1. Any regime or context in which the content of what is publicly expressed, exhibited, published, broadcast, or otherwise distributed is regulated or in which the circulation of information is controlled. The official grounds for such control at a national level are variously political (e.g. national security), moral (e.g. likelihood of causing offence or moral harm, especially in relation to issues of obscenity), social (e.g. whether violent content might have harmful effects on behaviour), or religious (e.g. blasphemy, heresy). Some rulings may be merely to avoid embarrassment (especially for governments). In countries where there is internet censorship, the magnitude of filtering varies greatly, from selective to pervasive: blocking access is a standard control mechanism. See also content filtering; regulation.
2. A system of regulation for vetting, editing, and prohibiting particular forms of public expression, presided over by a censor: an official given a mandate by a governmental, legislative, or commercial body to review specific kinds of material according to pre-defined criteria. Criteria relating to public attitudes—notably on issues of ‘taste and decency’—can quickly become out-of-step.
3. The practice and process of suppressing the expression of some point of view, or any particular instance of this. This may involve the partial or total suppression of any utterance or text, or of the entire output of an individual or organization on a limited or permanent basis. See also no-platforming.
4. Self-censorship is self-regulation by an individual author or publisher, or by ‘the industry’. Media industries frequently remind their members that if they do not regulate themselves they will be regulated by the state. Self-censorship on the individual level includes the internal regulation of what one decides to express publicly, often attributable to conformism.