Last week, ABC canceled the reboot of the popular sitcom Roseanne after the title character used her personal Twitter account to share a racist comment. This swift decision by the network was met with outrage from many, sparking countless debates and unrest over the question: is censorship unAmerican? And if it is, why is pornography blocking OK?
A whole host of literature and media stands to answer the first question with a resounding “yes”, which seems to invariably lead people to conclude “it’s not” to the second. The concept of dystopian futures where content is controlled by some entity has been explored for decades, and as a student of literature, I’m often asked how I justify working for a company that filters the internet. In the wake of the debate over the cancellation of Roseanne, I’m finding myself being asked more frequently than normal. In a situation where someone’s device is involuntarily filtered, I can see where there would be confusion. That’s not what we do though. We provide a service for people who don’t want to see porn. I don’t know if the problem is that people can’t imagine not wanting to see porn, or if they’re just quick to conflate the tales from Orwell, Atwood, Huxley, and others with personal choice or modern-day PR and business decisions. So, while as an Internet filtering company, we may be seen as being on the wrong side of content delivery, censorship meant to control what information reaches the masses is fundamentally different from what we do.
I look at it this way: if you want to see porn, you can. There is nothing stopping you from viewing porn online. If you don’t want to see porn though, we can help with that. And those who decide to block pornography online don’t experience an obscured vision of the world: they know the pornography is there behind the block screen. Choosing not to see something isn’t the same as having vital information blocked. In the end, though they both involve content filtering, pornography blockers like ours aren’t the same thing as censorship; it’s just something to help those who struggle get through the day.