Censorship and Self-Censorship in the 21th Century
The Internet made its appearance at the end of the 20th century. The major difference between the Internet and the older media is the level of interactivity. New resources for opinion-making and expression have been created. People can respond directly to statements and content and their responses are immediately public as well. This creates a potentially never-ending stream of content and commentary. Views as to what constitutes an 'opinion' or an 'insult' are constantly evolving.
Time and again, different groups try to muzzle each other. The term 'freedom of expression' is systematically being discredited with the argument that ethnic and religious groups need to be protected against insults. Calls for this freedom to be curbed are growing stronger. This also affects those who do not intend to produce insults when exercising their freedom of expression. Self-censorship is becoming a regular occurrence.
Since the 1990s the attractiveness of the old political 'isms' has rapidly been fading, and other issues and problems have entered the spotlight. Tensions caused by immigration and globalization are increasing and so is sensitivity to ethnic and religious questions. Religion, after having been absent for two decades, has returned like a jack-in-the-box to the (international) debate on freedom of expression.
The established political parties have not provided a satisfactory answer to this unease. The result is an offensive of norms and values aimed at citizens in order to make them behave 'properly'. The threat of (Islamic) terrorism is generating a gradual erosion of civil liberties in all liberal democracies by new, stricter legislation that also applies to the Internet. The number of victims of censorship, including political cartoonists and journalists, is increasing. Countries such as Russia and China have less difficulty in muzzling the media. The Internet, which began as the ultimate in free media, is now available in China only behind a digital 'great wall'. Prompted by their fear of losing market shares, Western communication companies accept these limitations on the free exchange of information.