Research Matters

Research Matters

Internet Censorship

Barney Warf, professor of geography, has published a definitive study of the geography of Internet censorship.

Episode #84

2 minutes (2.8 MB) | Download mp3


A Researcher maps the extent of Internet censorship worldwide. From the University of Kansas, this is Research Matters. I'm Brendan Lynch.

Around the globe, governments block web sites, monitor chat rooms, harass users of cyber cafes and otherwise limit freedom online. Now, Barney Warf, professor of geography at KU, has published a definitive study of the geography of Internet censorship. His findings appeared in a recent issue of GeoJournal.

Warf: The degree of censorship is closely related to the degree of globalization of different countries. Typically countries that have lots of intersection with the world economy have less censorship than countries that are hermetically sealed off from the world economy.

According to Warf, the real reasons behind Internet censorship are often different than the ones offered up by governments.

"The ostensible reasons for internet censorship typically include things like protecting public morality from things like pornography or Internet gambling. In Muslim countries, it's protecting the public from anti-Muslim sentiment – in Saudi Arabia, it's illegal to defame the House of Saud, for example. But the real reasons have little to do with that. It's typically a government's attempt to repress freedom of speech. Many governments are terrified of the alternative voices that the Internet offers."

Warf said that some nations that once censored Internet access now have relaxed restrictions because of international trade and communication. He cited examples such as Singapore, South Korea and Bahrain.

"The great exception to that pattern is China, which is rapidly globalizing by trying to censor the Internet simultaneously. My guess is that the Chinese can't have it both ways – eventually they're going to have to relent on this issue."

For the University of Kansas, I'm Brendan Lynch.

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Researcher maps extent of Internet censorship worldwide


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