History of Censorship
- One of the earliest examples of censorship occurred in 399 B.C. when Socrates was executed in Ancient Greece for "corrupting the youth of Athens with his controversial teaching methods and drawing them away from the Greek religion" (Baez 2008).
- In 213 B.C. the emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, ordered the burning of all books, except for the ones that covered agriculture, medicine, or prophecy in order to protect his newly reunited empire from "dangers" of literature (Baez 2008)
- Modern Day example: Blocked in China Twitter Page
- The invention of the printing press in the mid-15th century increased dissemination of information and text but also led to more restrictions and censorship
- In response to the Reformation, the Catholic Church issued the Index Liborum Prohibitorium in 1559, which was a list of banned books. This list was issued 20 times until 1966 (Polastron 2007)
- In 1873 the Comstock Law was passed, which banned any distribution of material concerning contraception or abortion through the mail. This also included any indecent material, such as porn (PBS)
- Throughout the 19th century, hundreds of books were challenged or banned from U.S. public libraries, such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain in 1885. It was criticized for course language and then later for perpetuating racial stereotypes (Garry 1993)
- During WWI, the Espionage Act was passed in 1917, which made it a crime to "utter, print, write, or publish any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the form of government of the United States, or the military or naval forces of the United States, or the flag."
So... Censorship isn't a new phenomenon caused by the invention of the internet!! However, whether or not the internet is being censored too harshly in the educational, political, or pornographic world is another question. What do YOU think?!
Baez, Fernando. 2008. A Universal History of the Destruction of Books. New York, NY: Atlas & Co.
Garry, Patrick M. 1993. An American Paradox: Censorship in a Nation of Free Speech. Westport, CT: Praeger.
"People & Events: Anthony Comstock's "Chastity" Laws." PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 09 Dec. 2012. <http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/pill/peopleevents/e_comstock.html>.
Polastron, Lucien X. 2007. Books on Fire: The Destruction of Libraries throughout History. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions.