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Has free speech simply become a myth?

(“When Censorship is Crowdsourced.”)

THE ORIGIN OF THE PROBLEM:

Censorship first peaked in World War One when President Woodrow Wilson established a Censorship Committee using the Committee on Public Information as a building block. As a beginning the Trading With the Enemy Act and the Espionage Act Congress made it legal for all mail, cablegrams, and phone calls to be monitored (Price). As the United States grew its economy, censorship appeared in schools all around the country. Books and plays mentioning and “alternative lifestyles” like being part of the LGBTQ+ community were banned from classrooms (Mitchell). 

In order to censor on such a large scale, United States citizens were recruited to take intensive training courses to specialize in specific fields. Most people learned another language, while a select few mastered the arts of business and finance related topic in order to ensure that no sensitive information was leaked. In offices all over the country, mail was searched through and destroyed, calls were intercepted and blocked, and secret messages were decoded (Price). The censors took pride in their work, not realizing the unconstitutionality of what they were doing.

As time went on, people began to fight for the rights that they deserved. Theodore Cossman, a political activist, wrote a speech arguing against the removal of a movie shown in 1918 depicting infidelity at a public theater (Mock). The local government quickly shut him down, due to the fact that material depicting nudity was illegal. Hope emerged from the 1966 Memoirs v. Massachusetts case. There, it was decided that obscene material would be legal as long as it is not without social value (Burger). 

See the rest of my historical context essay here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/12LtdxXojCDt0Wnx_J046FTXDJggib6UlTer0VDbmsBI/edit

Read the full story on how I got interested here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/19GYBrvOAnyl9HTaS7EXMfglYJFfvZYk1FKlOw54Fel4/edit

WHAT IS GOING ON NOW?

Beginning in 1995 censorship began to target The Internet and social media.  With the ever growing use of cellphones and other electronic devices, the Internet has become a place riddled with fake news and misleading information. Most often, these things are a result of not knowing the full truth, or worse, not being allowed to know the full truth because of rules and regulations put in place by the government. Sadly, the authorities have started to force themselves into social media platforms and our daily lives in order to control what we see. Even inside of school communities, a place that should encourage learning and Growth,  administrators keep careful watch over what students do.

(Rankinh)

Evidently, censorship manifests itself in beneficial ways sometimes, but more often then not it removes topics than only a small minority of people would find offensive. Topics like homosexuality, abortion, religion, and politics should not be censored. In fact, censoring them is a violation of the first amendment, and leaves citizens with a lack of free speech and freedom of expression. 

Read my full current problem essay here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/194eZNtShrc-LLDlB8DemM5W1SsyAes_pOSi5rtohRPo/edit

 

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP?

The general public can take steps to help the United States toward a state of free speech and complete freedom of expression. Even engaging in something as simple as a see something say something mindset if you see suspicious activity on social media platforms can help reduce false information. This can go as far as reporting suspicious or fake looking accounts with the goal of targeting people based on beliefs they do not agree with. Another action that you could take is donating to organizations fighting censorship like the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC. With the combined efforts of the general public’s donations and the tireless effort of the court system working to get justice for the silenced, we can stop censorship forever. Click on the image below to see more about the NCAC). 

WORKS CITED:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/18VQ0YpZzDgZvMLwRZs8DVKY7jJ5KpSh2cpKR853GiSI/edit

 

Please feel free to use the comment section below to start a discussion, ask questions, or leave feedback! I’m interested to hear what you think about the heavily censored topics from the infographic above.

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COMMENTS: 22
  1. April 23, 2020 by Margaret Rosenbaum

    I really enjoyed reading about this. I had known about censorship, but I didn’t realize it was such a big problem in America.

    • April 23, 2020 by Sophie

      Thank you!

  2. April 23, 2020 by Alessandra

    Hi Sophie! I loved your project and I think you bring up a really interesting topic. It got me thinking about a couple of things. Firstly, how so many things in this day and age are censored because they are precautions in order to not hurt certain groups of people. Many people call that simply tolerating another person’s identity, race, sex, etc, which is so important, but it infringes on a person’s right to free speech. However, there is a fine line when it comes to hate speech and free speech which would be super interesting to look into. Overall, an amazing project!!

    • April 23, 2020 by Sophie

      Yes! Going into my research I had no idea what the extent of the problem was. Thanks for checking it out!

  3. April 23, 2020 by Ona

    I had no idea about the extent of censorship. I think it’s really interesting to think about what should and shouldn’t be censored because a lot of things will offend people if they are published and offend people if they aren’t published. Great job!

    • April 23, 2020 by Sophie

      Thank you!

  4. April 24, 2020 by Ozzy

    I think censorship is such a tricky topic! Obviously, as little as possible should be censored, but there are definitely something things that should be. Speaking at my local city council, I’ve seen and heard neo-Nazis exercise their first amendment rights and it was not fun for anyone in the room. But, there’s nothing myself or the city council could do. I wonder where you think the line between hate speech and free speech lies? Similarly with fake news online, how do you think we should deal with fake news? Who determines what’s “fake” and what is “real”? I can see a slippery slope forming really quickly in both situations!

