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In ancient Rome, censorship was the office or function of a censor. This article is about controls over publication and discussion.

Censorship is the use of state or group power to control freedom of expression. Censorship 'criminalizes' certain actions or the communication of such actions - or suggested communications of such actions. In a modern sense censorship consists of any attempt to suppress information, points of view, or method of expression such as art, or profanity. The purpose of censorship is to maintain the status quo, to control the development of a society, or to stifle dissent among a subject people. For this reason, censorship is very common among social groups, organized religions, corporations and governments. However, there are also numerous groups which oppose censorship.

Censorship can be explicit, as in laws passed to prevent information being published or propagated (as in Australia or China where certain Internet pages are not permitted entry), or it can take the form of intimidation by government or even by popular censure, where people are afraid to express or support certain opinions for fear of losing their lives, or their jobs, position in society, or in academia, their academic credibility. In this latter form it is sometimes called McCarthyism.

Censorship is regarded as a typical feature of dictatorships and other authoritarian political systems. Democratic nations usually have far less institutionalized censorship, and instead tout the importance of freedom of speech.

Some thinkers understand censorship to include other attempts to suppress points of view or ideas such as propaganda, media manipulation, spin, disinformation or 'free speech zones'. These methods, collectively, tend to work by disseminating misleading information, preventing other ideas from obtaining a receptive audience.

Others point out the suppression of access to the means of dissemination of ideas by governmental bodies such as the FCC in the United States of America, the CRTC in Canada, or by a newspaper that refuses to run commentary the publisher disagrees with, or a lecture hall that refuses to rent itself out to a particular speaker. Thinkers such as philosopher and novelist Ayn Rand consider this latter form of censorship to be an acceptable outcome of the defense of property rights. Contradictions of her position emerge from her disapproval of state backed monopoly license in the arena of radio and telecommunication broadcast and state funding of the arts.

Data havens and decentralized peer-to-peer file sharing systems such as Freenet can be used to prevent censorship.

Wartime censorship is carried out with the intention of preventing the release of information that might be advantageous to the enemy. Typically it involves obfuscation of times or locations, or delaying the release of information (e.g. the objective of an operation) until it is of no possible use to enemy forces. Mention of weapons and equipment (especially if newly introduced) is another favourite area for censorship. The moral issues here are somewhat different as release of the information carries a high risk of increased casualties among one's own forces and possibly loss of the overall conflict.


Analysis of censorship in action

Lists of banned works


  • Abbott, Randy. "A Critical Analysis of the Library-Related Literature Concerning Censorship in Public Libraries and Public School Libraries in the United States During the 1980s." Project for degree of Education Specialist, University of South Florida, December 1987. [ED 308 864]
  • Burress, Lee. "Battle of the Books." Metuchen, NJ: The Scarecrow Press, 1989. [ED 308 508]
  • O'Reilly, Robert C. and Larry Parker. "Censorship_or Curriculum Modification?" Paper presented at a School Boards Association, 1982, 14 p. [ED 226 432]
  • Hendrikson, Leslie. "Library Censorship: ERIC Digest No. 23." ERIC Clearinghouse for Social Studies/Social Science Education, Boulder, Colorado, November 1985. [ED 264 165]
  • Hoffman, Frank. "Intellectual Freedom and Censorship." Metuchen, NJ: The Scarecrow Press, 1989. [ED 307 652]
  • Marek, Kate. "Schoolbook Censorship USA." June 1987. [ED 300 018]
  • National Coalition against Censorship (NCAC). "Books on Trial: A Survey of Recent Cases." January 1985. [ED 258 597]
  • Small, Robert C., Jr. "Preparing the New English Teacher to Deal with Censorship, or Will I Have to Face it Alone?" Annual Meeting of the National Council of Teachers of English, 1987, 16 p. (arguing that the English teacher should get advice from school librarians in preparing to encounter three levels of censorship: 1) rejection of adolescent fiction and popular teen magazines as having low value, 2) experienced colleagues discouraging "difficult" lesson plans, and 3) outside interest groups limiting students' exposure). [ED 289 172]
  • Terry, John David II. "Censorship: Post Pico." In "School Law Update, 1986," edited by Thomas N. Jones and Darel P. Semler. [ED 272 994]

See also

External links

de:Zensur es:Censura fr:Censure he:צנזורה ja:検閲 nl:Censuur sv:Censur pl:Cenzura

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