Yuval Noah Harari in one of his books argues about the a newer form of censorship:

In the past, censorship worked by blocking the flow of information. In the 21st century, censorship works by flooding people with irrelevant information. People just don't know what to pay attention to, and they often spend their time investigating and debating side issues.

However, according to Wikipedia there are still lots of countries that rely on classic censorship:

Censorship by country collects information on censorship, Internet censorship, Freedom of the Press, Freedom of speech, and Human Rights by country and presents it in a sortable table.

Sorting by FH Free press report, the are many countries that are marked as "Not Free": North Korea, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Belarus, Iran, Cuba etc.

I am wondering if there is a way to assess which form is more harmful for people living in a state using at least one form of censorship.

Question: Which form of censorship is more harmful: through suppression vs. through flooding?

closed as primarily opinion-based by user1530, Bobson, JJ for Transparency and Monica, Machavity, Philipp Aug 22 '18 at 21:27

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • One could make an argument that nowadays China is using both kinds of censorship. – Evargalo Aug 22 '18 at 8:28
  • Yes, there is a specific term for it: alternative facts. – zibadawa timmy Aug 22 '18 at 9:36
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    I do not read anything in your quote implying that "censorship through flooding" is more effective than classical censorship, it could very well just be that it is the only option available when state sponsored censorship is not available (or it is not in your side), or maybe just a complement to classical censorship. And even if Mr. Harari stated somewhere else that "censorship through flooding" is more effective than classical censorship, it could very well that he is just plain wrong. – SJuan76 Aug 22 '18 at 15:16
  • Sorry for the downvote, but as phrased it sounds as though this question is implying censorship is a really good thing for nations, (if they can only find the best gimmick), rather than a bad thing that renders nations backwards, blind, and fragile. If the question is premised upon censorship being good, please explicitly lead with a clear statement of that unmodern premise. Alternative title: "Which is more harmful, censorship by flooding or by suppression?" – agc Aug 22 '18 at 17:13
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    Not sure how this can be answered beyond opinion. – user1530 Aug 22 '18 at 19:38

"Censorship by flooding" requires access to the internet

Many of the countries you mentioned are undeveloped, and as such, their population lacks access to many information sources. Typically, the major mass media is the (state) TV, supplemented with (state) Newspapers and Radio. In those channels, traditional censorship works best.

In other words, those countries are using 20th century methods because their media (and overall development) is in a 20th century state.

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    Premise of this answer is fundamentally false. Internet is not necessary, what is necessary is creation of varied distractions, ranging from sports, celebrities, celebrity scandals to political smokescreens. It is entirely personal opinion, but I think it's simply because "soft" counters (distraction) are perceived as, well, soft and as such glossed over in favour of direct and "hard" solutions (removal) even when "soft" solution is much more effective. Certain type of people (to which dictators belong) want hard solutions irrespective of their inefficiency. – M i ech Aug 22 '18 at 12:06
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    "Bread and circuses" is pre-Internet. – agc Aug 22 '18 at 17:15

Censorship by flooding isn't really a guided effort by a government or organization, the way censorship by blocking is. Flooding requires a high number of people predisposed to maintain an existing opinion and look only for what backs that up.

In that respect, flooding is more a reflection of the society, a bellwether of critical thought (or the absence of) in a large group.

How prevalent is that today? In the US, the two most popular 'news agencies'; Fox and MSNBC; both exhibit a distinct political slant. That indicates that a high number of people, certainly in the US, are looking for reinforcement, not truth. (accompanied by the usual suspects insisting that their source is 'less biased' than the opposition source... glossing over the simple fact that any bias is bad)

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    "Censorship by flooding isn't really a guided effort by a government or organization" = current evidence says it pretty much is (not that said effort doesn't also require a compliant audience) – user1530 Aug 22 '18 at 19:38

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