Should Governments Be Able To Censor Facebook?

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This past weekend, Facebook was blocked for a few hours for people in Saudi Arabia trying to get on the social networking site. Whether it was done on purpose by the government, as an anonymous source told AP, or an accident, which is the official statement from the government according to ArabNews.com, will remain a mystery. The controversy brings up a more important question: Should Internet sites like Facebook be censored if they violate the “moral code,” as determined by the country’s government?

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One could argue that the government has a right to censor any material, and it is a person’s choice to live in a society that does not ensure freedom of speech. Although some members of the public were outraged about Iran’s Twitter censorship during the election protests mid last year and Pakistan blocking Facebook as a protest to “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day, a citizen opting to live in those countries has to abide by the rules of that government. Still, that does not mean that those people don’t have the right to protest, fight for things they believe should be changed or move out of the country if they do not agree with the policies.

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With Facebook and other online social networks, the issue gets a little less clear. Much of the objectionable material is not from those countries that are enacting the ban. If the material is created and published in that country, the creator of the content should be liable to the laws of the land. When the material comes from other places, however,  the government is effectively censoring people who are not in their jurisdiction.

Though the government may enact these bans, in these cases Facebook and Twitter are not breaking their law – they are merely putting up content that these governments do not agree with morally. What do you think about this? Let us know in the comments section.

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