Although you may not realize it, media censorship takes place in many forms in the way you get your news. While news stories are often edited for length, there are many subjective choices that are made which are designed to keep some information from becoming public. Sometimes these decisions are made to safeguard a person's privacy, others to protect media outlets from corporate or political fallout, and yet others for concerns of national security.
This is probably the least controversial form of media censorship. For instance, when a minor (someone under age 18) commits a crime, his or her identity is concealed to protect them from future harm -- so he or she isn't turned down from getting a college education or a job. That changes if a minor is charged as an adult, like in the case of violent crime.
Most media outlets also conceal the identity of rape victims, so those people don't have to endure public humiliation. That was not the case for a brief period at NBC News when it decided in 1991 to identify the womanaccusing William Kennedy Smith (part of the powerful Kennedy clan) of raping her. NBC later reverted to the common practice of secrecy.
Journalists also protect their anonymous sources from having their identity exposed for fear of retaliation. This is especially important when informants are highly placed individuals in governments or corporations that have direct access to important information.
Every day, someone commits a heinous act of violence or sexual depravity. In newsrooms across the country, editors have to decide whether saying a victim "was assaulted" suffices in describing what happened.
In most instances, it does not. So a choice has to be made on how to describe the details of a crime in a way that helps the audience understand its atrocity without offending readers or viewers, especially children.
It's a fine line. In the case of Jeffrey Dahmer, the way he killed more than a dozen people were considered so sick that the graphic details were part of the story.
That was also true when news editors were faced with the sexual details of Pres. Bill Clinton's relationship with Monica Lewinsky and the accusations of sexual harassment Anita Hill made about then-U.S. Supreme Court justice nominee Clarence Thomas. Words that no editor had ever thought of printing or a newscaster had ever considered uttering were necessary to explain the story.
Those are the exceptions. In most cases, editors will cross out information of an extremely violent or sexual nature, not to sanitize the news, but to keep it from offending the audience.
The U.S. military, intelligence, and diplomatic operations function with a certain amount of secrecy. That confidentiality is regularly challenged by whistle-blowers, anti-government groups or others who want to remove the lid on various aspects of U.S. government.
In 1971, The New York Times published what's commonly called the Pentagon Papers, secret Defense Department documents detailing the problems of American involvement in the Vietnam War in ways the media had never reported. The Nixon administration went to court in a failed attempt to keep the leaked documents from being published.
Decades later, WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange are under fire for posting more than a quarter million secret U.S. documents, many involving national security. When The New York Times published these U.S. State Department papers, the U.S. Air Force responded by blocking the newspaper's website from its computers.
These examples show that media owners face a difficult relationship with the government. When they approve stories containing potentially embarrassing information, government officials often try to censor it.
Media companies are supposed to serve the public interest. Sometimes that's at odds with the conglomerate owners who control traditional media voices.
Such was the case when The New York Times reported that executives from MSNBC owner General Electric and Fox News Channel owner News Corporation decided it wasn't in their corporate interests to allow on-air hosts Keith Olbermann and Bill O'Reilly to trade on-air attacks. While the jabs seemed mostly personal, there was news that came out of them.
The Times reported that O'Reilly uncovered that General Electric was doing business in Iran. Although legal, G.E. later said it had stopped. A cease-fire between the hosts probably wouldn't have produced that information, which is newsworthy despite the apparent motivation for getting it.
Cable TV giant Comcast faces a unique charge of censorship. Shortly after the Federal Communications Commission approved its takeover of NBC Universal, it hired FCC commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker who had voted for the merger.
While some denounced the move as a conflict of interest, a single tweet is what unleashed Comcast's wrath. A worker at a summer film camp for teenage girls questioned the hiring through Twitter. Comcast responded by yanking $18,000 in funding for the camp.
The company later apologized and offered to restore its contribution. Camp officials say they want to be able to speak freely without being hushed by corporations.
Critics often lambast media for having a political bias. While viewpoints on the editorial pages are clear to see, the link between politics and censorship is harder to spot.
