Censorship is the act of suppressing speech, public communication or other information, which may be done on the grounds that such material is deemed objectionable, harmful, insensitive or "inconvenient" and can be conducted by governments, private institutions and other controlling bodies. Censorship can be carried out by governments and private organizations. Other groups or institutions may propose and request for censorship. When an author or other creator censors his or her own works or speech, it is known as self-censorship.


The word "censorship" comes from "censor", a magistrate in the Ancient Rome whose tasks were the maintenance of the census, the supervision of public morality and the overseeing of certain aspects of the government finances. A censor had absolute power and only another censor succeeding him could cancel his decisions.

Categories of censorship[]

General censorship occurs in a variety of different media, including speech, books, music, films, and other arts, the press, radio, television, and the Internet for a variety of claimed reasons including national security, to control obscenity, pornography, and hate speech, to protect children or other vulnerable groups, to promote or restrict political or religious views, and to prevent slander and libel.

Direct censorship may or may not be legal, depending on the type, location, and content. Many countries provide strong protections against censorship by law, but none of these protections are absolute and frequently a claim of necessity to balance conflicting rights is made, in order to determine what could and could not be censored. There are no laws against self-censorship.

Censorship can be broken down into categories according to different criteria:

  • Subject matters and themes to censor
  • Types of medium where censorship is applied
  • Technologies used to censor
  • Modes of censorship (for instance: preventive censorship, censorship through disruption and/or communication sufficiently invasive)
  • Types of power relationships through which censorship is commited (brute power, threats, blackmail, corruption, etc.)
  • Grade of evidence of censorship (for instance: white spaces, "beeps" on the audio, warnings during Internet navigation, etc.)
  • Grade of perfection in hiding the traces of hidden censorship.
  • Types of organizations carrying out censorship (Organizations which depend on the State [even indirectly through financing], criminal associations, hybrid forms between these),
  • Grade of legitimation of the censoring act.


Proponents of censorhip sought to justify it by using different rationales for various types of information censored:

  • Moral censorship is the removal of materials that are obscene or otherwise deemed morally questionable. Pornography, for instance, is often censored under this rationale, especially child pornography, which is illegal and censored in most jurisdictions in the world.
  • Military censorship is the process of keeping military intelligence and away from the enemy to counter espionage.
  • Political censorship occurs when governments hold back information from their citizens, often done to exert control over the populace and prevent free expression that might incite rebellion.
  • Religious censorship is the means through which any material considered objectionable by a certain religion is removed, often involving a dominant religion forcing limitations on the less prevalent ones. Conversely, one religion may shun the works of another when they deem the content not apporpriate for their religion.
  • Corporate censorship is the proccess through which editors in corporate media intervene to disrupt the publishing of information that portrays their business or business partners negatively, or intervene to prevent alternate offers from reaching public exposure.

Repressive censorship[]

Repressive censorship hits subsequently to the diffusion of the "text", be it print, a television programme, a film, etc. This happen through its seizing.

Preventive censorship[]

Preventive censorship occurs before the disclosure of the object, through a check from the authorities appointed to do so, therefore, the disclosure of the uncensored text is never present.

Military censorship[]

Military censorship prevents a single soldier to express opinions and disclose information that could put in bad light the military institution or compromise its security.

Political censorship[]

In authoritarian regimes, political censorship prevents individuals, associations, parties and mass media to disclose information and express opinions opposed to the ones of the executive power. Said censorship is carried out through the prohibition of dealing with some topics or through the preventive control of the contents disclosed by the mass media.

"Soft" censorship[]

A 2015 report from the World Association of Newspapers and of the Center of International Media Assistence, described the situation of censorship in Serbia, defining and describing a new form of censorship, named "soft censorship". The expression, first used in 2005 in an Open Society Justice Initiative report, refers to a series of practices and schemes aimed to influence media without resorting to legal interdiction, direct censorship and direct economical threats. This kind of pressions includes the discriminatory and selective allocation of the public funds, the power abuse and opaque and discretional inspections.

Religious censorship[]

Religious censorship is present in several regions in the past and currently. In a Christian context, an example can be Adversus Christianos (Against the Christians) by Porphyry as the first victim of the Christian censorship; three different Christian emperors, as a matter of fact, sentenced the text to be destroyed and of it only a few brief excerpts are still surviving. A famous example of individual censorship was the gag applied to the heretic Giordano Bruno before his execution (ordered by the Pontifical State) by burning, to prevent him from speaking before death.

The most historical example of religious censorship, specifically Catholic, is the Index of Forbidden Books (Index Librorum Prohibitorum), redacted after the Council of Trento and abolished in 1966. In the list of prohibited books can be found astrological treaties, mysoginist texts and against marriage and, in the 20th century, National-Socialist ("The Myth of the 20th century" of Alfred Rosenberg") and "Fascist" texts (the opera omnia of Gabriele D'Annunzio introduced by Mussolini, "The Balilla Catechism", and the first racist text written by an Italian, "Il razzismo" by Giulio Cogni of 1937), The Holy Office covered in secret even some of its communications, sanctioning these to a penalty of excomungation, as noted by Leonardo Sciascia, quoting the various clauses in the mail with the bishop Angelo FIcarra.

Moral and aesthetic censorship[]

Moral censorship has the goal of preventing messages deemed morally incorrect, offensive, vulgar or otherwise inconvenient could reach the public or make it indiscriminately. An example is the censorship applied to pornography and explicit depictions of violence, which usually limits its accessibility by minors. PMRC. was an association charged of this in the musical field, mostly in the 1980s, intervening in the check of records deemed obscene.


Censorship is often used to impose moral values on society, as in the censorship of material considered obscene. E. M. Forster was staunchly opposed to censorship of material on the grounds of obscenity or immorality, raising the issue of moral subjectivity and the constant changing of moral values. When the 1928 novel Lady Chatterley's Lover was put in trial in 1960, he wrote:

"Lady Chatterley's Lover is a literary work of importance... I do not think that it could be held obscene, but am in a difficulty here, for the reason that I have never been able to follow the legal definition of obscenity. The law tells me that obscenity may deprave and corrupt, but as far as I know, it offers no definition of depravity or corruption."

Censorship has been subject of criticism throughout history for being unfair and for hindering progress. Social commentator Michael Landler in a 1997 essay on Internet censorship claims that censorship is counterproductive as it prevents discussion of the censored topic and that those who impose censorship must consider what they cenors to be true, as individals believing themselves to be correct would welcome the opportunity to disprove those with opposing views

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