Writings about online censorship
This page considers writing about censorship of the internet.
Subsequent parts deal with freedom of speech, site labelling
and filtering tools, offline censorship as a model for
practice online, and official secrets.
It covers -
- texts about online censorship
- works on the economic impact of censorship
and evaluations - academic, government and mass media
reports about online censorship
As yet there are few outstanding studies of online
censorship; much of the best writing is embedded within
larger works about regulation of the global information
infrastructure or the nature of the digital economy.
lan Travis' Bound & Gagged (London: Profile
2000) and Donald Thomas's Freedom’s Frontier:
Censorship in Modern Britain (London: John Murray
2007) are accounts of public policy and agitation in the
United Kingdom. Marjorie Heins' Not In Front Of
The Children: 'Indecency', Censorship, and the Innocence
of Youth (New York: Hill & Wang 2001) is a more
substantial treatment from the US, arguably more perceptive
trhan Frederick Lane's The Decency Wars: The Campaign
to Cleans American Culture (Amherst: Prometheus 2006).
Pornography & Democratization: Legislating Obscenity
In Post-Communist Russia (Boulder: Westview 1998)
by Paul Goldschmidt and Offensive Literature: Decensorship
in Britain, 1960-1982 (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield
1983) by John Sutherland provide another perspective.
The bouncy Sex, Laws & Cyberspace: Freedom &
Censorship on the Frontiers of the Online Revolution
(New York: Owl/Holt 1997) by Jonathan Wallace & Mark
Mangan is a popular account of developments in the US.
It has a companion site.
There is a more academic discussion in Cyber Policy
and Economics in an Internet Age (Boston: Kluwer 2002)
edited by William Lehr & Lorenzo Pupillo.
Interpreting Censorship In Canada (Toronto: Uni
of Toronto Press 1999), edited by Klaus Petersen &
Allan Hutchinson, is a collection of papers on internet
censorship and the offline variety. Liberating
Cyberspace: Civil Liberties, Human Rights, & the Internet
(London: Pluto Press 1998) is a collection of short essays
edited by Jonathan Cooper.
From the technolibertarian left Howard Rheingold's communique
Why Censoring Cyberspace Is Dangerous & Futile
asserts there is
excuse to cripple the most valuable technology America
has going for it. Heavy handed attempts to impose restrictions
on the the unruly but incredibly creative anarchy of
the Net could kill the spirit of cooperative knowledge
sharing that makes the Net valuable for everyone
is in line with John Perry Barlow's deliciously silly
A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace
Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants
of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new
home of Mind.... I declare the global social space
we are building to be naturally independent of the tyrannies
you seek to impose on us. You have no moral right to
rule us nor do you possess any methods of enforcement
we have true reason to fear.
in the real world legal thinking is, predictably, mixed. Geoffrey
Mulgan's Connexity (Boston: Harvard Business School
Press 1998) and Communication & Control: Networks
& the New Economies of Communication (New York:
Guilford Press 1991) are more insightful about rights
and responsibilities in dealing with what Ithiel de Sola
Pool called the 'technologies of freedom'.
Yaman Akdeniz's 1997 paper
The Regulation of Pornography & Child Pornography
on the Internet in the Journal of Information,
Law & Technology is a starting point for considering
the EU regime described in the European Commission
Working Party report
on Illegal & Harmful Content on the Internet
and the associated green
paper on the Protection of Minors & Human Dignity
in Audiovisual & Information Services.
In the US the Stanford Law Review paper
on Law & Borders: The Rise of Law in Cyberspace
by David Johnson & David Post argues that efforts
to control the flow of electronic information across physical
borders are likely to prove futile.
Donald Stepka's paper
on Obscenity On-Line: a Transactional Approach to Computer
Transfers of Potentially Obscene Material disagrees:
existing law is adequate and its business as usual.
