Corporate censorship

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Corporate censorship is censorship by corporations. It is when a spokesperson, employer, or business associate sanctions a speaker's speech by threat of monetary loss, employment loss, or loss of access to the marketplace. [1] [2] It is present in many different kinds of industries.

Censorship The practice of suppressing information

Censorship is the suppression of speech, public communication, or other information, on the basis that such material is considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or "inconvenient". Censorship can be conducted by a government, private institutions, and corporations.

Corporation Separate legal entity that has been incorporated through a legislative or registration process established through legislation

A corporation is an organization, usually a group of people or a company, authorized by the state to act as a single entity and recognized as such in law for certain purposes. Early incorporated entities were established by charter. Most jurisdictions now allow the creation of new corporations through registration.


By Industry

E-commerce and Technology

Corporate censorship in the E-commerce and technology industry is usually the explicit or implicit ban or suppression of certain material by a tech company from the product it offers. [3] Earlier in 2018, Bloomberg reported that Google and Amazon are involved in a case of Russian censorship of a Russian company called Telegram. [4] After Russian intelligence Federal Security Service (FSB) attempted to gain access to and found terrorist messages on Telegram, a messenger service in Russia with 15 million users, the app was banned by a Moscow court. [4] In April 2018, Apple, Google, Amazon, and Microsoft were thanked by Telegram's founder for "not taking part in political censorship." [4] It is said that Google and Amazon were thanked because they were possibly engaged in domain fronting, a technique that circumvents Internet censorship. [4] However, things later changed as Google and Amazon disabled domain fronting and helped in the Russian censors' endeavor. [4]

Bloomberg L.P. Financial, software, data, and media company based in New York City

Bloomberg L.P. is a privately held financial, software, data, and media company headquartered in Midtown Manhattan, New York City. It was founded by Michael Bloomberg in 1981, with the help of Thomas Secunda, Duncan MacMillan, Charles Zegar, and a 30% ownership investment by Merrill Lynch.

Telegram (software) Free cross-platform messenger

Telegram is a cloud-based instant messaging and voice over IP service. Telegram client apps are available for Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Windows NT, macOS and Linux. Users can send messages and exchange photos, videos, stickers, audio and files of any type.

Federal Security Service Principal security agency of Russia

The Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation is the principal security agency of Russia and the main successor agency to the USSR's Committee for State Security (KGB). Its main responsibilities are within the country and include counter-intelligence, internal and border security, counter-terrorism, and surveillance as well as investigating some other types of grave crimes and federal law violations. It is headquartered in Lubyanka Square, Moscow's centre, in the main building of the former KGB. According to the 1995 Federal Law "On the Federal Security Service", direction of the FSB is executed by the president of Russia, who appoints the Director of FSB.

Art and Music

Corporate censorship in the music industry involves the censorship of musicians' artistic works by the refusal to market or to distribute them. One example given by Jay is that of Ice-T altering the lyrics of "Cop Killer" as a result of the pressure applied to Time Warner by William Bennett along with various religious and advocacy groups. [1]

Ice-T American rapper, songwriter, actor, record executive, and record producer

Tracy Lauren Marrow, better known by his stage name Ice-T, is an American musician, rapper, songwriter, actor, record producer, and author. He began his career as an underground rapper in the 1980s and was signed to Sire Records in 1987, when he released his debut album Rhyme Pays; the second hip-hop album to carry an explicit content sticker after Slick Rick's La Di Da Di. The following year, he founded the record label Rhyme $yndicate Records and released another album, Power, which went on to go Platinum. He also released several other albums that went Gold.

Cop Killer (song) 1992 song performed by Body Count

"Cop Killer" is a song composed by Ernie C with words by Ice-T for American heavy metal band Body Count, of which they were both members. Released on Body Count's 1992 self-titled debut album, the song was written two years earlier, and was partially influenced by "Psycho Killer" by Talking Heads.

William Bennett American politician

William John Bennett is an American conservative pundit, politician, and political theorist, who served as Secretary of Education from 1985 to 1988 under President Ronald Reagan. He also held the post of Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy under George H. W. Bush.

The 2012 PEN World Voices Festival focused on corporate censorship in the publishing industry with Salman Rushdie, author of "Satanic Verses", tackling censorship as "anti-creation". Giannina Braschi, author of "United States of Banana", offered a critique of 21st century capitalism in which she condemned corporate censorship as financial control. Braschi declared: "Nobody owns a work of art, not even the artist." [5]

The PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature is an annual week-long literary festival held in New York City. The festival was founded by Salman Rushdie, Esther Allen, and Michael Roberts and was launched in 2005. The festival includes events, readings, conversations, and debates that showcase international literature and new writers. The festival is produced by PEN America, a nonprofit organization that works to advance literature, promote free expression, and foster international literary fellowship.

