When I was 10 years old, I used to use the Internet to play on Club Penguin. A few years after I got out of that phase, I heard about how the chats between players were being regulated, as they did not want kids exposed to abusive or sexual language. In addition, they wanted to focus on Club Penguin being a safe place for children to explore the online world of gaming with others. This was censorship, and a highly vocal, probably misinformed, 15-year-old me was outraged at this “infringement.” Beginning Thursday, music videos on YouTube and Vevo in the UK will have cinema-style age certificates. Am I equally as outraged about this as I was about Club Penguin’s censorship? No.
What changed? Censorship is still something I am strongly against. I believe that I should be allowed to have an opinion, controversial or not, and I should be able to read others’ opinions, controversial or not. However, I also realize the stigma a word like censorship can have.
Censorship is automatically seen as something outrageous, yet none of us can deny that we have been around a raunchy scene in a movie or heard inappropriate language around a younger person and flinched a little. We have all thought to ourselves that what we heard or saw was not “family friendly,” never realizing that the very term carries connotations of censorship within it.
As I grow up, I am realizing that censorship is a broader word than we allow it to be. Unconsciously, we censor on a daily basis. My 10-year-old cousin is not allowed into the theatre to see “Fifty Shades of Grey.” Is this suppressive? If it is censorship, does anyone think that it is wrong? Censorship of art, of speech, of books or anything is absolutely mortifying, but censoring a crowd from getting into the theatre before they are not of age might not be.
It might be slightly annoying to have to see a film certificate before music videos in the UK, and at the same time, it might not be functional. A certificate might not stop a child from seeing what they ought not to see, but it is a regulation — a perfectly acceptable regulation. In fact, it is a regulation that stands by the idea of the Internet being a free space for people. Why? Because it is just a warning that what is to come might be inappropriate, but it allows the user to use his or her discretion.
This regulation is only applicable to Sony Music UK, Universal UK and Warner Music UK. The public is worried that this might not warn parents and kids of raunchier videos from other countries, but the fact that this regulation is not being imposed on other countries allows them to stand by freedom of expression.
I would much rather see a certificate before a YouTube music video, in addition to advertisements, than see portions of the music video blurred. Regulation might be a tiny subset of censorship, but it is a subset that prevents us from incurring banned books or banned films. And while it might seem as if the government is butting in and contradicting the Internet’s reputation as a free space, it is merely suggesting the music videos those of a certain age should watch. The Internet can be open to suggestion and still be free, right?