon the fear and hatred the public might have of a particular group, and Herman and Chomsky focus of anticommunism as the opposing ideology of their time. It suited the elite to have the masses feeling negatively towards communism, promoting that it endangered free speech and the rights of the people so the media put heavy influence on anticommunist ideals.

Also, rather than calling on recent phenomena, Herman & Chomsky points to the arguments of Lippmann shaped more than fifty years before that “manufacture of consent” by elite class was already “a self-conscious art and a regular organ of popular government” and since then has only grown in importance and sophistication (Lippmann 1921:248 in Herman & Chomsky 1988:xi). As Herman & Chomsky uncovered “the (true) power of the U.S. propaganda system lies in its ability to mobilize an elite consensus, to give the appearance of democratic consent, and to create enough confusion, misunderstanding and apathy in the general population to allow elite programs to go forward” (Chomsky, 2003).

Cases against Censorship

  • Mill Against Censorship
"The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error"(Mill p13-14)

Mill's discussion of censorship, found in Chapter II of On Liberty, (containing his classic defense of freedom of expression) focuses on censorship whose aim is to suppress false or immoral opinion. Here too, Mill is apparently concerned with censorship, whether practiced by individuals, groups, or states. However, here, as elsewhere, he focuses on restrictions on liberty imposed by the state. He mentions four reasons for maintaining free speech and opposing censorship: (pp. 44, 45)

1) A censored opinion might be true
2) Even if literally false, a censored opinion might contain part of the truth
3) Even if wholly false, a censored opinion would prevent true opinions from becoming dogma
4) As dogma, an unchallenged opinion will lose its meaning

It is natural to group these four considerations into two main kinds: 1 & 2 invoke a truth-tracking defense of expressive liberties, while 3 & 4 appeal to a distinctive kind of value that free discussion is supposed to have.

Mill's conception of a good human life is one in which we think, reflect and rationally choose for ourselves among different beliefs and lifestyles according to what seems most true or meaningful to us. This is shown in his arguments for freedom of expression. His central tenet here is that people ought to be allowed to express their individuality as they please "so long as it is at their own risk and peril" (Mill 1859: 53). The basic argument is that the diversity created has many benefits. One is that "the human faculties of perception, judgement, discriminative feeling, mental activity, and even moral preference, are exercised only in making a choice" (Mill 1859: 55). And exercising this choice makes it less likely that we will be under the sway of the "despotism of custom" (Mill 1859: 66). We will be able to lead happier and more fulfilled lives. And again, if there is this diversity, each human will be more aware of the various options available, and so more competent to make informed choices in lifestyle and self-expression. (p46)
This and other such arguments for freedom of expression do support the claims for lack of restrictions and control of material (on the Internet), that is, they support the case against censorship. However, the support is qualified, because one person's right to freedom of expression can impinge on another's rights and can clash with other "goods." There is little sense in the idea of complete freedom of expression for all. So the issue now becomes one of where to draw the line for this freedom. A common criterion endorsed by Mill is harm to others, and another is the giving of offence, in which he was not so interested.
The freedom of expression of one person can cause harm or offence or both to another, so some restrictions need to be placed on how and to what extent a person can be allowed free expression. (p47) That there should normally be some restrictions placed on harming others, other things being equal, is pretty uncontroversial, but the issue of causing offences much more clouded. It can be argued, plausibly, that offence is a kind of harm, but because this is controversial and nothing hinges on it, we will assume that it is not. Nothing hinges on it because if offence is considered a kind of harm, then the issue is whether or not that sort of harm is something about which we ought to worry.
Assuming that offence is not harm, should activities that cause offence but not harm be restricted? This question is particularly important to discussions of freedom on the Internet, because giving offence by words or pictures is a common way of doing things that others might not like. One is tempted to say that if something merely gives offence, there ought to be no restrictions placed on it. (p47) Too much would be ruled out if we were not allowed to offend people. People can be offended by almost anything, and frequently, there is no way to tell in advance if something will be offensive. Prohibiting the giving of offence per se would almost certainly rule out the freedom to express opinions, particularly on matters that people see as personally important, like sex, politics, and religion, and that are likely to offend at least one person who may be overly sensitive, insecure, and so on. This entire notion is of great importance to the discussion of censorship, particularly of the Internet.

The case against censorship is also maintained in Manufacturing Consent:The Political Economy of the Mass Media . Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky assert "The Propaganda Model", in which they argue that the media is indeed the very instrument in which the capitalist-democratic state uses to thrust its agenda onto the public. That it is used to "mobilise support for the special interests that dominate the state and private actors" (Herman & Chomsky p.xi). This is inclusive then of private elites and indeed the model projects that the media is not necessarily at the disposal of the incumbent government ( such as it would be in a totalitarian regime) but that it will protect the interests of those within the society that hold the power(Chomsky 1989 p149). Thus censorship will occur not for the purpose of the perceived 'common good', for example; to protect children from violent images or pornography but because it suits the agenda and strategic interests of the state and private elites. Therefore the reason that most attribute to the necessity of censorship has eroded, that is, if you are to concur with Herman and Chomsky.

