As a web content categorization company, we are intensely focused on the trends in the types of content being published on the web, how this content is accessed, used and shared, who is publishing the content, and hundreds of other details that goes into our efforts to provide the market’s best web categorization services.
Please Categorize (Web Content) Responsibly
We are passionate about the accuracy of our classifications—whether the content is motorcycles, a travel blog, porn, or one of nearly 500 other categories—our focus is on getting the content correctly categorized. We don’t make editorial decisions about the content. We don’t do any type of blocking of filtering of content—those are decisions made by our partners and their customers. Those customers, whether they are enterprises, small businesses or parents—have every right to filter or block the content they deem inappropriate for their audiences, users or family members.
However, there is a disturbing trend we are seeing in the market—the outright censorship or banning of content. You have probably seen headlines recently about Google’s censored search engine project in China and Google employees backlash towards it. But this is not an isolated incident. Censoring content on the internet is troubling on a number of levels.
Censoring content takes the decision of what content is inappropriate out of the hands of the consumer, whether it’s the parent, school administrator, CIO or company leadership that is directly accountable to its audience and users—and puts these decisions in the hands of some faceless, overworked, under-trained bureaucrat or content moderator in some service center with little (or no) understanding of the cultural norms of where the content was created or where it would be viewed. Further, inherent biases, murky guidelines and policies only make matters worse.
Additionally, censoring content puts the censor squarely on the wrong side of history. Do the entities that are actively censoring content really want to be aligned and mentioned in the same breath with religious organizations that burned books (and heretics) for refusal to conform to the orthodoxy; totalitarian and communist regimes that banned radios and other forms of communications; and societies that banned or criminalized certain forms of thought and whitewashed/rewrote history?
To us, this is a dangerous path to take. Since the age of enlightenment, societies have advanced and flourished when there is an open exchange and debate of ideas, leading to ever more progress and reforms. Conversely, societies have stagnated or worse when there are constraints on the exchange of ideas. Censorship is one of the most severe constraints on exchanging or debating ideas. And, in today’s world, where so much of the content is shared through social media, the concentration of censorship power in so few hands is serving to tip the balance away from the free flow of ideas and, whether consciously or not, towards dictatorial and totalitarian banishment of incorrect news, thoughts and ideas.
We are strong advocates for the open exchange of ideas and points of view. Societies as a whole can make better decisions with more, not less, information. Competing ideas and views need to be convincing on the strength of their argument, not through the absence of an alternative.
Why would social media take active steps to suppress, ban or censor different points of view—surely educated consumers can think for themselves, do research and determine what to believe and conclusions to draw.
Increasing censorship is antithetical to western liberal reasoning and philosophy that has been the foundation of so much progress over the decades and centuries. Social media and other organizations should be taking steps to actively encourage a free flow of ideas, rather than banning content and barring users. Let consumers determine what’s best and what’s appropriate for the content and ideas they want to view.
NOTE: Depending on where you live, what browser, how you access content on the web, and other factors—you may not see this article. 🙂