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The Student News Site of Our Lady of Good Counsel High School

The Talon

The Student News Site of Our Lady of Good Counsel High School

The Talon

Media Censorship and Propaganda

Thomas Charters via Unsplash
Before quitting her investigation for a corrupt newspaper, the last thing Tamoa Calzadilla tweeted was, “Journalism first.” 

Happy Student Press Freedom Day! The Talon Staff and I have worked hard to publish different pieces regarding freedom of the press. You’ve more than likely heard the terms “propaganda” and “censorship,” but I’ll be talking more in depth about what they mean and why it’s important to understand both! 

What is the difference between censorship and propaganda? 

Propaganda is “the systemic dissemination of information, especially in a biased or misleading way, in order to promote a political cause or point of view.” Censorship is “the suppression of words, images, or ideas that are ‘offensive.’” Propaganda is identifiable as a physical product such as a flier or a speech, whereas censorship is an action done by the government or an organization.

How do I identify propaganda versus information? 

Identifying sources of information and analyzing their credibility is a skill we learn for school, obviously, and for our own benefit. Because we’ve learned to be so careful especially with the expansion of the internet, it can get harder to know what exactly we’re interacting with when looking for direct information. Is this meant to sway me or should I do further research? Johns Hopkins University goes through the differences between information and propaganda—along with misinformation and disinformation, too. Information is data which is set in a context for relevance, which means it is not only bits of data alone, but is also made into a verifiable statement without bias. Information also needs to have a clear purpose. Propaganda can sometimes come off as persuasion which is normal coming from any good writer! However, if the argument is clearly based on an opinion presented rather than fact, it’s propaganda. When the argument is unstable and uses words such as “could be” or uses opinions about morals/integrity, it’s propaganda. 

Social media impacting censorship 

Many argue that social media has made censorship better because of its ability to expose truth as well as shift some focus and power from the government to the people. Others argue, however, that social media allows for the disruption of the news and serves as more of a distraction from what’s going on. When the internet was new, it was predicted that the end of censorship was near. However, governments caught up using ways such as filtering, hacking, and freezing. Because of social media, as described by Columbia Journalism Review, governments worldwide are now “relying on innovation and imitation” yet “creating more subtle tools to complement the blunt instruments of attacking journalists.” These and many more ways of going about censorship can vary based on how a society is run. 

How is censorship carried out? 

According to the 21st Century Censorship Matrix chart, censorship is either direct or indirect. On top of that, the censorship is either stealthy (in secret) or visible (public). For reference, arresting journalists would be an example of direct visible censorship. Bribing journalists would be an example of direct stealthy censorship. Convincing journalists to take “voluntary” pledges to not cover stories would be an example of indirect visible censorship. Last would be indirect stealthy censorship—an example of this would be government-made companies posing as new companies then buying independent media outlets. These are just a few of the many examples in each of the four categories, which therefore allow for censorship to happen in all types of societies. 

As an example, China implemented the “Great Firewall” for all citizens, fired certain news reporters, and used anonymous hacking agencies to attack internet critics. Here is another example: around a decade ago in Venezuela, their best-selling newspaper called “Últimas Noticias”  was heavily censored due to the political/economic crisis and the staff as well as the public fought a difficult battle. A newly started company had suddenly bought Ultimas Noticias for a very high cost without revealing their identities or funds. It was later found that the company was less than a month old and owned by Robert Hanson, who was a British businessman. From here on out, reporters had to avoid talking about issues directly or were told to drop the stories altogether. This led to more than 50 journalists resigning and a protest in 2014 led by students. However, the protest turned violent between police and the students—photos of their deaths and experiences shared online were taken down. Those who were filming for media purposes were detained and beaten. Tamoa Calzadilla, an investigator on this case, wanted to publish an article about the protest, but again editors wanted to mask the story by saying the protestors were funded by the U.S. This led to Calzadilla resigning. 

What Is an Example of Modern Censorship?

We are all avid social media users and there’s no denying that, but “Social Media” should be a self-explanatory tool, right? Its rise has made it easier for us to show support and spread awareness. However, this is not fully true for users showing support for Palestine on Meta platforms: Instagram and Facebook. Human Rights Watch reviewed 1,050 cases of censorship from over 60 countries that align with years of them censoring content showing support for Palestine. Human Rights Watch found that continuous reported actions were “removals, suspension or deletion of accounts, inability to engage with content, inability to follow or tag accounts, restrictions on the use of features such as Instagram/Facebook Live, and “shadow banning,” a term denoting a significant decrease in the visibility of an individual’s posts, stories, or account without notification” Meta’s “Dangerous Organizations and Individuals” (DOI) Policy, which has a list of designated U.S. “terrorist organizations” is what they brought up in most cases against them. This list was used to restrict speech between armed groups in Israel and Palestine, not shut users down. Meta’s policies have either been misapplied—such as their hate speech and violent or graphic content policies—or applied inconsistently—this being their “newsworthy allowance” policy. This is not a glitch in the system either. Meta has been aware of these instances with policy since 2021 when HRW filed a report for the same reasons. And if they were to attribute this to a glitch, how are we to trust Meta as a company and their technology when there are reoccurrences such as these? What have we heard regarding solutions? 

How Is Censorship at GC?

At Good Counsel, the Talon has been active as an online publication for seven years. We have been lucky enough to have not been censored and thank our principal Mr. Campbell, our former president Dr. Barker as well as our current president, Mr. Ciccone for their continuous support of our newspaper!