As a historian, I studied instances of censorship enacted by totalitarian governments such as fascist Italy and the military-dominated government of Imperial Japan. Governments control the media and oversee what sort of information gets to the public, often filtering what their population learns about the outside world and about the government itself.
In this era of social media, we live in a world where information is at our fingertips. The internet is becoming essential in everyday life; it’s brought the whole world together in a way never before possible.
The internet is becoming as important as electricity or other utilities. But with all of this free-flowing information, there is still the danger of having that information censored, not only by governments but by the very services which bring us this information.
Access to unbiased facts and the right to free speech must be preserved on the internet because when we exclude people, we create an environment which breeds extremism. Extremism thrives wherever people’s voices are being suppressed, and where people are being singled out and excluded in the group collectiveness.
Social media has become a forum for hot debates and the rise of the so-called ‘keyboard warriors’ who take it upon themselves to police the internet.
Democracy is built on the belief that the common people should have a say in those who lead them. In Ancient Greece and Rome, all citizens could be allowed to voice their opinions and in fact, were obligated to do so. But even in those ancient times, certain people’s right to expression was often suppressed, and it’s that suppression that leads to revolts, revolutions, and upheaval. Human beings are social, and when you exclude certain groups, you create an environment for hostility and resentment, which in turn leads to a rise in violence.
On social media, it’s becoming common practice to ban or eliminate those whose ideas might be considered hate speech. No one likes to hear hate speech, but by suppressing the right to say it, you force people to seek an audience with those who will listen to them- people who agree with them. And here, they find a voice for their hatred while they are relegated to the outskirts of society, and this is where resentment, intolerance, and extremist views will gain a foothold. So by banning hate speech, you essentially create the perfect environment for the rise of extremism and more hatred.
I may be teetering on the edge of some controversial thoughts here, but I believe in my own right to free speech as well. I’m no activist, I’m no social justice warrior, but I am someone who feels strongly in speaking up when I see problems in society. And the biggest problems I see in society today is the divide that is continually forcing us apart. The “them and us” mentality is what keeps progress from happening. There should be no “us and them” there should only be “all of us” we are all human beings in the end.
We, as human beings, have an inherent right to be heard. And yes, that even means people who might be people who have a different opinion than you. This is how you learn acceptance, and this is how they learn acceptance too. If the racist guy in your group offends you, you are within your rights to be offended, as long as he isn’t crossing that line of trying to hurt others, he still has free speech. We all have the right to ignore him and not be his friend, but he still has the right to say his piece without censorship. Because if he is suppressed, he will seek company in the only people who will accept him- more racists. And there, he’s voiced his resentment, fueled by being suppressed and censored, and his frustration will grow, and that’s how you make more racists.
They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and you might think it’s right to have those racist, sexist, homophobes excluded from society but that won’t make them go away. It will just make them angrier.
I’m not saying that someone should have to be forced to be attacked by these types of people, but instead of banning, the better option might be to ignore. As children, we learn that bullies are often just trying to get attention and this is true on the internet as well. When you engage them, you just give them more ammunition, and when you exclude them entirely from society, you relegate them to the outskirts where their resentment grows. But if you just do nothing, give them no attention at all, maybe they’d begin to reevaluate their own behavior.
This is why censorship has no place in this modern internet world. No one should be denied access to the free-flowing information, and no one’s words should be suppressed. Being heard and being able to assemble and peacefully voice our opinions is what will bring tolerance for the other side. We’d all learn to accept one another’s differences and learn what we have in common. This is how progress is truly made.