An Australian perspective is provided by new media lawyer
Philip Argy's paper,
by the Digital Technology Law Journal article
by Michael Blakeney & Fiona Macmillan and by The
Politics of Sex: Prostitution & Pornography in Australia
since 1945 (Cambridge: Cambridge Uni Press 1997) by
The economic impact of censorship is a neglected research
topic, surprisingly so given recent hype about the information
Apart from the obvious works such as Information Rules:
A Strategic Guide to the Network Economy (Boston:
Harvard Business School Press 1999) by Hal Varian &
Carl Shapiro and the OECD report
on The Economic & Social Impacts of Electronic
Commerce: Preliminary Findings & Research Agenda the
following publications are suggestive:
Nation Transformed By Information: How Information Has
Shaped the United States From Colonial Times To The
(New York: Oxford Uni Press) - a sparkling collection
of essays edited by leading business historians Alfred
Chandler & James Cortada
Blondheim's News Over The Wires: The Telegraph &
The Flow Of Public Information In America 1844-97
(Cambridge: Harvard Uni Press 1994)
In The Mail: The Press, Post Office & Public Information
(Westport: Greenwood Press 1989) by Richard Kielbowicz
Lean Back Everywhere: The Law of Obscenity & the
Assault on Genius (New York: Random 1992) Edward
de Grazia's engagingly written - and for the moment
definitive - study of literary censorship and its enemies
Censorship: The Knot That Binds Power & Knowledge
(New York: Oxford Uni Press 1991) by Sue Curry Jansen
Jones edited the four volume Censorship: A World Encyclopaedia
(Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn 2001), a superb resource. For
other studies of cultural impacts - or perceptions thereof
- turn to later parts of this guide.
anxieties and evaluations
Is the internet an open sewer from hell? In answering
that question we recommend Risk & the Internet:
Perception and Reality, Christopher Hunter & Eric
to the COPA Commission.
The Commission's final report
is also recommended.
Perspectives on political opportunism and media hysteria
about offensive content on the Web - particularly the
"great cyberporn panic of 1995" - are provided
in Cyber Rights: Defending Free Speech in the Digital
Age (New York: Times 1998), the memoir by the Electronic
Frontier Foundation's (EFF)
Mike Godwin, Fear: A Cultural History (London:
Virago 2005) by Joanna Bourke and in Moral Panic: Changing
Concepts of the Child Molestor in Modern America (New
Haven: Yale Uni Press 1998) by Philip Jenkins, author
of Intimate Enemies: Moral Panics in Contemporary Great
Britain (New York: De Gruyter 1992), Beyond Tolerance:
Child Pornography on the Internet (New York: New York
Uni Press 2001) and the spirited but for us unpersuasive
Pedophiles & Priests: Anatomy of a Contemporary
Crisis (Oxford: Oxford Uni Press 2001). A sobering
view of anxieties about satanism is provided in Satan's
Silence: Ritual Abuse and the Making of a Modern American
Witch Hunt (New York: BasicBooks 1995) by Debbie
Nathan & Michael Snedeker. For a moral
panic closer to home see Lynley Hood's sobering
A City Possessed: The Christchurch Civic Creche
Case (Dunedin: Longacre 2001).
You Say You Want A Revolution: A Story of Information
Age Politics (New Haven: Yale Uni Press 2000) by former
Federal Communications Commissioner Reed Hundt give some
sense of the view within the government bunkers.
Edward Cavazos & Gavino Morin's Cyberspace &
the Law (Cambridge: MIT Press 1995) predates
collapse of the CDA and COPA but provides a useful introduction
to the issues, along with information about state and
Writing by US communications Ithiel de Sola Pool has had
considerable impact, in particular the discussion in Politics
in Wired Nations (New Brunswick: Transaction
1998) and the prescient Technologies of Freedom: Of
Free Speech In An Electronic Age (Cambridge: Belknap
Eli Noam's essay
Principles for the Communications Act of 2034 is
a succinct analysis by Pool's protege.
The essays in Borders in Cyberspace: Information Policy
& the Global Information Infrastructure (Cambridge:
MIT Press 1997) edited by Brian Kahin & Charles Nesson,
and High Noon On The Electronic Frontier: Conceptual
Issues In Cyberspace (Cambridge: MIT Press 1996 and
edited by Peter Ludlow are also of significance.
For those interested in tracking abuses we recommend the
edition of the Index on Censorship.
Laura Kipnis' Bound & Gagged: Pornography &
the Politics of Fantasy in America (New York: Grove
1996) provides a revisionist view of the porn industry,
at odds with Frederick Lane's
Obscene Profits: The Entrepreneurs of Pornography in
the Cyber Age (London: Routledge 2000). The economics
of pornography are discussed here.
(freedom of speech online)