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Definitions of Censorship
The term "censorship" comes from The Latin, censere "to give as one's opinion, to assess." The Roman censors were magistrates who took the census count and served as assessors and inspectors of morals and conduct.
In contrast to that straightforward definition from Roman times, contemporary usage offers no agreed-upon definition of the term or when to use it. Indeed, even whether the word itself applies to a given controversy in the arts is often vigorously contested.
Here are excerpts of definitions of "censorship" from U.S. organizations and publications with varying views. They are not intended as any composite mega-definition of the term, only as indications of the variety of approaches to this concept.
--Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary
Censorship: The use of the state and other legal or official means to
In general, censorship of books is a supervision of the press in order to
prevent any abuse of it. In this sense, every lawful authority, whose duty it
is to protect its subjects from the ravages of a pernicious press, has the
right of exercising censorship of books.
What Is Censorship? Censorship is the suppression of ideas and information that certain persons -- individuals, groups or government officials -- find objectionable or dangerous. It is no more complicated than someone saying, "Don't let anyone read this book, or buy that magazine, or view that film, because I object to it!" Censors try to use the power of the state to impose their view of what is truthful and appropriate, or offensive and objectionable, on everyone else. Censors pressure public institutions, like libraries, to suppress and remove from public access information they judge inappropriate or dangerous, so that no one else has the chance to read or view the material and make up their own minds about it. The censor wants to prejudge materials for everyone.
For the ALA, technically censorship means the "The Removal of material from open access by government authority." The ALA also distinguishes various levels of incidents in respect to materials in a library which may or may not lead to censorship: Inquiry, Expression of Concern, Complaint, Attack, and
The word "censorship" means "prior restraint" of First Amendment rights by
Censorship: official restriction of any expression believed to threaten the
political, social, or moral order.
Censorship - the prevention of publication, transmission, or exhibition of
material considered undesirable for the general public to possess or be exposed
Censorship: the cyclical suppression, banning, expurgation, or editing
by an individual, institution, group or government that enforce or influence
its decision against members of the public -- of any written or pictorial
materials which that individual, institution, group or government deems obscene
and "utterly" without redeeming social value," as determined by "contemporary
Censorship is a word of many meanings. In its broadest sense it refers to
suppression of information, ideas, or artistic expression by anyone, whether
government officials, church authorities, private pressure groups, or speakers,
writers, and artists themselves. It may take place at any point in time,
whether before an utterance occurs, prior to its widespread circulation, or by
punishment of communicators after dissemination of their messages, so as to
deter others from like expression. In its narrower, more legalistic sense,
censorship means only the prevention by official government action of the
circulation of messages already produced. Thus writers who "censor" themselves
before putting words on paper, for fear of failing to sell their work, are not
engaging in censorship in this narrower sense, nor are those who boycott
sponsors of disliked television shows.
Censorship: supervision and control of the information and ideas circulated
within a society. In modern times, censorship refers to the examination of
media including books, periodicals, plays, motion pictures, and television and
radio programs for the purpose of altering or suppressing parts thought to be
offensive. The offensive material may be considered immoral or obscene,
heretical or blasphemous, seditious or treasonable, or injurious to the
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