The Panopticon and Subterranean Censorship

An American Panopticon; an interior view of a cellhouse, Illinois State Penitentiary.

Sue Curry Jansen uses the metaphor of a panopticon to illustrate the idea of subterranean censorship: "Panopticon provides a working model for agents of subterranean censorship. It is technically superior to all previous forms of censorship because it secures its mechanisms of control within the epistemological foundations of the social order of its powers." (p.22 Jansen, 1988) The main idea behind Jansen's metaphor is that it is not necessary for an individual to know whether they are being (or going to be censored) or not, the fear of being so is often enough in and of itself to facilitate a state of self-regulation or, in this context, self-censorship. As an example, an author writing a novel may understand that what they have written may be construed as offensive or restricted material and, thus, modifies the way in which they write their novels before their work has a chance to be censored or not.
Within today's modern society everyday conveniences such as the television or computer have also become a style of new-age panopticon, making the citizenry acutely aware of their actions knowing that what they are reading, writing or watching could potentially be censurable and, thus, leading to self-censorship. Curry Jansen refers to this as the "electronic Panopticon" whereby "every citizen of an enlightened society is wired to the tower and yet remains only marginally aware of its attachment" (Curry Jansen, 1988, pp.22-23).
Jim McGugan in his book Culture and the Public Sphere makes a good analysis of Curry Jansen's argument: "For Curry Jansen, then, constituent censorship is to do with latent, subterranean and taken-for-granted rules and operations of discourse" (p.156). Hence, the context for subterranean censorship is, in particular, a democratic society in which certain laws and rules are taken for granted and thus citizens are largely self-monitored although not only in the way they speak, but also how they think and act. It is important to note, however, that it is not just rules and regulations which affect this self-censorship but also perceived regulations; whether or not something is codified in law is not an issue if a particular act, thought or discourse is believed to be worthy of censorship.
An important part of the Panopticon metaphor of censorship is that of the subject-censor relationship. During the HUMS3001 lecture on Censorship it was mentioned that although the subject is influenced by the censor (whether they are present or not), they cannot approach or influence the censor in any way which enhances the feeling of subjugation and concern that someone might be watching while only being "marginally aware" of their bond to the censor.

From Big Brother to Electronic Panopticon
A link to the text of Chapter Four of David Lyon's The Electronic Eye: The Rise of Surveillance Society (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994): 57-80, very useful information on issues of surveillence, electronic surveillence, Orwell's writings and in a philosophical context:

The Viewers, The Viewed and the Panopticon
More views on panopticism, including Laura Mulvey's (the writer of 'Feminism and Film') perspective:

Censorship and the Media:

Whilst reading Herman and Chomsky’s article on censorship I was reminded of Rupert Murdoch and his Fox News Channel in the United States. “Censorship is largely self-censorship, by reporters and commentators who adjust to the realities of source and media organizational requirements, and by people at a higher levels within media organisations who are chosen to implement, and have usually internalized, the constraints imposed by proprietary and other market and governmental centres of power” (Herman & Chomsky, 1988: 43). Herman and Chomsky discuss biased media choices which arise from political power, internalised preconceptions and right-thinking people (Ibid, 1988: 43). These concepts could be related to the Fox News Channel as it has been at the centre of media biased in the United States. The documentary “Out Foxed” (2004) particularly looked at the media bias which is presented on this channel towards right-wing conservative political views. Murdoch viewed CNN as “too liberal” in its approach to news; therefore Murdoch wished to establish his own news programmes which would be more “balanced”. This channel has become one of the most controversial on television with its highly subjective and conservative outlook on both news and current affairs programmes. “Fox News would be, in the words of its memorable slogan, “Fair and Balanced” (DellaVigna & Kaplan, 2006: 1). “Fair and Balanced” may be the Fox News Channel slogan; however, this is not apparent in regards to the coverage presented. “Out Foxed” particularly highlighted reasons such as political biased at election time in North America. “Media coverage of elections is crucial, it can significantly influence swing voters or those who are undecided. “In criticizing media priorities and biases we often draw on the media themselves for at least some of the facts” (Herman & Chomsky, 1988: 43).

Alternatives to mainstream media are ever present. Viewers more than ever are able to access various forms of media through many differing mediums. Therefore the public is able to choose which media outlet is affiliated and/or presents their particular politics views. Technology is increasingly changing the ways in which the public view and receive news. “Technology advances and regulatory modifications in the communications industry have allowed the number of news sources to flourish in the last decade, therefore fragmenting the mass media environment” (Morris, 2007: 710). The consumer is now able to select from a range of media outlets not just with their own town but also nationally and increasingly internationally. The Fox News Channel has greatly increased the fragmentation of viewers in regards to political beliefs.

