Technology May Make Censorship Obsolete

from the one-can-only-hope dept

Under various guises, like public ownership of the airwaves, the government, from time to time, engages in censorship. The famous seven words you can’t say on the air proved an irritant to Howard Stern in his early days. Eventually, a new technology (satellite radio) allowed him to broadcast outside the reach of the FCC, and he’s now free to say whatever he likes. This week, the WB announced that they would self censor an episode of their racy drama The Bedford Diaries, to avoid the FCC’s wrath, but they also announced that the unedited version would be available online. As Adam Thierer argues, technological progress signals the death of government content controls. Conversely, government content controls hasten the death of free broadcast media, as they’re an impetus to distribute over new platforms. While this is a great trend, this could also result in a backlash elsewhere — such as giving the FCC regulatory powers over internet content. Already, some want the FCC to regulate indecency on cable TV. There’s no public-ownership excuse there, that’s just censorship.

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Comments on “Technology May Make Censorship Obsolete”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: So where's the news?

if you are up real late at night, you may just catch some of these cable channels broadcasting content (Comedy Central, for example) with all sorts of “bad words” that would normally get censored on basic OTA television.

One possible answer to why they do not do this 100% of the time is, the channel is broadcasting to it’s “prime demographics” throughout the day… and that “prime-demographic” is less likely to enjoy such “vulgar” words that the other demographic who stays up “late” may care little about.

jdw242 says:


are we TRYING to become China?

Really, no, you get a clue. Censorship is a ‘giving away’ of rights to choose. You go look it up.

Keep giving it away people; the powerful in the US want you to become complacent. Similar to the anti-utopian plan in V. Might help if you could read a newspaper also.

The internet still doesn’t have every point of view…

Mike says:

Re: uhh

“are we TRYING to become China?

Really, no, you get a clue. Censorship is a ‘giving away’ of rights to choose. You go look it up.

Keep giving it away people; the powerful in the US want you to become complacent. Similar to the anti-utopian plan in V. Might help if you could read a newspaper also.

The internet still doesn’t have every point of view…”

You’re an idiot. If the internet still doesn’t have every point of view then there is absolutely NO medium that does. true censorship is ‘giving away’ of rights. but the powerful in the US aren’t the ones pushing for censorship its the middle class. The ones that want someone safe for their children to watch. Most people say “change the channel” the trouble is there is very little to change the channel to! There is almost nothing that an entire family can watch together and everyone be entertained. Don’t tell me its not possible it happened all the time. Wonder years, happy days, etc. again though .. mainly because of your statement about the internet I say You are a complete idiot. *dont’ censor me! it’d be against your ideals ;-)*

Professor HighBrow says:

Re: Re: uhh WAKE UP Mikey

Most people say “change the channel” the trouble is there is very little to change the channel to!

Hmmm…. there are plenty of channels that are safe for kids to watch. So if you don’t want to “Change the Channel” GUESS WHAT?

You can also TURN IT OFF.

Apparently you must have the mindset of some 1950’s television show in black and white.

I’ve got a suggestion that may help you and your kids that you can’t seem to keep track of:

Buy a black and white tv from a garage sale, tune it in to PBS, and leave it there.

It makes me shudder that you expect technology to police children! How about teaching a young boy how to work with tools, how to hike, and try to explain when he asks you “Why is the sky Blue, Dad?” Or “what does this tool do?” Or maybe you could just take some time off from bitching about television and use that time to spend with your kid.

Santiago says:

Hear hear Dorpus

I have to totally agree with you.

I find it very disturbing that as a society we’ve lost all sense of morals and common decency. Since we are obviously not mature enough to police ourselves, or protect our children, then I certainly hope the government does it for us.

For all of you guys (and gals) out there that are against censorship because it might impact your lusts, too bad.

Hey, I like a good porn like the next guy, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to profess that it’s a good thing or that we should allow the smut peddlers free reign on the internet, pay channels or the like.

We have government for a reason and part of that reason is to provide a moral compass when we can provide one ourselves.

compass says:

Re: Hear hear Dorpus

You are totally out of your mind. Government exists to protect us from outside threats.

