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Can Internet censorship of any particular content be justified under certain circumstances? Explain.

Live TED Conversation: Join TED Fellow Walid Al-Saqaf

Walid is a Yemeni media researcher and activist. He is the developer of alkasir censorship circumvention software used to help users, primarily in the Middle East, access censored content.

This conversation will open at 1:00PM EST on August 5th.

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    Aug 5 2011: I'm not sure what I think about it.

    I certainly don't think there is any politics-related content that should be censored, as, in my point of view, in a very simplified idea, governments should work for their people and not the other way around.

    What could probably be regarded as material that could be censored is related to things that would maybe be considered inappropriate globaly. But I'm not very sure there is such kind of material. Even pedophilia, which is one of the most hideous things a human being is able of doing, might be socially accepted in cultures that are different to mine.
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      Aug 5 2011: You are right in that point. That brings us back to square one, which is 'what is that could be censored'. In fact, it takes us to the definition of censorship itself.
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      Aug 5 2011: I have looked into some of the studies concerned with censorship in general, and arrived to some important observations. In his book, Anatomy of censorship: why the censors have it wrong, A scholar, Harry White referred to censorship in a 1997 book as

      'suppression of certain material'

      but he fell short of providing a complete definition of the word. Instead, he pointed to a definition dilemma because what constituted objectionable content in one country or culture may have been perfectly acceptable in another.

      He described the problem of definition by noting that judgments to "what constitutes illicit expression vary over time and among jurisdictions" .
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        Aug 5 2011: That's an interesting description, indeed.

        To use the Wikileaks example, I don't really see hiding someone's name in order to preserve his/her health as censorship, although it could be seen as fitting White's concept.

        I think it should be considered as a distinct institution, which is much more similar to not making one's bank details available online. But I might be stretching too much qhat I call "minimum standards of privacyprotection" by thinking the same rule should apply to governmental documents.
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          Aug 5 2011: That is something worth examining. Classified government documents across the world are the responsibility of the government institutions themselves. If they do data protection right, there won't need to be a discussion about censorship of such content.

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