Salman Rushdie British Indian writer

Sir Ahmed Salman Rushdie is a British Indian novelist and essayist. His second novel, Midnight's Children (1981), won the Booker Prize in 1981 and was deemed to be "the best novel of all winners" on two separate occasions, marking the 25th and the 40th anniversary of the prize. Much of his fiction is set on the Indian subcontinent. He combines magical realism with historical fiction; his work is concerned with the many connections, disruptions, and migrations between Eastern and Western civilizations.

Giannina Braschi is a Puerto Rican writer based in New York City. She is considered an influential and revolutionary voice in contemporary Latin American literature. She writes experimental literature, mixing elements of poetry, theater, essay, musical, and manifesto. Braschi is known for having penned the first Spanglish novel Yo-Yo Boing! (1998), the post-modern poetry trilogy Empire of Dreams (1994), and the cross-genre novel of philosophical fiction, United States of Banana (2011). Her collective work explores the lives of Latin American immigrants in the United States.

DeeDee Halleck [6] opines that describing the corporate censorship of independent artists, which she notes is often less overt in form, as self-censorship "smacks of blaming the victim." She describes such self-censorship as being simply a survival stratagem, the tailoring of an artist's choices to what is acceptable to those in power, based upon widespread knowledge of the acceptable themes and formats at institutions such as (her examples) the Public Broadcasting Service, the Whitney Biennial, the Museum of Modern Art, the Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibits gallery, or the Boston Institute of Contemporary Art.

Whitney Biennial Art exhibition in New York

The Whitney Biennial is a biennale exhibition of contemporary American art, typically by young and lesser known artists, on display at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City, United States. The event began as an annual exhibition in 1932, the first biennial was in 1973. The Whitney show is generally regarded as one of the leading shows in the art world, often setting or leading trends in contemporary art. It helped bring artists like Georgia O'Keeffe, Jackson Pollock and Jeff Koons to prominence.

Museum of Modern Art Art museum in New York, N.Y.

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is an art museum located in Midtown Manhattan, New York City, on 53rd Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. The museum will be temporarily closed to expand its galleries from June 16 through October 21, 2019. MoMA PS1 will remain open on its regular schedule.

Journalism, Media, and Entertainment

Croteau and Hoynes [7] discuss corporate censorship in the news publishing business, observing that it can occur as self-censorship. They note that it is "virtually impossible to document", because it is covert. Jonathan Alter states that "In a tight job market, the tendency is to avoid getting yourself or your boss in trouble. So an adjective gets dropped, a story skipped, a punch pulled … It's like that Sherlock Holmes story – the dog that didn't bark. [8] Those clues are hard to find." The head of the Media Access Project notes that such self-censorship is not misreporting or false reporting, but simply not reporting at all. Self-censorship is not the product of "dramatic conspiracies", according to Croteau and Hoynes, but simply the interaction of many small daily decisions. Journalists want to keep their jobs and editors support the interests of the company. These many small actions and non-actions accumulate to produce (in their words) "homogenized, corporate-friendly media".

Self-censorship is the act of censoring or classifying one's own discourse. This is done out of fear of, or deference to, the sensibilities or preferences of others and without overt pressure from any specific party or institution of authority. Self-censorship is often practiced by film producers, film directors, publishers, news anchors, journalists, musicians, and other kinds of authors including individuals who use social media.

Jonathan Alter American journalist

Jonathan H. Alter is a liberal / progressive American journalist, best-selling author, documentary filmmaker and television producer who was a columnist and senior editor for Newsweek magazine from 1983 until 2011, and has written three New York Times best-selling books about American presidents. He is a contributing correspondent to NBC News, where since 1996 he has appeared on NBC, MSNBC, and CNBC. Alter was one of the first magazine or newspaper reporters to appear on MSNBC. When the shows were on the air, he could often be heard on Imus in the Morning and The Al Franken Show on Air America Radio. In 2013 and 2014, Alter served as an executive producer on the Amazon Studio's production Alpha House, which starred John Goodman, Mark Consuelos, Clark Johnson, and Matt Malloy. In 2019, he co-produced and co-directed "Breslin and Hamill: Deadline Artists," a documentary about the columnists Jimmy Breslin and Pete Hamill, which is available on HBO.

Sherlock Holmes Fictional private detective created by Arthur Conan Doyle

Sherlock Holmes is a fictional private detective created by British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Referring to himself as a "consulting detective" in the stories, Holmes is known for his proficiency with observation, forensic science, and logical reasoning that borders on the fantastic, which he employs when investigating cases for a wide variety of clients, including Scotland Yard.