The ABC news program Nightline once devoted its broadcast to reading the names of more than 700 U.S. servicemen and women killed in Iraq. What appeared to be a solemn tribute to military sacrifice was interpreted as a politically-motivated, anti-war stunt by Sinclair Broadcast Group, which didn't allow the program to be seen on the seven ABC stations it owned.
Sinclair is the same company that a media watchdog group says called more than 100 members of Congress "censorship advocates" for raising concerns to the FCC about Sinclair's plans to air the film, Stolen Honor. That production was blasted for being propaganda against then-presidential candidate John Kerry.
Sinclair responded by saying it wanted to air the documentary after the major networks refused to show it. In the end, bowing to pressure on several fronts, the company aired a revised version that only included parts of the film.
Communist countries that once stopped the free flow of information may have largely disappeared, but even in America, censorship issues keep some news from reaching you. With the explosion of citizen journalism and internet platforms, the truth will now have an easier way of getting out.
- Critics Say China Has Suppressed And Censored Information In Coronavirus Outbreak - NPR - February 14th, 2020
- Transgender users have accused TikTok of censorship - here's why - Derry Journal - February 14th, 2020
- Rand Paul Blasts YouTube over Censorship of Speech on Senate Floor - Breitbart - February 14th, 2020
- Newspapers fear new social media rules will lead to wider censorship - The Guardian - February 14th, 2020
- Anti-BDS laws are meant to censor & control speech, journalist Abby Martin tells RT after suing Georgia govt over cancelled talk - RT - February 14th, 2020
- Be more tolerant, Anwar tells Malaysians over art censorship - Malay Mail - February 14th, 2020
- China's censors tried to control the narrative on a hero doctor's death. It backfired terribly - CNN - February 12th, 2020
- China Ramps Up Censorship On Coronavirus As Critics Risk Criminal Charges - Forbes - February 12th, 2020
- Heres How China Is Silencing Coronavirus Critics in the U.S. - VICE - February 12th, 2020
- Here are the 9 titles Netflix purged due to government censorship - The Next Web - February 12th, 2020
- Parler: Twitter Suspending James OKeefe Is Political Censorship and Election Interference - Breitbart - February 12th, 2020
- Censorship, lies and death: China's government under fire - TheArticle - February 12th, 2020
- A glimmer of hope: Mallika Sarabhai on the cancelled NID event, CAA protests, censorship and more - Scroll.in - February 12th, 2020
- Penny Thoughts: Editing and Censorship | - West Alabama Watchman - January 30th, 2020
- The many ways to censor cutting-edge art in Russia - The Economist - January 30th, 2020
- How does a government censor the Internet? A rare peek from Jammu and Kashmir - Security Boulevard - January 30th, 2020
- Pompeo And Trump: Censure Of The Press As A Form Of Retaliation - Forbes - January 30th, 2020
- Circus of censorship - The News on Sunday - January 30th, 2020
- Study: North Korea, China, and Russia top internet censorship charts - The Next Web - January 22nd, 2020
- Cries of censorship in Sudan as media outlets linked to old regime closed - Middle East Eye - January 22nd, 2020
- Aichi Triennale Exhibition Will Be Restaged in Taiwan Following Censorship Controversy - Artforum - January 22nd, 2020
- Censorship On and By Social Media Platforms - Legal Reader - January 22nd, 2020
- Internet Censorship In Africa Is A Trend In Africa - What To Expect In 2020 - WeeTracker Media - January 22nd, 2020
- The spy who fell off my family tree and nearly got away - The Jewish News of Northern California - January 22nd, 2020
- Some people in China help the party police the internet - The Economist - January 22nd, 2020
- Nepal: Information Technology Bill threatens freedom of expression - Amnesty International - January 22nd, 2020
- Web needs an element of censorship as some of it is bordering on pornography: Niki Walia - IWMBuzz - January 22nd, 2020
