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The Modern Defense Against Censorship

Journalism and literature have always been society’s greatest defense against fascism. They provide doorways into different perspectives and ideas, and they keep us from taking what authority tells us for granted. Which is why oppressive regimes rely so much on censorship.

Even in the U.S., where freedom of speech has long been cherished, we have a long history of censorship. This is especially true in schools, but has occurred throughout society in general. Such scions as Henry Miller, Willam Faulkner and William S. Burroughs wrote books that were banned for decades.

Today, most censorship occurs online, where everyone is otherwise able to say whatever they wish. Many countries surveil Internet users and block websites—particularly those that are critical of their governments and policies. Even in U.S. schools, the web is regulated to keep students and faculty from “wasting their time” online.

But with modern censorship comes a modern defense. Here is what you can do:

Download a VPN

A virtual private network (VPN) is security software that routes you through an external server. Quite simply, it changes your location (and encrypts your data in the process). If you use a school VPN, websites you visit will think you are coming from elsewhere. You will be able to see websites that cannot usually be accessed through the school’s wifi.

The same is true if you are traveling in other regions. When you are in a country where criticism against the government is banned, you can access news articles by turning on your VPN and pretending to be elsewhere. This way, you can read anything you need to know, including information about safety and security that “authorized” sources may not provide.

No content should be censored, unless it is harmful to innocent people. Keeping you from getting important information is undemocratic and should not be accepted.

But the protection you get from a VPN goes beyond seeing censored content.

The Decline of Privacy

A few decades ago, constant surveillance was society’s worst nightmare. But the Internet has made surveillance incredibly easy. The government does not need cameras to spy on us. As Edward Snowden revealed in 2013, the NSA keeps track of everyone’s online activity and can use algorithms to find anything deemed suspicious. It’s a lot easier and far more useful than using camera surveillance. And, although we all know about it, we let it happen.

A VPN protects your privacy. There are some who will argue that if you have nothing to hide, you shouldn’t be using a VPN. But the truth is that privacy is a basic human right. It doesn’t matter if you are not doing anything illegal. There is still plenty you don’t want others to know about. Furthermore, something innocuous today may be used against you tomorrow if politicians choose to abuse their power.

A VPN is a modern defense against both censorship and surveillance. These are two things that threaten democracy, and you should protect them at all costs.

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