Nichols and McChesney [9] opine that "the maniacal media baron as portrayed in James Bond films or profiles of Rupert Murdoch is far less a danger than the cautious and compromised editor who seeks to 'balance' a responsibility to readers or viewers with a duty to serve his boss and the advertisers". They state that "even among journalists who entered the field for the noblest of reasons" there is a tendency to avoid any controversial journalism that might embroil the news company in a battle with a powerful corporation or a government agency. They observe that although such conflicts "have always been the stuff of great journalism" they are "very bad business", and that "in the current climate business trumps journalism just about every time".

Croteau and Hoynes [7] report that such corporate censorship in journalism is commonplace, reporting the results of studies revealing that more than 40% [10] of journalists and news executives stating that they had deliberately engaged in such censorship by avoiding newsworthy stories or softening the tones of stories. More than a third of the respondents stated that news organizations would ignore news that might hurt their financial interests. A similar fraction stated that they self-censored in order to further, or not endanger, their careers.

Specific case: Westway project

Halleck [6] states that journalists are well aware of where self-censorship is required, and what they have to say or not say in their stories in order to keep their jobs. She gives Sydney Schanberg as an example. A high-profile, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Schanberg breached corporate censorship when reporting on corruption in New York City with regards to the Westway project. In Schanberg's column in The New York Times he asked why the Times was not investigating the issues, and was subsequently laid off. Halleck notes that the negative feedback that enforces corporate censorship is usually not as well documented as in the case of Schanberg, nor as clear-cut. Corporations may change the assignments of problem journalists, accept fewer stories from them, downgrade their office space, or deny them raises.

Self-censorship is not the only form of corporate censorship in the news and entertainment businesses. Croteau and Hoynes [7] also describe managers censoring their employees, subdivisions of conglomerates applying pressure upon one another, and pressure applied upon corporations by external entities such as advertisers. They note that many incidents of corporate censorship are "unlikely to become public", but give the following (and several other) case studies of incidents of corporate censorship that have become part of the public record:

  • The decision by the Walt Disney Company to prevent Miramax from releasing Fahrenheit 911 in 2004. (See Fahrenheit 9/11 controversy.) Croteau and Hoynes observe that this was a business decision, and state that "even when such business decisions are not politically motivated, then can have substantial political consequences".
  • The decision in 1998 by Harper Collins to drop plans for publishing East and West, the memoirs of Chris Patten, out of concern it might effect the relationship between Star TV and the Chinese government. (Milner, who also cites this decision as an example, places them both alongside the decision by Harper Collins not to publicize Michael Moore's Stupid White Men and observes that Patten, as a member of the U.K. Conservative Party, demonstrates corporate censorship is not confined to left-wing writers such as Moore.) [11]
  • The removal of a cartoon clip from a March 1998 edition of Saturday Night Live that satirized the concentration of media ownership, the song accompanying which stated that "Disney, Fox, Westinghouse, and good ol' GE" own "networks from CBS to CNBC" and "can use them to say whatever they please and put down the opinions of anyone who disagrees". Croteau and Hoynes observe that this satirical treatment of corporate censorship was itself subject to that very same censorship. The clip was removed from the program for all subsequent repeats. They note that the executive producer of SNL stated that he didn't think that the cartoon "worked comedically", but also note that others at NBC told reporters that the president of NBC and officials of General Electric, owner of NBC, "had been upset".

An example given by Henry [12] of censorship by a corporation rather than by a government is the censorship in May 2004 by The Sinclair Broadcasting Group of an issue of ABC News' Nightline entitled "The Fallen" wherein Ted Koppel recited the names and showed the faces of all Americans killed in action in Iraq. Sinclair, a strong proponent of the U.S. actions in Iraq, prohibited the six ABC affiliates that it owned from broadcasting the show, on the grounds that the program was "motivated by a political agenda designed to undermine the efforts of the United States in Iraq". (See Sinclair Broadcast Group#Nightline controversy and Nightline#Reading of the names.)

Milner [11] also notes, in addition, the list of songs circulated by Clear Channel Communications, and the 2003 ban on the Dixie Chicks (see Clear Channel Communications#September 11.2C 2001 and Dixie Chicks#Political controversy), stating his inference that "these relatively public actions are merely the tip of a veritable iceberg of corporate censorship", and arguing that publishers are "by no means passive conduits for the transmission of cultural products from producers to consumers" but are influenced to take an active rôle in that transmission by motives of profit, ideology, values, or even reasons of state.

Major corporations such as Wal-Mart are also responsible for such acts. They refuse to sell musical CD produced by artists which contain parental advisory stickers on them to their customers.[ citation needed ] Because of this, artists who want to reach out to Wal-Mart customers with their music need to change and edit their songs without any profanity in order for them to be put on shelves.

