Most people think of internet censorship as it pertains to freedom. Arguably, freedom of speech and the right to protest are the two most important areas of oppression when internet censorship is enacted. Less regarded, but arguably also important, is the global economy.
The internet allows people to do business worldwide. Advertisements, as aggravating as they may be, give people purchasing options. They introduce people to higher quality or alternative products that they use everyday. When you’re actively shopping for something, advertisements and reviews are highly useful.
Many countries are suppressing the Western world by axing its presence from their own small versions of the internet, and companies are taking a financial hit from being pushed out of these markets. Combined, China and India are nearly ⅓ of the world’s total population. If they’re isolated from the global economy, what happens?
Shutdowns Are on the Rise
Facebook is one of the largest social platforms accessible by most of the world. If they’re getting censored or blocked, this undoubtedly impacts all business that transpires through Facebook. Facebook reports several hundred temporary shutdowns a year globally as governments impose temporary restrictions.
These restrictions are usually temporary. Governments impose them to keep people from mobilizing or communicating during times of increased social or political strain. Oppressive governments don’t want footage or reporting spilling out onto the global stage, and they don’t want advocates for political change to have an easy time unifying their front.
These repeated temporary shutdowns have inspired governments to attempt more permanent measures. Many governments are pushing impossible censorship requirements onto platforms, threatening severe financial penalties (and in the case of Hong Kong, vaguely worded personal “sanctions) for social networks who do not uphold the country’s standards above their own terms of service.
These shutdowns and policy changes have had short term consequences for tech companies, and will also have long term consequences as they struggle and fail to comply with requests designed to fail.
Policies Interrupting Cash Flow
Social media and communications platforms are free to the public because the providers of these services make money in other ways. They collect and sell data, as ethically questionable as it may be. They charge advertisers for spots and offer paid services for businesses to promote their posts or connect with a broader audience.
Social media is the easiest way to reach people. Businesses heavily depend on social media, oftentimes more than they rely on traditional forms of advertisement. When they can’t reach nearly a third of the world, they’re going to take a substantial financial hit.
A review board has been established to determine exactly how significant the impact of policy changes and censorship will be for companies that conduct international business.
There is a possibility that the financial impact will become so significant that companies need to find more ways to monetize their platforms, including paid features, more advertising, and increased advertising costs. For some people, a paywall or bombardment of paid content would make social media feel like a burden to use.
Spend Your Money (and Time) How You Want To
Governments aren’t considering the fact that even if they block certain platforms from open internet access, that doesn’t mean that people won’t access them anyway. Tools like TorGuard VPN render blocks useless. TorGuard provides you with complete anonymity when you browse. No one, not even the government, can view the websites you’re accessing. If the government attempts to block social media, just go around them. You have the right to use platforms and spend your money however you see fit.