Global Internet Censorship: Research Proposal

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Global Internet Censorship: Is Censorship in any Culture Ethical?

The internet has created a world information community. People of countries that are geographically remote from one another now exchange ideas, information, and through these communications gain a sense of one another, and their cultures. This allows people to rely on other than state created images and perceptions about cultures beyond one's own cultural environment. The perception that develops might be in stark contrast to that provided for them by their own state, and as such would alter their thinking in a way that is not consistent with the ways in which the state wants them to think of others around the world. The potential for individual thinking, analysis, and forming ideas and opinions inconsistent with the state projected images could lead large groups of people within a country to become independent of their nation-state's cultural, social, and political norms. Therefore, censorship of the internet and other sources of information and means of communication are imposed upon certain people of other than western cultures in order to maintain the social norms and the nation-state's ability to govern. If we judge censorship from our own cultural place and time, many of us would be outraged, claiming that censorship in any form is a violation of human rights. Is it possible to have censorship that is, after all, in the best interest of a culture?

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In a countries like China, where there continues to be a pseudo-system of communism imposed upon the people, even though the country pursues a capitalistic global economy, the citizens of that country are subjected to certain laws and communist governance that could ostensibly create a weakness in the government's ability to govern their large expansive geography and one of the world's largest populations if that population in large part began embracing Democratic principles and culture that might lead them to resist and revolt against their government.

Research Proposal on Global Internet Censorship: Is Censorship in Any Assignment

In most Islamic countries, especially Saudi Arabia, religious laws and governance are part of the daily lives of Muslim. It goes beyond prayer and religious service, and is integrated into every aspect of Muslim life: how women dress, the segregation of the sexes, education, and how Muslims conduct themselves socially, politically, and privately. There is no separation between Islam and how Muslim live their daily lives, except that there are two distinct levels of legal application: civil court, dealing with those charges and crimes that are strictly of human character, and those crimes and charges that are deemed or defined as being against God and Islam. A parking ticket, for instance, might be a civil matter, but a woman appearing in public with her legs exposed, her arms exposed, and her face and hair exposed would be considered a blatant act of defiance against God and Islam, and would, therefore, be tried and judged for punishment in a court of Islamic law. This is the culture of many Islamic states, and it is a culture that we can understandably infer would become fragile and perhaps even out of control if their populations, especially the young minds of men and women, were allowed to roam freely the information age and have access to other cultures that did not hold religious traditions, values and laws in such high regard as their own culture does.

Does society outside of these cultures have a right to determine what is censored and not censored, and what is ethical or not ethical in the traditions and customs of people who, prior to the onset of the information age, lived their lives within these traditions? Can those of us outside of those cultures judge and determine what is in the best interest of those people when it comes to information and communications with the world community beyond those nation-state borders?

Study Scope of Ethical Censorship

These are, of course, philosophical questions to be answered. This study will examine these and other questions as they regard censorship and ethical governing from a perspective of censoring information and communications between people. To narrow the focus and scope of what might otherwise be too great and even tedious a task, this study will focus on China and Saudi Arabia. Using these two nations, which censor information and communications, but for radically different political and cultural reasons for doing it; we can then make social, religious, political, and economic comparisons that will help us to perhaps understand censorship in either one of these nations as ethical, or not ethical.

Methodology

Time restrictions and geographical limitations will impact the depth of this study, and eliminates the possibility of an original independent quantitative approach. Therefore, this study will be a qualitative one, based on the existing body of scholarship, quantitative studies, and peer reviewed research. Quantitative research can be analyzed for this study, compared, and contrasted in support of arguments made here, or which will prove the arguments from the ethical censoring of information and communications invalid, and, therefore, potentially violations of human rights.

Literature Review

The following are sources that are being considered for use in this study based on the information and data that will help explore the topic of ethical censorship in China and in Saudi Arabia. The list reflects a preliminary first review of sources, and some works may be deleted in lieu of others that might be added and which make a greater contribution to the analysis done in this study.

Cross, Frank B. And Miller, Roger LeRoy (2008). The Legal Environment of Business: Text and Cases -- Ethical, Regulatory. South-Western Cenage Learning, Mason, OH.

Cross and Miller explore the changing environment of doing business as a result of the internet, and how doing business in a global environment is impacted by censorship in places like China. The authors explore the Google case, providing a different perspective and insight as they approach it from the regulatory and ethical perspectives. From that vantage, their work will contribute to the overall discussion of Google, global internet business, and other aspects of business and subsequent cultural infringements and challenges that are raised by doing business.

Deibert, Ronald (2008). Access Denied: The Practice and Policy of Global Internet Filtering,

Deibert's book will lead to a better understanding of the world internet filtering systems, and the countries that filter information, including Saudi Arabia. It addresses both countries, China and Saudi Arabia, and provides some useful statistical data on filtering that is actually quite hard to find on this topic. This data is necessary to have a full discussion on ethical censorship, and this book is perhaps most valuable for its data.

Goldstein, Eric, Human Rights Watch, Megally Hanny, PoKempner, Dinah, Human Rights Watch (Organization), and McClintock, Michael (1999). The Internet in the MidEast and North Africa: Free Expression and Censorship. . Human Rights

Watch, New York, NY.

This is a report that is culled together by experts and organizations interested in maintaining a global internet as a forum of free expression. To that end, the report examines censorship, filtering, and provides statistical data that will be useful for comparison and analysis in this study.

Howard, Ronald Arthur and Korver, Clinton D. (2008). Ethics for the Real World:

Creating a Personal Code to Guide Decisions in Work and Life. Harvard Business School Publishing, Boston, MA.

Howard and Korver cite a session conducted by Congressman Tom Lantos of California, which focused on the question: "The Internet in China: A Tool for Freedom or Suppression?" This question succinctly sums up one of the questions that is being researched here, and for that reason Howard and Korver's book is a preliminary selection for use in this study.

The Arthurs cover the very timely subject of Google, the powerful internet search engine, and censorship in China, which has been a very visible recent news item. This study will benefit from the discussion about China and Google and censorship. "The requirements of doing business in China include self-censorship -- something that runs counter to Google's most basic values and commitments as a company (p. 110)." How does Google resolve the ethical question of censorship as it does business in China, and how does the company balance this concession with its greater consumer base in the free world? The discussion around these and other questions will help move the study forward as it explores ethical censorship in China.

Huff, Toby E. (2003). The Rise of Early Modern Science: Islam, China, and the West.

Huff's book is one of the vital links that ties the perceptions of the cultures discussed in this study together from the perspective of ethics and censorship. It provides the foundation for cultural understanding that is needed to approach the subject of ethical censorship in China and in Muslim nations, and most specifically Saudi Arabia. Huff has gone taken great pains to present the cultural dimensions of each of the three environments with objectivity, and in a factual and historical context. Huff provides directions of thought that might not readily come to the subject of censorship in China, or… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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