Media conglomeration

One of the incidents of corporate censorship that Croteau and Hoynes find to be "the most disturbing" in their view [7] is the news reporting in the U.S. of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which made fundamental changes to the limitations on ownership of media conglomerates within the U.S. and which was heavily lobbied for by media interests, and yet which was subject to, in Croteau and Hoynes words, "remarkably little coverage" by U.S. news media. They report one study that found that in the nine months between the introduction of the bill into Congress and its passage in February 1996, there were only 12 major stories, comprising 19.5 minutes of air time, about the Act on the three major U.S. television networks, with much of this coverage focussing upon television content ratings and the V-chip and "largely ignor[ing]" the major changes to the media ownership rules. Croteau and Hoynes observe that history repeated itself with the 2003 review by the FCC of the media ownership rules, with a study by American Journalism Review concluding that the plan to alter the ownership regulations in favour of "a handful of large companies" was "barely mentioned" by most newspapers and broadcast outlets that were owned by those companies.

Croteau and Hoynes [7] state that this "inadequate" coverage of the legislation and FCC actions suggests a built-in conflict of interest for news media – one that is not just limited to television and radio news media, given that many newspapers are also owned by the same corporations that own the television and radio stations. Reporting fully the views of critics of the legislation would have been counter to the economic interests of the news media companies which benefited directly from the legislation, lobbied in its favour, and even helped to draft it. This conflict of interest was observed by John McCain during debate of the Telecommunications Act in the U.S. Senate, who stated that "You will not see this story on any television or hear it on any radio broadcast because it directly affects them." Sohn [13] similarly observed, in a 1998 critique of the deregulation by the Telecommunications Act, that increased concentration of media ownership "often leads to a type of corporate censorship by which information affecting the large media company's economic interest is kept from the public's eyes and ears".

Nichols and McChesney [9] similarly observe that the exclusion of Ralph Nader from the three presidential debates in the 2000 presidential race by television networks guaranteed that the debates would not address controversial issues of media conglomeration. They note with irony that this was seemingly against the self-interests of the television stations, since it served to also reduce public interest in the televised presidential debates by rendering them, in their view, "duller than dirt agreeathons" that viewers would not be interested in watching.

Notable Cases


Amazon, as one of the largest e-commerce businesses in the United States, has been involved in controversies that point to its censorship-like actions. [14] In 2010, Macmillan Publishers, along with some other publishers, asked Amazon to increase the prices of the electronic books it offered for sale on Amazon by 50% from $9.99 to $15, [14] after obtaining permission from Apple to raise its prices, who was more lenient in allowing the publishers to determine prices themselves. [14] Amazon disagreed with its proposal, and they didn't reach a consensus on how to deal with this problem. Amazon later removed all books published by Macmillan Publishers, including electronic books and physical books, from the website. [14] Later, Amazon "surrendered" to Macmillan Publishers' request of price increase. [15]

Amazon has also engaged in activities where it censored customers' negative reviews. For example, in 2012, authors Joe Konrath and Steve Weddle reported that Amazon deleted their reviews in response to a wave of "sock puppet" controversies. [16] In the scandal, many authors used anonymous accounts on Amazon to provide positive reviews for their own books and negative reviews for the competitors' work, on grounds not of quality but of who wrote the books. [16] Amazon sought to rectify this problem by prohibiting authors from publishing reviews about other writers' works. [16]

In 2013, a British website the Kernel published an article accusing Amazon, Kobo, and other e-book retailers of containing books with erotic material such as "rape, incest, and 'forced sex' with young girls." [17] It turned out that these were books written by self-published writers who wrote erotica books. [18] Amazon responded to the Kernel's article by removing books under the categories mentioned in the article, including books depicting rape, incest, and child pornography. [18] In response, some self-published writers engaged in a protest against Amazon's censorship, which had implicated some books that did not include erotic material as offensive as what Amazon should be and was targeting. [18] [19]

In 2014, in an effort to exert more control on online pricing, Amazon banned preorders of Captain America: The Winter Soldier in disk form. [20] It was a continuation of similar strategies that Amazon once used with book publisher Hachette and film studio Warner Bros. [20] Because the movie studios needed the sales profits from DVDs and blue-rays while Amazon could afford losing one customer, Amazon used this technique to add pressure on Walt Disney Co. for more pricing power. [20]


One of the censorship practices Google is involved in is the censorship of information on Google China. [21] Before Google's service was disabled in China, it complied with China's Internet policies and removed some content not appropriate to appear in the Chinese context. [21] Google was criticized for violating its principle of promoting "a generally open Internet." [21] Google's CEO at the time, Eric Schmidt, affirmed Google's commitment to this, and also mentioned that complying with China's regulations was better than not being present the Chinese market at all. [21] In January 2010, Google made an announcement that it wouldn't engage in further censoring activities. [21] In September 2010, Google launched Google Transparency to share information about governments' and corporations' activities regarding information access and control. [21] [22]