Examples of Censorship in Australia

Film Censorship

Mysterious Skin and Nine Songs: at their time of release both of these films caused considerable controversy with regards to censorship and community concern in Australia. Mysterious Skin (2004) directed by Gregg Arakiwas one of the most controversial films to be classified in recent years. The film explores the effects and devastation of child sexual abuse from the victim’s perspective. The two teenage protagonists (Neil and Brian) were both sexually abused by their baseball coach at the age of eight. Because the film contained high impact themes such as: sexual abuse, sexual violence and paedophilia, the film’s original classification was R18+. Due to community concern in South Australia over the film's paedophilia themes, the film's classification was reviewed at the request of the Commonwealth Attorney-General Phillip Ruddock and the South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson. However, the review board of the South Australian Classification Council upheld its classification of R18+, commenting that the film was an artistic expression, furthermore the film was educational in regards to the issue of child sexual abuse and its impact on young children.

Similarly the film Nine Songs (2004) directed by Michael Winterbottom caused much concern and controversy upon its release in South Australia. The film contains actual sex between the two main protagonists Matt and Lisa. Actual sex is usual of pornographic films not artistic films. Other themes included drug use, bondage, course language and nudity. The Australian Classification Board originally gave the film an X18+ classification however, after an appeal by the film's distributor Accent Film Entertainment; the Classification Board review the film therefore giving it an R18+ classification. However, South Australian film censorship laws considered the film as being pornographic not artistic. Therefore, Nine Songs could not be released in South Australian because the film contained actual sex not simulated.

Both of these films challenged the Australian and in particularly South Australian film censorship laws. The cases presented by both the community and government to review the films classification are interesting and sad. I as a film admirer can see the concern with the films themes; however, they are films not actual depictions.

Australia has a long history of film censorship and consequential criticism of it . On September 20th 1969, The Age, published the article "Orgasms are obscene, said a censor" , refering to the banning of the film Marinetti in which a women simulates having an orgasm specifically, but overall making strong protest against the censorship of films in Australia. The article states "Australia cut or ban more feature films than they leave intact" and goes on to liken Australian censors to Joseph Stalin ( Which in the context of The Cold War was a highly-loaded and offensive statement) . This is certainly an example of the "Fouth Estate" in action.

Another film that challenged Australian censorship laws was Ken Park (2002) directed by Larry Clark. Banned in Australia by the Film Classification Board for its graphic content and sexual displays, this film was extremely controversial, especially due to the near arrest of famous film critic Margaret Pomeranz (host of At The Movies) when she screened the film illegally at a Balmain theatre creating a debate in the media. The film, written by the already controversial Harmony Korine, revolves around abusive home life of a group of skateboarders. It has been banned in numerous countries including the UK, USA and Australia, with limited screenings in other countries including New Zealand. Controversial themes of the film depict sexual antics, masturbation, murder, incest, teenage suicide and more through a non-linear narrative. Clark defends the films censorship stating, “I wanted to make a film that was emotionally honest and visually honest.”

An example of a form of institutional film censorship, and formal censorship, would be the FEDCAC where films need to adhere to Codes set out for them. If they don't then they fail exhibition and distribution.

Creative Arts Censorship

Artist Greg Taylor's exhibition 'Cunts and Other Conversations ' at the Adelaide Fringe Festival, consisted of over 140 life size sculptures of women vaginas was censored by the council and Australia Post. The invitations due to be sent to VIP's and the media were intersected by an Australian Post worker who took it upon himself to alert or whistle blow his employer that the material shown on the invite (a picture of two vagina sculptures with the word 'cunts') was too offensive to a 'reasonable person.' The Australian Post then threatened legal action if the offensive material was not collected. The council also removed posters advertising the exhibition from only 2 complaints and Taylor could not find a distribution company that would handle the posters because of the offensiveness of the word 'cunt.' This type of informal censorship enforced by the community did not hinder the exhibition, with 2000 people visiting the exhibition on the first day, ranging from mothers and their daughters to university groups.

Bill Henson, a contemporary photographer created controversy when he tried to open his exhibition in Paddington in May 2008, which included photos of naked children as young as 12 years old. The censorship of his work created controversy over whether the photographs had artistic merit. Politicians joined in on the debate over what is considered art, and what is considered child pornography. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has said the images are 'revolting' and have no artistic value. Former NSW Premier Iemma said the images are 'offensive and disgusting'. This raises the question whether politicians' roles should include authority on censoring art. Bill Henson stated that art is subjective and that you 'can't control the way individuals respond to the work.' The images ended up being censored. A web page displayed the naked images, but they were quickly removed and investigated. It was stated that the exhibition was never officially classified, as art is considered exempt. The question is, should art be classified? *Article ('Police to quiz kids in Bill Henson nude shots')