This economy is market based. No market = no product. Thus the demand for material of all types drives the output of that material.

I do not want governmet to legislate morals. I’ve seen what their morals are.

Roman says:


I believe that AMERICANS in generall tend to be some of the most prudish people on the face of this earth. We go and make sex so big in music an movies and all that yet we have a problem with it on tv. I think that in the end we should loose our prudishness, get real, and just take the media for what it is … ENTERTAINMENT. Bottom line is the shows with content that the masses do not like will not last. It is essentialy self-censorship. We only watch what we like. If a show is not getting attention then it is not on the air any more.


dorpus says:

Re: Censorship

Americans are the most prudish people in the world? Billions of people in Latin America, the Islamic world, and large parts of Asia would beg to differ. Westerners tend to equate sex and hedonism with “freedom”, but could they be living in a tyranny of constant appeal to base instincts?

Roman says:

Re: Re: Censorship

Latin America and much of the middle east may be more reserved but it is universal including there media. Where in the US we have sociatal rules that decree that sex is wrong as is vulgar language in any situation; yet our media is consitantly showing sex and unneeded vulgar language just for the sake of having it there rather than using it to accentuate something.

It is possible that prudish is the wrong word, maybe hypicritical is a better word to use.

anon says:

Hear hear

I don’t agree. What I find disturbing is that parents refuse to actually do thier job, therefore I have to put up with censorship in damn near everything. Cable TV is fine, because they police themselves because of the demographics. Great, I’m happy for them, and I’m actually (honestly, not sarcastic) happy that they do it. However, if the FCC did get their grubby little fingers on the internet, I’d be pissed. If parents would just WATCH their children, there really wouldn’t be too much of a problem.

I’m not against censorship because it would block my lusts. I’m against censorship because I want to be able to say what I want, when I want to say it. You can’t say that this leads to child porn and snuff films, because the argument against those isn’t about free speech, it’s about infringing on the rights of others. For child porn, they infringe on the rights of minor children by exploiting them, willingly or unwillingly (and willingly doesn’t matter….they can’t legally sign contracts). Snuff films are about infringing on someone elses rights by killing them (thereby taking away all rights that the person in question has).

I was always taught that I have the freedom to swing my arm with a balled up fist all I want. I can wander around and do it all day if I wish. My freedom ends when my fist comes in contact with someone else or their property. When the government starts censoring things (again, things that aren’t illegal in other ways and have very little, if anything, to do with free speech whatsoever), then that means there are less circumstances where I can swing my arm.

Remember, we were never given the right to not be offended. We were only given the right to walk away when something doesn’t sit well with us, and we were given the right to take our children away from any material that we don’t believe they should be subjected to.

This also doesn’t mean I’m against censorship in total. I’m against governmental censorship. Self censorship, and community censorship is a good thing. That gives each person and each community an oppertunity to assert their own values in their own place without affecting everyone else in the nation.

dataguy says:

Re: Hear hear

“I don’t agree. What I find disturbing is that parents refuse to actually do thier job, therefore I have to put up with censorship in damn near everything.”

I’m guessing you don’t have any young kids. Vugar, BS marketed to young males is everywhere. Without some help it’s not possible to find breaks from this flood of crap “enterainment”.

You are right the parents have a very important role and the government has no business taking on that role. However, there as to be room for alternatives to exist. It is a disservice to my kids to say that can’t watch any TV (where the commercials are often much more offensive than the shows) or listen to any radio, until they are 18 (not to mention impossible to do).

There has to be a middle ground. Until raw corporate greed is turned down a notch there doesn’t seem to be much hope. While I can’t stand the PC crowd, I do welcome the help in slowing down the race to the bottom in our culture.

Mike says:

“What I find disturbing is that parents refuse to actually do thier job, therefore I have to put up with censorship in damn near everything.”

This statement speaks volumes. “I have to put up with censorship in damn near everything” doesn’t that mean that damn near everything is offensive to family’s? I really hate people who blame the parents and ignore the GIGANTIC problem with society. I refuse to be a parent for this very reason. Parents become the scape goat for everything that goes wrong with kids when they are fighting a torrent of bad influences. Its difficult to parent well in this time.. stop blaming it all on the parents.