There are increasing incidences across the world that involve censorship in Google, banning information from the general population. [21] Google Maps' Street View, for example, does not cover military bases in the U.S. out of security concerns. [21] The European Union also suggested that the Street View violates EU privacy laws. [21]


Facebook is a site in which people frequently publish information on their political stances or engage in political and social debates. [23] Since 2009, Facebook has been supporting the rights of Holocaust deniers on posting on its website. [24] In 2018, however, Facebook announced a new policy that it will remove "misinformation that contributes to violence, [23] " while not enforcing a complete censor on those speeches. [24] Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's CEO, said that there are certain information people post because they took it wrong, but perhaps not because they intentionally took it wrong. [24] Even if they did it on purpose, Facebook couldn't have found out their intentions and wouldn't try to do so. [24] Thus, they are reviewing information on Facebook and taking down misrepresented, misleading, or offensive information, but not outright censoring information in certain categories, such as Holocaust denial. [24] As a result of this policy, posts that falsely report on Muslims and Buddhists in Sri Lanka were removed. [25]

In 2018, Facebook removed hundreds of pages related to U.S. politics on grounds of "inauthentic activity" one month before the midterm elections. [26] Facebook representatives claimed that the posts and user accounts were deleted not because of the content of the posts, but because they violated Facebook's terms of service. [26]

Facebook has a set of community standards governing users' behaviors. These standards detail Facebook's policies on topics including "hate speech, violent imagery, misrepresentation, terrorist propaganda and disinformation." [27] Facebook mentioned its intention to let the users dispute its decisions by disclosing their standards. [27] Facebook also wishes to assuage the concerns of critics who accused it of mistakenly or unjustifiably removing contents before. [27] The process which Facebook uses to delete posts and block accounts was not transparent and the criteria not explicitly stated. [28] In November 2018, Facebook published its first Transparency Report on how the Community Standards are adhered to in regulating the languages that appear on Facebook. [28] [29]


TV Guide debate

In 1969, Nicholas Johnson, United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) commissioner, and then president of CBS News Richard Salant, debated the scope and existence of corporate censorship in a series of articles published in TV Guide .


Johnson's view, put forward in an article entitled The Silent Screen [30] is that "Censorship is a serious problem" in the United States, and that he agrees with the statements by various network officials that television is subject to it, but disputes "just who is doing most of the censoring". He states that most television censorship is corporate censorship, not government censorship. One of the several examples that he gives in support of this argument is that of WBAI in New York City, which the FCC declined to censure for the publication a poem that was alleged to be anti-Semitic. He argues that "[m]any broadcasters are fighting, not for free speech, but for profitable speech. In the WBAI case, for example, one of the industry's leading spokesmen, Broadcasting magazine, actually urged that WBAI be punished by the FCC – and on the same editorial page professed outrage that stations might not have an unlimited right to broadcast profitable commercials for cigarettes which may result in illness or death."

Johnson [30] quotes examples of corporate censorship reported by Stan Opotowsky in TV  – The Big Picture: [31] "Ford deleted a shot [of] the New York skyline because it showed the Chrysler building [...] A breakfast-food sponsor deleted the line 'She eats too much' from a play because, as far as the breakfast-food company was concerned, nobody could ever eat too much." He quotes Bryce Rucker writing in The First Freedom [32] that "Networks generally have underplayed or ignored events and statements unfavorable to food processors and soap manufacturers". He notes that "corporate tampering with the product of honest and capable journalists and creative writers and performers can be quite serious". He points to a 3 September 1969 report by Variety that ABC "had tailored some of its documentaries to fit the corporate desires of Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing Company", and cites examples given by Bill Greeley in a 4 February 1970 Variety article of "shrunken or vanished" documentaries at CBS, which have been "shelved, turned down, or killed".

He also gives several examples of television network officials who have resigned over issues of corporate censorship: Fred Friendly resigning from CBS News because on 10 February 1966 it did not televise the Senate hearings on the Vietnam war; the head of the National Association of Broadcasters Code Authority resigning "in disgust over the hypocrisy exhibited by the NAB's stand on cigarette advertisements". [30]

He points out several commonalities in a long list of incidents that he cites: [30]

  • the involvement of human death, disease, dismemberment, or degradation;
  • the existence of great profit for manufacturers, advertisers, and broadcasters; and
  • the deliberate withholding of needed information from the public.

Johnson [30] states that "many pressures produce such censorship", some deliberate and some by default, but that "all have come, not from government, but from private corporations with something to sell". He notes an exchange in the letters page of The New York Times between Charles Tower, chairman of the National Association of Broadcasters Television Board and a reader, with Tower saying "There is a world of difference between the deletion of program material by Government command and the deletion by a private party [such as a broad-caster] [...] Deletion by Government command is censorship [...] Deletion of material by private parties [...] is not censorship." but his respondent rebutting this with "Mr. Tower's distinction [...] is spurious. The essence of censorship is the suppression of a particular point of view [...] over the channels of the mass media, and the question of who does the censoring is one of form only." Johnson concurs with the latter view, stating that the outcome is the same.


