“Censorship is the child of fear and the father of ignorance.” – Laurie Halse Anderson
One of the first things we come to learn as children in this world is that life is dictated by rules. The concepts of “Yes” and “No,” “Right” and “Wrong” are engrained into our minds long before we start forming conscious memories. We learn these from the smiles or frowns of our parents and caretakers, the implicit positive and negative enforcement of a dessert after dinner or no TV before bed. Long before we gain the intellectual capacity to become free thinkers, we are already aware that cultural norms, rules, and social mores make the world go round.
These rules keep us safe. They guard us from threats of corruption, from the loss of innocence, from physical harm and even death. But, in their attempt to keep society and life as a whole organized and positive, rules inherently set limitations on how we can live and experience the world around us. And sometimes, these rules—especially outdates ones—can cause more harm than good.
Nowhere are rules perhaps more contested and confusing than on the internet: a vast, seemingly eternal database of just about anything you could imagine, from the thoughts of the planet’s greatest thinkers to the deeds of its most abhorrent criminals. Articles and media abound on virtually all topics, permitting anybody with connection to search and study whatever they please.
Naturally, this leads to concern for many people, from governments to parents, about what their citizens or children, respectively, are seeing online, leading organizations to find ways to censor content in order to protect would-be viewers, and conversely, those wishing to keep them from it.
The case of one Indonesian woman is now making headlines as she tries to defend her culture and identity against the restrictive rules of Facebook.