Pesti says:

Integrity, and .......

….Responsibility, Trust, Honesty, prudence,Tolerance,
Openess, Kindness, discerness, respect,and Truthfullness
and on and on. these are the lessons of true morality.
These are things that should be taught in the home
The government no matter how hard it tries, is wasting our resorces trying to “Parent”. Censorship never has been able to make what is human in us go away. We have a fundemental right to be able to decide on how we live or don’t live our lives according to the truths we are allowed to know. This is freedom.
know. There is nothing right about one group being allowed to know all in order to decide what another group may “know”, unless the first group seeks to control

icepick314 says:


I do believe that individual member and family should have responsibility to know what they’re watching AND their kids…

but on the same level, people should NOT air/broadcast just about everything they can JUST because they can…

yeah they whine about censorship and control and other BS but do we REALLY need to hear F this and S that during morning commutes or during evenings when all i wanna do is watch some TV? I just want to get to work and hear about current events or relax in front of TV….

giafly says:

Dorpus' Great Comment

Re: Do people want to live in a world where the media is full of snuff films, kiddie porn, stuff like that all the time?

Full of? – No

Where these are banned? – Not in all cases, as people often over-react.

I have many times seen tv news reports where people are killed on camera. The worst was on late night Channel 4 (UK) where a child soldier in the Congo was shown being beaten and then shown dead. Utterly disgusting, but the news should not be censored.

As for “kiddie porn”, which is evil, there are awkward edge cases. For example “Lolita” and “Romeo and Juliette” are generally considered great literature, parents should be allowed to photograph school events and nudists should be allowed to photograph each other.

Cheerboy says:

This is rediculous

You can’t ask the government to censor media that you pay for simply because you don’t want to have to take the time to guard your children against the “evils” of the world. If you are complaining about not being able to watch something as a family, try turning off the television and talking to your kids. Or, horror of horrors, reading a book together as a family. That way, you could completely control what they hear and see. I was raised without any forms of media in the household other than the Bible and the hymnal that belonged to my great grandmother. Though this may be slightly extreme, my parents were able to completely control what their children were exposed to within the household and no government censorship was necessary. If you don’t want to make sacrifices within your home out of laziness, thats your problem. Don’t impinge upon my right to watch anything I want.

Glenn Allen says:


The problems of society BEGIN with parents not actually raising their children but leaving that chore to, among other things, TV and learning it “on the street” (which includes schools). This particular country (U.S.) was founded on the principle that every citizen has the right to decide for himself and his family (women not having specific rights back then) what should or should not be “learned”; government was mandated to stay out of everyday life as much as possible. Nowadays, everybody seems to want to involve themselves in everybody else’s life. I’m not going to tolerate someone else telling me what I have a right to hear or see or know. You can choose for yourself and your family, but you ain’t gonna choose for me. I find it disturbing that people are offended by words as opposed to the meaning behind the words. I find it disturbing that people consider the sole methodology for creating life–sex–to be something “dirty”. The primary impetus for so many problems seems to be the overwhelming desire of too many people to try to control and manipulate nature instead of simply living in harmony with it. Thought is natural. Sex is natural. Knowledge is a good thing. Wisdom does NOT come with age, only with experience; the only thing age makes you is older. My point? Raise your children to learn as much as possible and to think for themselves.

Old Father says:

Sad state of the US

The comments here really do show the sad state of affairs here in the good old US of A. How we as a nation got to the point where seeing a bare breast or heaven forbid a genital, is totally offensive and must be censored, but showing 50 people killed is good family fun. i will use 2 resent movies to highlight my point. A theater recently pulled Broke Back Mountain on week of release to appease the local church protest. The same theater the same month showed Saw2, a movie with so much violence and gore people were getting physically ill, yet no one protested or demanded it not be shown. Now I am not saying that either movie is good or bad, but as a parent it is my job to decide if my children should see them, and while I will need to screen prior before deciding if it acceptable, I can assure you neither of them will be allowed to see the latter. Just my 2 cents, and I apologize for my meandering soapbox speech

Zeroth404 says:

Seven Dirty Words:

* shit

* piss

* fuck

* cunt

* cocksucker

* motherfucker

* tits

Whats wrong with piss? “I gotta take a *bleep*” sounds dirtier than “I gotta take a piss”.