Salant's view, put forward in an article entitled He Has Exercised His Right – To Be Wrong [33] was that Johnson was "totally completely, 100 percent wrong – on all counts", providing many examples of CBS' coverage of the things enumerated by Johnson, saying, "In the 11 years I was a CBS corporate officer and in the six years that I have been president of CBS News, to my knowledge there is no issue, no topic, no story which CBS News has ever been forbidden, or instructed directly or indirectly, to cover or not to cover, by corporate management."


See also: Cisco censorship in China, Google censorship, Censorship by Facebook, Microsoft censorship in China, MySpace in China, Skype in China, and Yahoo! censorship in China

The constitutional and other legal protections that prohibit or limit government censorship of the Internet in some countries do not generally apply to private corporations. Corporations may voluntarily choose to limit the content they make available or allow others to make available on the Internet. [34] Or corporations may be encouraged by government pressure or required by law or court order to remove or limit Internet access to content that is judged to be obscene (including child pornography), harmful to children, defamatory, pose a threat to national security, promote illegal activities such as gambling, prostitution, theft of intellectual property, hate speech, and inciting violence. [35] [36]

Corporations that provide Internet access for their employees, customers, students, or members will sometimes limit this access in an attempt to ensure it is used only for the purposes of the corporation. This can include content-control software to limit access to entertainment content in business and educational settings and limiting high-bandwidth services in settings where bandwidth is at a premium. Some institutions also block outside e-mail services as a precaution, usually initiated out of concerns for local network security or concerns that e-mail might be used intentionally or unintentionally to allow trade secrets or other confidential information to escape.

Some websites that allow user-contributed content may practice self-censorship by adopting policies on how the web site may be used and by banning or requiring pre-approval of editorial contributions from users that do not follow the policies for the site.

In 2007, Verizon attempted to block the abortion rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America from using their text messaging services to speak to their supporters. Verizon claims it was in order to enforce a policy that doesn't allow their customers to use their service to communicate "controversial" or "unsavory" messages. [37] Comcast, AT&T and many other ISP's have also been accused of regulating internet traffic and bandwidth.

In February 2008, the Bank Julius Baer v. WikiLeaks lawsuit prompted the United States District Court for the Northern District of California to issue a permanent injunction against the website WikiLeaks' domain name registrar. The result was that WikiLeaks could not be accessed through its web address. This elicited accusations of censorship and resulted in the Electronic Frontier Foundation stepping up to defend Wikileaks. After a later hearing, the injunction was lifted. [38]

On 1 December 2010 cut off WikiLeaks 24 hours after being contacted by the staff of Joe Lieberman, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security. [39] In a statement Lieberman said: [40]

[Amazon's] decision to cut off WikiLeaks now is the right decision and should set the standard for other companies WikiLeaks is using to distribute its illegally seized material. I call on any other company or organization that is hosting WikiLeaks to immediately terminate its relationship with them.

Constitutional lawyers say that this is not a first amendment issue because Amazon, as a private company, is free to make its own decisions. Kevin Bankston, a lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, agreed that this is not a violation of the first amendment, but said it was nevertheless disappointing. "This certainly implicates first amendment rights to the extent that web hosts may, based on direct or informal pressure, limit the materials the American public has a first amendment right to access". [41]

eNom, a private domain name registrar and Web hosting company operating in the U.S., disables domain names which appear on a U.S. Treasury Department blacklist. [42] [43]

In January 2007 Eli Lilly and Company obtained a restraining order from a U.S. District Court that forbade activists in the psychiatric survivors movement from posting links on their websites to ostensibly leaked documents which purportedly showed that Eli Lilly and Company intentionally withheld information as to the lethal side-effects of Zyprexa. The Electronic Frontier Foundation appealed this as prior restraint on the right to link to and post documents, saying that citizen-journalists should have the same First Amendment rights as major media outlets. [44] It was later held that the judgment was unenforcable, though First Amendment claims were rejected. [45]

Schools and libraries may use Internet filters to block material deemed inappropriate for the school or library setting or inappropriate for children, including pornography, advertising, chat, gaming, social networking, and online forum sites. [46] [47] [48] [49]

Public and private K-12 schools and libraries in the U.S. that accept funds from the federal E-rate program or LSTA grants for Internet access or internal connections are required by CIPA to have an "Internet safety policy and technology protection measures in place". [50]

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, in September 2013: [51]

Some corporations practice greater levels of self-censorship in international versions of their online services. [52] [53] This is most notably the case in these corporations' dealings in China.