Larry Clark, mentioned previously, is another artist that has been censored for his photographic images. Clark’s photographic exhibitions, although publications been available for sale over the internet, have been censored in many countries including the United States, UK and Australia, in as much as some photographs have been removed or banned in appearing in certain exhibitions. Larry Clark is widely known as one of the most important and influential photographers of his generation, boldly confronting youth culture, image, sex, violence and drugs. He is probably best known for his direction of the 1995 film Kids, and more recently Ken Park (which is still banned in many countries including Australia) these films mirror much of his earlier photographic series and many see them as a modern day adaptation of his earlier life depicted in his pictorial works.
The reason for the censorship of some of these photos was based on the content of his exhibitions. One of which was called Tulsa. Occurring over an eight year period between 1963 and 1971 the grainy black and white documentary style photographs in Tulsa traced the course of three young males and emanated a range of feelings from ecstasy through to devastation, drama and lust through its explicit imagery. When Tulsa first appeared in 1971, the graphic depictions of sex, violence and drug abuse by the youth of Oklahoma were acclaimed by critics for exposing the reality of American suburban life at the fringe and for shattering long-held mythical conventions that drugs and violence were an experience solely indicative of the urban city landscape.
In subsequent publications, (in between two separate visits to maximum security for shooting someone in the arm whilst high on speed and then being caught with a gun during an altercation whilst getting evicted (assumable high on speed also)) Clark continued to explore and record the challenges faced by these male adolescents. in Teenage Lust (1983) he chronicled the next generation of Tulsa teens as well as young male hustlers in Times Square; in The Perfect Childhood (1992), he looked at tabloid teen criminals and teenage models; and in the photo series “Skaters” (1992-95) and the previously mentioned film Kids (1995), he captured the community of skateboarders in New York's Washington Square Park. In all these works, Clark pursues a set of related themes: the destructiveness of dysfunctional family relationships, masculinity and the roots of violence, the links between mass imagery and social behaviours, and the construction of identity and gender in adolescence.
To address these issues Clark uses sexually explicit imagery, as well as scenes of unconcealed drug use and violence, actions that are addressed casually by his subjects but which are often shocking to his audiences.(due to the fact that Clark had such a close relationship to his subjects) His images are in a sense a mix between a photo essay from Life magazine and a Steven Meisel heroin chic fashion shoot. This again raises the question of if art should have a classification system, and where does the line between art and offensive material exist?

Video Game Censorship

Currently, there is no R18+ or X18+ rating for video games in Australia. This means that any game that exceeds the MA15+ classification is banned, refused classification and entry into the Australian market. This lack of an R18+ and X18+ rating for video games has been the major issue of complaint in the gaming community in Australia. The main argument against the refusal for classification for video games is based on freedom and the principles of Government classification. It is mentioned in the principles of Government classification that, "Adults should be able to read, her and see what they want". This is a valid argument supporting the need for classification of particular video games. In Australia, the R18+ and X18+ classifications exist for print media and film, so it is argued that there is no reason why adults should be prohibited from seeing content in video games that they would not already see or experience in movies and books.

On the other hand, the principles of Government classification does add a few points to counter the above argument. Government classification states that, "[it is vital to].. protect minors [,] protect everyone from unsolicited offensive material [and] protect community standards." The main opponents for the refused classification of video game content draw their arguments mainly from this idea of protectionism. Indeed, minors should not be exposed to games containing violence and the promotion of illegal and immoral action. If the video game industry was allowed classification for R18+ and X18+ content, some would argue that it should then be the responsibility for retailers to refuse selling these games to minors and also the responsibility for parents to monitor their childrens' consumption of video games. Underlying the fact that video games that contain adult material are refused classification and entry into the Australian market is that there are other (illegal) means for gamers to get hold of and see these games for themselves.

Grand Theft Auto 3
One of the more notable examples of computer games being censored in Australia can be seen in Grand Theft Auto 3 (2001) on the Playstation 2. In late 2001, Take 2 Interactive Software jumped the gun and released this title assuming the Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC) would award it an MA15+ rating. The game was shipped to stores and made available for sale. This proved a costly mistake however, as the Classification Board gave it an RC (refused classification) rating on November 28th 2001.
The West Australian article 'GAMES TURN DEADLY SERIOUS' (25/4/04) comments on this ruling, with Des Clark saying:

"(The player) pays a prostitute to get in a car, they bonk, they get out and he bashes her to death with a baseball bat and gets the money back," OFLC director Des Clark said. "Conceptually that's an extremely high level of violence - and that was RC (refused classification)."

This impact of violence and sexual activity was higher if you were rewarded with status and money for your actions. He said the OFLC was concerned about the increase in graphical detail - including "blood spurts" and sleazy environments - but any game that went too far would be refused classification.

Take 2 Interactive Software had no choice but to implement a re-call of all game copies still on shelf. A revised version of the game was ultimately released with a whole seven seconds worth of game axed, eventually gaining a MA15+ rating.