Also, whats up with the compound words cocksucker and motherfucker? what about goatfucker, donkeycock, dogshit, … come on, this is illogical. I can throw any two words together and make them sound politically taboo.

what about derogatory terms? fag, homo, quere, nigger (oooh snap), spik, etc etc?

Professor HighBrow says:

Re: George Carlin's 7

Seven Dirty Words:

* shit

* piss

* fuck

* cunt

* cocksucker

* motherfucker

* tits

Time for a breakdown, childrin.

Shit and Piss are simply natural acts of humans, albeit foul smelling, that everyne does EVERY SINGLE DAY of their lives.

-So that #1,#2 are gone. Sorry, natural act. I gotta piss, not go “pee-pee.” And one has to Shit, not “Go poopie.”

-Without Fucking none of us would be alive in the first place, so thats out. What happened to “respect thine mother and father?”

-Cunt is a word derived from Northern European languages [germanic] and wasn’t considered insulting at all, it simply meant “The Place we all came from, from the womb,” considered the source of all life.

So that one is just misperceived….

Zeroth404’s mention of compound words:

-Cock-Sucker could easily mean “One who sucks on Male Chickens” so if you got a decent Girlfriend or Wife, she’s a cock sucker.

Either that or she somehow goes to feed the chickens and …. well…. cockadoodle-do.

-Motherfucker is probably the only hateful word on the list. It implies incestious behaviour, and across all cultures is considered an insult. It implies taboo, disgust, and rage to the suggestor. “What did you say about my mother/family?” almost always results in violence.


Wooohah! Anything desirable by a male can be referenced to “Tits.”

Plus, like many have said, including Carlin, it just sounds so innoccent….

My 2 cents and a waste of my typing,

-Prof. HiBrow

g. thomas furgerson says:

without analog broadcasts, DRM is and will be the

This article presents an interesting point of view, but fails to present the real concern and my greatest fear. DRM is non-government controlled censoring, which will be used against us in the future, not just by individuals and corporations, but also the government. Once we’re forced into the HD world, free, un-inhibited access to media (especially public events, like news) means no free criticism or examination of events, issues, speeches and news events, as they will be controlled by DRM.

Remember that image of Bush flipping the bird to the camera, in the future, “they” will control access and distribution of those and other important (or unimportant) events. All media will be locked and protected by the DMCA.

HD television, DRM protected IPTV and other means of alternate digital distribution, especially once the analog hole is closed (by forcing HDTV and digital radio upon us), will be used to keep the common man from viewing, re-distributing and commenting on information that those in power do no want the rest of the world to see, good or bad.

As a creator I like the idea of DRM for various control reasons. Those are the same reasons I don’t like it. It limits the ability for people and (myself) to rightfully comment, parody, critique, mash up, remix, or modify my published ideas and creations. It will limit the ability to present ideas and expressions relevant but different from my own, but based on the ones I put forth. I won’t even be able to use material I created that would be labeled as “work for hire.”

Even the prospect of sharing my ideas and expressions freely with others who may be willing to “buy” other ideas or creations I produce becomes limited. Those abilities need to maintained, especially for news and public related media.

All these people designing and promoting DRM schemes and algorithms are working against themselves, locking us all out of our past, and definitely out of our future.

DRM is creating an inherently “un-free” world.

Just my two cents, and I’ll probably get flamed for it:)

Zeroth404 says:

“Just my two cents, and I’ll probably get flamed for it:)”

Justremember your constitutional rights and we’ll all be ok.

“DRM is creating an inherently “un-free” world. ”

DRM is only a management system, not the evil that may come from its use. Blaming DRM for that is much like blaming computers for the existence of trading porn. It will still happen regardless.

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