Corporate Enemies of the Internet

On 12 March 2013 Reporters Without Borders published a Special report on Internet Surveillance. The report included a list of "Corporate Enemies of the Internet", companies that sell products that are liable to be used by governments to violate human rights and freedom of information. The five "Corporate Enemies of the Internet" named in March 2013 were: Amesys (France), Blue Coat Systems (U.S.), Gamma (UK and Germany), Hacking Team (Italy), and Trovicor (Germany), but the list was not exhaustive and is likely to be expanded in the future. [54]

See also

Related Research Articles

Internet censorship in China is the control and suppression of published or viewed material on the internet in the People's Republic of China. More than sixty online restrictions have been created by the Government of China, which have been implemented by provincial branches of state-owned ISPs, companies, and organizations. According to CNN, China's Internet censorship is considered more extensive and advanced than that in any other country in the world. The Chinese government not only blocks website content, but also monitors individuals' Internet access. Many controversial events are strictly prevented from being broadcast on news services, blindsiding many Chinese citizens as they have little to no knowledge of any of their government's actions. Such measures have earned the nickname "The Great Firewall of China."

The Great Firewall of China (GFW) is the combination of legislative actions and technologies enforced by the People's Republic of China to regulate the Internet domestically. Its role in the Internet censorship in China is to block access to selected foreign websites and to slow down cross-border internet traffic. The effect includes: limiting access to foreign information sources, blocking foreign internet tools and mobile apps, and requiring foreign companies to adapt to domestic regulations. Besides censorship, the GFW has also influenced the development of China's internal internet economy by nurturing domestic companies and reducing the effectiveness of products from foreign internet companies.

Internet censorship in Australia

Internet censorship in Australia is enforced by both the country's criminal law as well as voluntarily enacted by internet service providers. The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has the power to enforce content restrictions on Internet content hosted within Australia, and maintain a blacklist of overseas websites which is then provided for use in filtering software. The restrictions focus primarily on child pornography, sexual violence, and other illegal activities, compiled as a result of a consumer complaints process.

China Digital Times is a California-based bilingual news website covering China. It aggregates news and analysis from around the Web, while also providing its own original analysis, commentary, translations and multimedia content. According to, visitors to the site are coming from more than one hundred countries.

Google China website

Google China is a subsidiary of Google. Once a popular search engine, most services offered by Google China were blocked by the Great Firewall in the People's Republic of China. In 2010, searching via all Google search sites, including Google Mobile, were moved from mainland China to Hong Kong.

Censorship in the People's Republic of China (PRC) is implemented or mandated by the PRC's ruling party, the Communist Party of China (CPC). The government censors content for mainly political reasons, but also to maintain its control over the populace. The Chinese government asserts that it has the legal right to control the internet's content within their territory and that their censorship rules do not infringe on the citizen's right to free speech. Since Xi Jinping became the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China in 2012, censorship has been "significantly stepped up".

Censorship by Google is Google's removal or omission of information from its services or those of its subsidiary companies, such as YouTube, in order to comply with its company policies, legal demands, or various government censorship laws. Google's censorship varies between countries and their regulations, and ranges from advertisements to speeches. Over the years, the search engine's censorship policies and targets have also differed, and have been the source of internet censorship debates.

Elliot Schrage American academic

Elliot J. Schrage is an American lawyer and business executive. He was vice president of global communications, marketing, and public policy at Facebook until 15 June 2018, where he directed the company's government affairs and public relations efforts. Schrage tasked a Republican-affiliated PR firm to push negative narratives about Facebook's competitors, namely Apple and Google.

Criticism of Google includes concern for tax avoidance, misuse and manipulation of search results, its use of others' intellectual property, concerns that its compilation of data may violate people's privacy and collaboration with Google Earth by the military to spy on users, censorship of search results and content, and the energy consumption of its servers as well as concerns over traditional business issues such as monopoly, restraint of trade, antitrust, "idea borrowing", and being an "Ideological Echo Chamber".

Internet censorship control or suppression of what can be accessed, published, or viewed on the internet

Internet censorship is the control or suppression of what can be accessed, published, or viewed on the Internet enacted by regulators, or on their own initiative. Individuals and organizations may engage in self-censorship for moral, religious, or business reasons, to conform to societal norms, due to intimidation, or out of fear of legal or other consequences.

Censorship in the United States involves the suppression of speech or public communication and raises issues of freedom of speech, which is protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Interpretation of this fundamental freedom has varied since its enshrinement. For instance, restraints increased during the 1950s period of widespread anti-communist sentiment, as exemplified by the hearings of the House Committee on Un-American Activities. In Miller v. California (1973), the U.S. Supreme Court found that the First Amendment's freedom of speech does not apply to obscenity, which can therefore be censored. While certain forms of hate speech are legal so long as they do not turn to action, or incite others to commit illegal acts, more severe forms have led to people or groups being denied marching permits or the Westboro Baptist Church being sued, although the initial adverse ruling against the latter was later overturned on appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court case Snyder v. Phelps.

