The ongoing debate over media censorship is an important one in today's changing media climate. With many media outlets heading toward more convergent formats, media outlets and the authorities who govern them are constantly forced to evaluate and re-evaluate what makes the cut for broadcast or publication. Censorship affects everyone's lives in ways both harmful and beneficial.
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According to Merriam-Webster.com, to censor can be defined as "to examine in order to suppress or delete anything considered objectionable."
Censorship has existed since people first organised into societies. It can be used as a method of governance and control, but can also be used as a form of civil protection, such as protecting young children from graphic or sexual images.
Historic examples of censorship include the execution of Socrates in ancient Greece and the Index Librorum Prohibitorum (banned books) created by the Catholic Church in the 1600s. Both were authoritative attempts to suppress opposing religious, philosophical and scientific ideas.
Today, censorship is generally discussed in the context of mass media. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) enforces regulations on what can and can't be shown in U.S. broadcast media such as radio and television. As of yet, attempts to censor and regulate internet content have been largely unsuccesful. Still, a person may be prosecuted for posting illegal internet content.
The benefits of media censorship include the protection of young children and the filtration of obscene content. Media censorship also helps prevent hate groups and other similar organisations aiming to spread hate speech or related propaganda.
Not everyone has the same idea of what images and ideas are appropriate for dissemination. Governments and media conglomerates can use censorship to distort facts or hide truths from ordinary citizens. In some countries, dictators use censorship to further their own agendas while squashing those of the opposition.
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