- Facebook and Google Balance Booming Business with Censorship Pressure in Vietnam - The Information - December 13th, 2019
- Orban targets theaters, prompting protest against censorship - The Boston Globe - December 13th, 2019
- Self-censorship is the enemy of creativity - Spiked - December 13th, 2019
- Ben Shapiro, conservatives blast YouTube policy on harassment: 'Insanely vague' - Fox News - December 13th, 2019
- Anti-war artworks removed in censorship row - The Age - December 13th, 2019
- Women Are Pretending To Be Men On Instagram To Avoid Sexist Censorship - HuffPost - November 24th, 2019
- When a comedian is pro-censorship, I start finding them funny - The Spectator USA - November 24th, 2019
- Cancelation of 'The Foreigner' at WC leads to claims of censorship - The Star Democrat - November 24th, 2019
- Democrats are not "censoring" Donald Trump his increasingly desperate staff is doing that - Salon - November 24th, 2019
- The right to know: How does censorship affect academics? - Big Think - November 19th, 2019
- Even with the best intentions, censoring books is dangerous - The Aggie - November 19th, 2019
- Will the U.S. Follow East Germany on Self-Censorship? - National Review - November 19th, 2019
- Tougher Than Leather: The Tom of Finland Foundation's Fight Against Censorship Continues Into the Social Media Age - L.A. Weekly - November 19th, 2019
- Sara Lee Responds to SNL's Sexually Charged Sketch, Reverses Instagram Censorship: 'We Are Taking It in Stride' - Yahoo Entertainment - November 19th, 2019
- MENstruation: A full analysis of censorship on television networks - The Gateway - November 19th, 2019
- Inside the "Reckless" World of In-Flight Movie Censoring - InsideHook - November 19th, 2019
- Disney Plus Censors Gravity Falls, The Simpsons - Pirates and Princesses - November 19th, 2019
- Russian internet censorship could come the U.S. - Inverse - November 13th, 2019
- Campus censorship: a tyranny of the minority - Spiked - November 13th, 2019
- TOTO: Disney, Netflix Wave White Flag On International Censorship - The Daily Wire - November 13th, 2019
- Delhi HC's order for social media censorship is an end to the internet as we know it - The News Minute - November 13th, 2019
- Censorship and online threats against the press spell trouble for the future of Pakistani journalism - Global Voices - October 1st, 2019
- No trivial censorship at Hayner: Librarians bust out the banned books - Alton Telegraph - October 1st, 2019
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- Censorship and Contemporary Banned Books - Pinnacle - October 1st, 2019
- YouTube reverses the not-so-subtle censorship of Steven Crowder and others - Reclaim The Net - October 1st, 2019
- Joe Biden wants to censor Rudy Giuliani - Whats on Politics - Politics - October 1st, 2019
- Censorship leaves us in the dark: Keep the light on! - Del Rio News Herald - October 1st, 2019
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- On Censorship - The Catholic Thing - April 26th, 2019
- Censorship - Definition, Examples, Cases - Legal Dictionary - April 26th, 2019
- Censorship | Encyclopedia.com - April 26th, 2019
- China Is Trying to Scrub Bikinis and Smoking From the Internet - April 11th, 2019
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- Censorship Synonyms, Censorship Antonyms | Thesaurus.com - September 12th, 2018
- Godless Comedy YouTube Censorship - Godless Comedy - August 20th, 2018
- Sen. Chris Murphy calls for more Silicon Valley censorship ... - August 13th, 2018
- Censorship of Facebook - Wikipedia - August 2nd, 2018
- Project Censored - The News that Didn't Make the News and Why - June 22nd, 2018
- Project Censored The News that Didn't Make the News and Why - March 17th, 2018
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- FACT - Freedom Against Censorship Thailand ... - February 24th, 2018
- GELLER: Social Media Censorship Panel at CPAC James Damore ... - February 23rd, 2018
- Censorship in Turkey - Wikipedia - February 6th, 2018
- Censorship by country - Wikipedia - February 1st, 2018
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