Another notable example of video game censorship in Australia is the case of the 2003 video game Manhunt by Rockstar (the same developer as the aforementioned Grand Theft Auto 3). The controversy revolved around the fact that the game had been given an MA15+ rating and approved for sale, before having it's classification revoked in September of the following year. The review of its rating had been sparked by a murder in the United Kingdom in which one teenager had been murdered by another, and several newspaper reports had drawn a connection between this crime and the game, a copy of which was supposedly owned by the murderer. However, this was denied by the police , who instead concluded that the murder had been drug-motivated. Once the tabloid-motivated hysteria had died down (which, incidentally, sparked a notable increase in sales for the game ) it emerged that the a copy of Manhunt had not, in fact, been owned by the murderer, but rather the victim.

Despite this, as a result of the game's supposed role in the murder, Manhunt was refused classification in Australia and is no longer available for sale.

Australian Censorship and the Pornography Industry

Any country that has sexual censorship will eventually have political censorship (Tynan; 1987)
February 1st 1984 saw the introduction of the X18+ rating to cover all forms of hardcore pornography. Soon after its introduction however all States moved to outlaw the sale or rental of any film that fell into this classification. As such it is only legal to buy or rent X18+ rated features in the Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory. It is legal however for people in the States to mail-order X18+ product from the ACT or NT. In 2000 the Industry agreed to a tightening of the Guidelines providing that the X18+ would be scrapped in favour of an NVE (Non-Violent Erotica) rating. It was hoped that this would be much more acceptable to the States. Unfortunately, this backfired and the X18+ was retained, whilst the guidelines were tightened as such:

No Depiction of sexual violence, coercion or non-consent of any kind is permitted in this classification. Material which can be accommodated in this classification includes explicit depictions of sexual acts between consenting adults and mild non-violent fetishes.
This classification is a special and legally restricted category which contains only sexually explicit material. That is material which contains real depictions of actual sexual intercourse and other sexual activity between consenting adults.

Any depictions of violence, sexual violence, sexualised violence or coercion is allowed within the category. Nor does it allow for any form of sexually assaultive language - or consensual depictions which purposefully demean anyone involved in that activity for the enjoyment of the viewer. Fetishes such as body piercing, bondage, spanking or fisting are not permitted. As the category is restricted to activity between consenting adults, it does not permit any depictions of non-adult persons, including those aged 16 or 17, nor of adult persons who look like they are under 18 years. Any presentation of persons 18 years of age or over that are portrayed as minors is also restricted. At present the Sale and Rental of Hardcore features remains banned in all States, whilst the distributors based in the ACT and NT can still supply product to them via mail order. This has however lead to a situation where many adult shops in some States simply ignore the Classifications altogether. Consequently much more extreme material can be found for sale or rental there, than in the ACT where Hardcore is legal, but strictly policed.

Censorship in the American Pornographic Industry

Censorship in pornography in the USA has created many high profile complaints in relation to the pornographic industry, specifically that of the Meese Commission and the ideas of Andrea Dworkin and Catherine Mackinnon, best known for her criticism of pornography and as the feminist spokesperson for the commission. The Attorney General’s Commission on Pornography or the Meese Commission as it is more commonly known was setup by President Reagan and Attorney General Edwin Meese in 1985 as a study on pornography which consisted of an eleven person panel of which most were noted as anti-pornography promoters. The commission ultimately came to the conclusion that pornography in general was harmful in varying ways. One specific conclusion of the commission was “In laboratory studies measuring short-term effects, exposure to violent pornography increases punitive behavior toward women,” which is questionable by today’s standards. These conclusions were assisted by Andrea Dworkin and Catherine Mackinnon who argued that pornography was defamatory to the civil rights of the female and increased violent sexual acts against women which were based on inaccurate studies and have since been changed through preceding reports. Further studies have since mad clear that pornography does not by any means incite sexual violence in individuals but rather provide a channel for fetishes and provide a medium between sexual or pornographic thoughts and actions. This can clearly be viewed as a positive area rather than one acting out on illegal or immoral sexual desires. This creates a case against some pornographic censorship.

Music Censorship

Music is mainly regulated by the Australian Recording Industry Association and the Australian Music Retailers Association.The current classification scheme was introduced on April 1, 2003, with the following four levels:

Level 1: WARNING: MODERATE IMPACT coarse language and/or themes
These recordings contain infrequent aggressive or strong coarse language and moderate impact references to drug use, violence, sexual activity, themes and/or any other abhorrent activity.

Level 2: WARNING: STRONG IMPACT coarse language and/or themes
These recordings contain frequent aggressive or strong coarse language and strong impact references to (or detailed description of) drug use, violence, sexual activity, themes and/or any other abhorrent activity.

Level 3: RESTRICTED: HIGH IMPACT THEMES Not to be sold to persons under 18 years
These recordings contain graphic descriptions of drug use, violence, sexual activity, themes and/or any other abhorrent activity that are very intense and have a high impact. They are not to be sold to anyone under the age of 18; proof of age is required to purchase these recordings.