    • April 24, 2020 by Sophie

      Hi Ozzy, I completely agree with you and I think that there definitely is a fine line between hate speech and free speech, but I think that the line has to be drawn somewhere. I believe that if words target or harm someone or a group of people intentionally then I think censorship should come in to play. To answer your second question, I think that sources that have been deemed unreliable should be flagged with some type of warning saying something like “this source contains information that has not been fact checked” or something similar. I could also see that going downhill very fast. Thanks for checking out my work!

  5. April 24, 2020 by Grace

    Censorship is incredibly controversial in many places. It is also very tricky to define because of the different types of censorship. What should be shown to kids vs adults? Like you wouldn’t want a child watching very horrific scenes on tv or reading a book all about violence. This kind of censorship I do see a positive in. However, as we grow up censorship becomes an issue because if a person is not used to seeing something or being around something there reactions to it are going to be very different than someone who has been more exposed. I think protecting children when they are babies is natural, but once they enter elementary school it might be time to start allowing them to gain knowledge and form there own opinions on the harsh reality of the world we live in.

    • April 24, 2020 by Sophie

      Hi Grace! yes! I totally agree with you and I think that the movie ratings (PG, PG-13, R, ect.) have been extremely helpful for parents to choose correct content for their kids. I also think, like you said, that it is very important to find a balance between sheltering your child and expanding their world view. Thanks for checking out my work!

  6. April 25, 2020 by Malena

    Hi Sophie, I loved reading your website! I was aware of censorship in other countries, but I never realized how big it was in America. I feel like censorship is a hard subject to do research on (since stuff is censored) and you did a really good job diving deep into the topic. I’m just wondering, how are the donations for the NCAC used?

    • April 25, 2020 by Sophie

      Hi Malena, thanks for checking out my work! The NCAC, a non-profit organization, uses its donations to support their staff members who work so hard to fight for free speech.

  7. April 26, 2020 by James

    I really enjoyed reading this post. I think there should be greater awareness of the censorship that historically has occurred and continues to occur in America. I also think that you brought up an interesting point about there being some censorship that is beneficial (pedophilia stuck out to me as one such topic). Do you have any thoughts on where the distinction between the to lies? Thanks!

    • April 27, 2020 by Sophie

      Hi James! I think that the line between helpful and harmful censorship should be drawn when the information being censored directly harms or attacks a group or a specific person (Race, gender, sexuality, ect.). Thanks for checking out my work!

  8. April 26, 2020 by Theo Kokonas

    Hey Sophie,
    What an excellent topic! Such a pressing issue, and really at the forefront of a lot of Americans’ minds nowadays. It really is a tricky topic to tackle, what with the positive benefits of censoring hate speech or pseudoscience/fake news, but many worry that that sets a dangerous precedent. Like you, the topic of banned books has always fascinated me, and while at some times it’s so ridiculous as to be funny (like Harry Potter being banned for glorifying witchcraft or “The Diary of Anne Frank” being banned for being too depressing), it is also very worrying how books and representations of homosexuality and religion can be restricted. I do like the solution that you put forth in your reply to Ozzy’s comment, where a disclaimer would be placed on those media, and that’s something that Youtube has started doing on videos that talk about controversial topics (i.e. climate change, anti-vax, etc.) where they’ll link to the Wikipedia page underneath which, while not entirely reliable, is at least something. All in all, a great presentation.

    • April 28, 2020 by Sophie

      Hi Theo! yes! I cant believe that harry potter is banned in a lot if schools in the UAE. Thanks for checking out my work!

  9. April 26, 2020 by Emma

    This is an incredible post and really important topic! I’ve struggled a lot with coming to terms with just how censored our society really is. Sometimes it feels like we’re making progress, but it’s always slow. I think censorship definitely needs to be talked about more because just bringing awareness to the subject can really help fight censorship itself. It’s also a tricky issue because like you said, censorship can sometimes be beneficial. For example, I wouldn’t want children to see the majority of what is on the internet these days, but it also begs the question of how protective we should be. How much should be censored, and at what point are we actually leaving children at a disadvantage by sheltering them from what the world really is? I’m interested to hear your thoughts on this!

    • April 28, 2020 by Sophie

      Hi Emma! I think that it should mainly be up to parents to decide what kids should be able to see, but working with age restrictions should definitely be at least loosely followed. There is definitely things on the internet that kids shouldn’t be able to see. Thanks for checking out my work!

  10. April 27, 2020 by Stephanie

    Hi Sophie. I really enjoyed your topic on censorship, as it is a basic human right that many are not able to freely practice. I think a lot of the right of free speech is embedded within our values as what is ok to say and what is not ok to say, yet, having a government looking over what we say feels inherently wrong. For the most part, I think there should be a vaster amount of guidelines when it comes to censorship. Similar to Youtube’s Kids Channel, parents would greatly benefit from knowing that a platform has already been reviewed as appropriate. I think that larger platforms such as Instagram or Twitter are doing well in blocking comments that are directly attacking certain groups of people. Thank you for sharing!

      • April 28, 2020 by Sophie

        Hi Stephanie so sorry that video was an accident! Yes I totally agree with you! YouTube kids channel is an awesome research for families. Ive babysat some kids who love to watch videos and everything on that channel has seemed appropriate. Thanks!

  11. April 28, 2020 by Sophie

    Hi Stephanie, yes I totally agree with you! YouTube kids channel is an awesome research for families. Ive babysat some kids who love to watch videos and everything on that channel has seemed appropriate. Thanks!

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