Internet censorship in the United States is the suppression of information published or viewed on the Internet in the United States. The U.S. possesses protection of freedom of speech and expression against federal, state, and local government censorship, a right protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. These protections extend to the Internet; however, the U.S. government has censored sites in the past, and they are increasing in number to this day.

Internet censorship in Germany

Although Internet censorship in Germany has traditionally been rated as low, it is practised directly and indirectly through various laws and court decisions. German law provides for freedom of speech and press with several exceptions, including what The Guardian has called "some of the world's toughest laws around hate speech". An example of content censored by law is the removal of web sites from Google search results that deny the holocaust, which is a felony under German law. According to the Google Transparency Report, the German government is frequently one of the most active in requesting user data after the United States.

The United States diplomatic cables leak, widely known as Cablegate, began on Sunday, 28 November 2010 when WikiLeaks—a non-profit organization that publishes submissions from anonymous whistleblowers—began releasing classified cables that had been sent to the U.S. State Department by 274 of its consulates, embassies, and diplomatic missions around the world. Dated between December 1966 and February 2010, the cables contain diplomatic analysis from world leaders, and the diplomats' assessment of host countries and their officials. According to WikiLeaks, the 251,287 cables consist of 261,276,536 words, making Cablegate "the largest set of confidential documents ever to be released into the public domain." Today, more recent leaks have surpassed that amount. On July 30, 2013, Chelsea Manning was convicted for theft of the cables and violations of the Espionage Act, in a court martial proceeding, and sentenced to 35 years imprisonment. She was released on May 17, 2017, after 7 years total confinement, after her sentence had been commuted by President Barack Obama earlier that year.

The whistleblowing website WikiLeaks has received praise as well as criticism. The organisation has won a number of awards, including The Economist's New Media Award in 2008 at the Index on Censorship Awards and Amnesty International's UK Media Award in 2009. In 2010, the New York Daily News listed WikiLeaks first among websites "that could totally change the news", and Julian Assange received the Sam Adams Award and was named the Readers' Choice for TIME's Person of the Year in 2010. The UK Information Commissioner has stated that "WikiLeaks is part of the phenomenon of the online, empowered citizen". In its first days, an Internet petition calling for the cessation of extrajudicial intimidation of WikiLeaks attracted over six hundred thousand signatures. Supporters of WikiLeaks in the media and academia have commended it for exposing state and corporate secrets, increasing transparency, supporting freedom of the press, and enhancing democratic discourse while challenging powerful institutions.

Internet censorship in South Korea

Internet censorship in South Korea is similar to other developed countries but contains some unique elements such as the blocking of pro-North Korea websites, which led to it being categorized as "pervasive" in the conflict/security area by OpenNet Initiative. It is also unique among developed countries to block pornography and material considered harmful to minors as they are illegal by law. However, this law is very loosely applied with many pornography websites and nudity content still freely accessible. It also does not apply to social media websites, which is a common source of "legal" pornography in South Korea.

Dynadot is a privately held ICANN accredited domain name registrar and web hosting company founded by software engineer Todd Han in 2002. Dynadot's headquarters is established in San Mateo, California, with offices in Zhengzhou and Beijing, China, as well as Toronto, Canada.

Nawaat Tunisian blog

Nawaat is an independent collective blog co-founded by Tunisians Sami Ben Gharbia, Sufian Guerfali and Riadh Guerfali in 2004, with Malek Khadraoui joining the organization in 2006. The goal of Nawaat's founders was to provide a public platform for Tunisian dissident voices and debates. Nawaat aggregates articles, visual media, and other data from a variety of sources to provide a forum for citizen journalists to express their opinions on current events. The site does not receive any donations from political parties. During the events leading to the Tunisian Revolution of 2011, Nawaat advised Internet users in Tunisia and other Arab nations about the dangers of being identified online and offered advice about circumventing censorship. Nawaat is an Arabic word meaning core. Nawaat has received numerous awards from international media organizations in the wake of the Arab Spring wave of revolutions throughout the Middle East and North Africa.

The Dragonfly project was an Internet search engine prototype created by Google that was designed to be compatible with China's state censorship provisions. The public learned of Dragonfly's existence in August 2018, when The Intercept leaked an internal memo written by a Google employee about the project. In December 2018, Dragonfly was reported to have "effectively been shut down" after a clash with members of the privacy team within Google. However according to employees, work on Dragonfly was still continuing as of March 2019, with some 100 people still allocated to it.


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Further reading