Exceeding Level 3: Not To Be Sold To The Public
These recordings contain lyrics which promote, incite, instruct and/or depict drug use, violence, sexual activity, themes and/or any other abhorrent activity in a manner that would cause outrage and/or extreme disgust to most adults. They are not permitted to be released, distributed or sold to the public.

However, it is worth noting that these classifications and guidelines carry absolutely no legal ground and are strictly self regulated


Internet Censorship

Internet censorship in Australia refers to the proposed banning of certain internet materials by the Australian Federal Government, through restriction of site access on all Australian Internet Services Providers.

ACCORDING TO Internet Censorship Laws found on "Electronic Frontiers Australia ":

The Internet censorship regime in Australia comprises law and regulation at both Commonwealth and State/Territory Government level.

//Commonwealth law// applies to Internet Content Hosts ("ICHs") and Internet Service Providers ("ISPs"), but not to content providers/creators or ordinary Internet users.The law requires Australian ISPs and ICHs to delete content from their servers (Web, Usenet, FTP, etc.) that is deemed "objectionable" or "unsuitable for minors" and/or for downloading content that is illegal to possess.

//State and Territory criminal laws// apply to content providers/creators and ordinary Internet users.Some States/Territories have laws enabling prosecution of ordinary Internet users and other content providers for making available material that is deemed "objectionable" or "unsuitable for minors" and/or for downloading content that is illegal to possess. The particular provisions of these laws vary among the States and Territories.

Suicide Related Materials Offences Act, came into effect In 2006, which declares it illegal to use the internet to promote suicide.

Schedule 7 of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992, came into effect in 2007 .Under Schedule 7, if a content provider provides material that is rated R18+ or MA15+, then the provider must verify the age of the person accessing the material. It remains illegal in Australia to host material that is rated X18+ or that has been refused classification. By contrast, X18+ material is legal to buy and own in Australia if it is in print or other traditional form (See above "Australian Censorship and the Pornography Industry") Organisations such as the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties are highly critical of these Schedules and have called for their repeal.


Australian-hosted Internet material falls under the jurisdiction of the Australian Communication and Media Authority (ACMA). As far as Australian-hosted material is concerned ACMA is able to post take-down notices and disable links to potentially offensive Australian websites and has the power to review and enforce industry-accepted codes of practice. For sites that require proof of age entry ACMA is also able to test and verify the age-restriction systems present on the respective websites.
ACMA also deals with foreign-hosted material but maintains a secret blacklist of offending sites which is kept secret from the public but are constantly monitored.
Students of HUMS3001 discussed two significant problems with ACMA's seemingly supra-legal status:
  1. There is no transparency: no Australian citizen is allowed to view the blacklist of foreign sites nor are they able to participate in the process which decides which sites are deemed offensive nor are they allowed to participate in the decision-making process of what makes a site offensive. A lack of transparency restricts an individual or a group's right to information which should be made public as the internet is one of the most public domains in the world and any restriction from information about it that is not age-based could be seen as a suspension of their human or societal rights.
  2. Decisions which are made my ACMA are absolute and cannot be appealed or reviewed. Once ACMA makes a decision that decision is final and no constituent of a society can partake in an appeal or review process, whether they be the site administrator, a member or simply an occasional visitor of the website. This again suggests ACMA's supra-legal status, and also suggests the the Australian government either no longer has control over the Authority or deems each decision made by the ACMA board to be consistently viable - both of which should provide Australian citizens with cause for concern.

Anonymous hacks PM's website:The shadowy internet group known as Anonymous has hacked into Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's website last night 09/09/09 at 7:25pm to protest over proposed internet censorship reforms.

external image Internet%20censorship.gif

Parental Censorship of the Internet

Internet censorship, of course, can also result from the intervention of a parent in their child's web-surfing habits. Tools such as NetNanny allow parents to block potentially offensive or violent websites in order to protect their children from such content as may be found on these websites as well as through other websites linked to it. This, of course, falls under the topic of responsibility: the parents have a responsibility (at least, it is generally believed to be so) to shield their children from the more violent, offensive and otherwise confronting material that is to be found on the World Wide Web.
However, there is an objection to this practice as it is plausible that such applications as NetNanny might actually interfere with safe or relevant sites which just might possess a seemingly offensive site title or web address.

Copyright as Censorship

Copyright is considered by those in the "copyleft" movement as a commercially-biased infringement on the free and open exchange of ideas in all fields, from sciences to the arts. According to the founder of Creative Commons (cc), Lawrence Lessig, copyright fosters "a culture in which creators get to create only with the permission of the powerful, or of creators from the past" and thereby censors the creative potential of populations under its' law. By creating an alternative in the Creative Commons people can choose to license their work under the "(cc)" trademark so that it is available for all to use and build upon, without the traditional restraints of intellectual property laws. The fact that the alternative to copyright is still in the form of a lisence has drawn critisism.
Creative Commons

Other Censorship Examples to explore:

