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Censorship is the suppression of statements or information for ideological reasons. Current examples of censorship include:

Political censorship involves a government preventing information from reaching its citizens. Perhaps the best-known contemporary example of this is China's censorship of the Google search engine, known as the “Golden Shield Project”, which prevents Google from displaying search results of some human rights websites, websites promoting Tibetan independence, references to the 1989 Tianamen Square protests, and others. A famous example in fiction is George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, in which the main character works as a civil servant in the department responsible for altering or destroying historical information which the government wishes to keep secret. The rationale behind political censorship is that the political party in power can protect itself from revolution if the public is kept uninformed.

The term censorship derives from censor, the title of the Roman official who conducted the census and supervised public morality.

The First Amendment and censorship in the U. S.

In the United States, the First Amendment states that “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” Broadly speaking, the First Amendment is designed to prevent the government from exercising censorship. However, the government sometimes censors political and religious speech anyway.

More specifically, the government should not exercise “prior restraint.” That is, a citizen should not need advance permission from the government in order to publish something, unless it threatens national security. This does not mean that publication may not have consequences: a citizen can be sued for publishing libel, or incarcerated for disclosing military secrets, but the consequences typically occur after publication, not before.

Censorship is sometimes applied to prohibit obscenity that goes against common standards of public morality; under US law the first amendment does not protect material considered legally obscene. The definition of obscenity has and continues to vary, with the current Supreme Court definition being the Miller test. In practical terms, this allows harmful material such as pornography to be criminalized without violating the First Amendment.

Censorship may also be directed at religious ideas, as in the Saudi Arabian prohibition on preaching Christianity, liberal restrictions on public expressions of religion, or the Roman Catholic Church's now-recinded Index Librorum Prohibitorum.

Certain language and images that may have been censored in the past are typically common fare in the American media today. On the other hand, while nudity, for example, may be acceptable on mainstream French television, that is much less likely to be accepted in American television and even less acceptable in conservative Muslim countries.


  • All censorships exist to prevent anyone from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorship. George Bernard Shaw<ref>“The Author's Apology, preface to “Mrs. Warren's Profession.”</ref>

See also


censorship.txt · Last modified: 2020/03/12 18:32 (external edit)