Internet Filter Danger

Top 25 Censored Stories 2009
South Australia urges for cameras in Court Rooms
The Australian Office of Film and Literature Classification
The Australian Communications and Media Authority
Fights against Censorship - Irene Graham in Queensland, Australia developed Libertus to campaign against Internet censorship
The Electronic Frontiers Australia - Lobby group against the censoring of Internet material in Australia
The Advertising Standards Board of Australia - complying with codes in response to advertisements, also responds to consumer complaints
The Parliamentary Library definition of the move from censorship to classification and legislation.
"Iraqis demonstarte over web censorship":On current censorship concerns in Iraq and the worth that citizens hold in their right to freedom of speech

Examples of Censorship outside Australia

"A government that withholds essential information from its people by censorship is no more democratic than one that speaks falsely" ( The Road Less Travelled, Scott Peck) Here Peck explains that lying to citizens is the same as censorship.


In Malaysia, censorship of the press is said to have existed since its first publication (Lim, 2007, pg 2). According to Lim, many of the justifications used by the government when surpressing certain instances of free speech and free press is to protect the interest and security of the people (2007). In the case of the May 13th incident, the government's reasoning to protect the lives of the people is just. However, it is an instance in which the media is not allowed to truthfully broadcast the whole fact to the public, thus undermining the supposed role of the media as the disseminator of truth to the public. Significantly, as a result of this racial riot spurred by free speech, the government deemed it necessary to alter the media policy in Malaysia to tighten control on speech and expression (Lim, 2007). The most recent controversy regarding censorship in Malaysia is the consideration to implement an internet filter not unlike China's "Green Dam" software (Cheah, 2009; Joshi, 2009; Lee, 2008; Malaysian Insider, 2009). Though it has been denied that such a proposal is ongoing, it has riled much discussion among the population with talks of invasion of privacy and freedom of expression.


Censorship of the press and film have existed since Japanese colonial period (1910-1945) in Korea. There were oppressive censorship during this period and the standard for censorship was very broad. (eg. It is forbidden to publish any material that profaned the dignity of the imperial household of Japan; had possibility to inspire people with disturbing the national constitution etc.). This oppressive censorship, were continued till 1980s after the liberation and till 1989 departments such as the Ministry of National Defense and National Security Agency participated in the censorship.
Examples of Korean film censorship can be traced back to 1976. A movie directed by Jang-ho Lee <Gu-rae gu-rae do annyung> had its last scene removed due to government censorship and changed to a happy ending instead of its actual negative ending. In Jong-won Park's movie <Guro Arirang>(1989) was also censored and deleted its 20 scenes and most of its inappropriate lines such as 'Rich Bastard' The censorship was continued until early 90s, Ji-gyun Kwok's movie <Julmun nal-ei cho-sang>'s student suicide scene and police drinking with hostess scene were removed. Currently film censorship is not being enforced anymore, but there is an non-govenmental organization called Korea Film Council provide classifications under the law of Korean film promotion.

The recent issue regarding censorship in Korea is the internet censorship. As several Korean famous actresses have committed suicide by malignant contempt online, the government and ruling party have decided to pass a bill called ‘Cyber Contempt Law’ and people are against this law as it will control their freedom of expression in cyberspace and it is an act of suppressing democracy.


A recent government report concluded that China has over two thousand newspapers, over eight thousand magazines, some 374 television stations, and over 150 million Internet users in the country. But despite the array of information made available to the Chinese people, there is stringent censorship in the media, which is largely seen as a measure to maintain the rule of the Communist Party of China. Censorship assists in the prevention of unapproved reformist, separatist, counter-revolutionary and religious ideas. But experts say the growing demand for information is testing a regime that is trying to use media controls in its bit to maintain power. CFR Senior Fellow and Director for Asia Studies, Elizabeth C. Economy says the Chinese government is a state of "schizophrenia" about media policy, as it "goes back and forth, testing the line, knowing they need press freedom- and the information it provides, but worry about opening the door to the type of freedoms that could lead to the regime’s downfall".

The lead-up to the Summer 2008 Beijing Olympics drew international attention to Censorship in China. It was alleged that guidelines for reporting during the games. What seemed to be imperative was for the down-play of any political issue that did not relate directly to the game. This included the Chinese Milk Scandal where Melamine was added to milk, most likely to make it appear to have a higher protein content. The Ministry of Health revised the number of victims to more that 290,000 and 51,900 hospitalised. News editors were ordered to adhere to the official copy of Xinhua, and reporting emphasis was shifted onto the forthcoming launch of Shezhous VII. The Wall Street Journal reported local journalists saying that discussion of the causes of the crisis, government responsibility, questions about government complicity with dairy companies, was strictly off limits.

How free is Chinese media?

The watchdog group Reporters Without Borders ranked China 163 out of 168 countries in its 2007 index of press freedom. China’s constitution affords its citizens freedom of speech and press, but the document contains broad language that says Chinese citizens must defend “the security, honor, and interests of the motherland.” Chinese law includes media regulations with vague language that authorities use to claim stories endanger the country by sharing state secrets. Journalists face harassment and prison terms for violating these rules and revealing classified matter. The government’s monitoring structure promotes an atmosphere of self-censorship; if published materials are deemed dangerous to state security after they appear in the media, the information can then be considered classified and journalists can be prosecuted (Zissis, 2008).

How does China exert media controls?

According to Zissis (2008), The Chinese government uses different means of intimidation to control the media and induce journalists to censor themselves rather than risk punishment. Censorship tactics include:
  • Dismissals and demotions
  • Libel
  • Fines
  • Closing news outlets
  • Imprisonment

China’s control of foreign media:
The state-controlledXinhua News agencyfirst implemented explicit laws censoring foreign media in 1996. Further media restrictions were then added on the 10th of September 2006. The new restrictions, entitled "Measures for Administering the Release of News and Information in China by Foreign News Agencies."
Stipulations under the new laws include:
1. All foreign news organizations providing news to China must be approved by Xinhua
2. Xinhua reserves the right to directly censor and edit inflowing news.
3. Media in China may not directly publish or translate news from foreign news agencies without approval.
4. Media found to have violated any of the regulations may in the future be blocked from operating in China.

Examples of Censorship:
  • Film: As China has no motion picture rating system, films must be deemed suitable for all audiences before they are allowed to be screened. A reference to the Cold War is removed in Casino Royale, and footage with actor Chow Yun-Fat in Pirates of the Carribean: At World’s End. Some other banned films including: Brokeback Moutain, Seven Years in Tibet, Ben-Hur, Over the Hedge, Borat, Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life.
  • Music:Album Chinese Democracy by Guns and Roses is banned. As are three tracks from Kylie Minogue’s Album X.
  • Literature
  • Newspapers
  • Television
  • Internet

Works Cited:

Chomsky, N. (1989) Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Society, CBC Enterprises, Toronto, p140
Cheah, R. (2009) "Malaysia says Web filter not for censorship", August 7, 2009. Retrieved August 24, 2009
DellaVigna, S & Kaplan E (2006) 'The Fox News Effect: Media Bias and Voting', National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, pp. 1-50
Herman & Chomsky (1988) Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media, Pantheon Books.
Encyclopaedia Britannica (1970), Vol. 5, (p161).
Tribe, David (1973) Questions of Censorship. George Allen & Unwin Ltd. London. (p47)
Censorship. (2009). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved July 31, 2009, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online:http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/101977/censorship

Heo, E.S. (2008) “Is Korean society really in need of new ‘Cyber Contempt Law’?” 26 Aug 2009 http://rikujjua.blog.com/2008/10/
Herman, E. S. (1996) "The Propaganda Model Revisited", July. Retrieved September 1 2009 http://www.chomsky.info/onchomsky/199607--.htm
Herman, E. S. (2003) “The Propaganda Model: A Retrospective, Against All Reason”, December 9, Retreived August 21 2009. http://www.chomsky.info/onchomsky/20031209.htm

Herman, E, Chomsky, N (1988), "Preface", Manufacturing Consent:The Political Economy of the Mass Media, Pantheon Books, pp xi-xv
Hobbes T 1651, Leviathan, Chapter 18
Jansen, S, Censorship: the Knot that Binds Power and Knowledge , Oxford UP, 1988, p221
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Student comments on Censorship

  • Enlightenment phase: The enlightenment concept seems to allow for a more scientific approach to rationale as opposed to a a perspective that incorporates religious reasoning as the basis of censorship. The religious reasoning ie that which god deems appropriate for humans to obey and abide by, hence things that are censored are governed by the Calvinistic influence from the Church. The theory of enlightenment supercedes the theory of Calvanism, as it allows a space for the self to exercise the true sense of the word enlightenment, free of distortions from the Church and Government, thereby implying a freedom of censorship.

  • Constitutive and Regulative Censorship: Culture and the Public Sphere Jim McGuigan pg 155
  • Market place Censorship: This type of censorship uses the market as an influential way for thoughts, expressions and even publications to be expressed in a controlled and collective framework. This would suggest that the items that are censored are commodified to suit the needs of the public sphere thereby inhibiting individuality and freedom of ones thoughts.

  • Just to further discussion on subterranean censorship as a less appropriate term to describe a sense of internalised censorship then, perhaps, 'conditioned censorship'. I do feel that 'subterranean' implies a physical reality which doesn't necessarily exist. It is the panoptic strength of this form of censorship which is of particular interest.

  • It is difficult to judge censorship is good or bad. Censorship is a necessary concept in the human society as it can leads the society to become mannerly and orderly. If censorship is being successful develop in the human society and everyone follows the same order then the human society may become more peace. But in the other hand this successful censorship development may break down the human society as if everyone are doing the same thing then the world will lose the creation and animation. People will become machine such as robot, just do the job which the society give it to them. Things always develop in the opposite direction when they become extreme even it is a good things or good concept. Hence we can said that “failed censorship is most effective censorship”