The Internet is ushering in a new age of censorship, says Jonathan Zittrain. Credit: Jason Verwey / Flickr Creative Commons
- Jonathan Zittrain, professor at Harvard Law School and author of "The Future of the Internet and How To Stop It"
What do these books have in common?
- The Catcher in the Rye
- The Grapes of Wrath
- The Lord of the Rings
You may be having a flashback to high school English class, thinking: is there something similar about the authors? The main characters? The symbolism or themes? Well, here’s the thread: they’re all on the “Banned and Challenged Classics” list from the American Library Association. Check out the full list of these banned – and beloved – books below:
- The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
- The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
- The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
- To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
- The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
- Ulysses, by James Joyce
- Beloved, by Toni Morrison
- The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
- 1984, by George Orwell
- Lolita, by Vladmir Nabokov
- Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
- Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
- Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
- Animal Farm, by George Orwell
- The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway
- As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner
- A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway
- Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
- Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
- Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
- Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell
- Native Son, by Richard Wright
- One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, by Ken Kesey
- Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
- For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway
- The Call of the Wild, by Jack London
- Go Tell it on the Mountain, by James Baldwin
- All the King's Men, by Robert Penn Warren
- The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien
- The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair
- Lady Chatterley's Lover, by D.H. Lawrence
- A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
- The Awakening, by Kate Chopin
- In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote
- The Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie
- Sophie's Choice, by William Styron
- Sons and Lovers, by D.H. Lawrence
- Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
- A Separate Peace, by John Knowles
- Naked Lunch, by William S. Burroughs
- Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh
- Women in Love, by D.H. Lawrence
- The Naked and the Dead, by Norman Mailer
- Tropic of Cancer, by Henry Miller
- An American Tragedy, by Theodore Dreiser
- Rabbit, Run, by John Updike
Throughout history, classic books like these have been banned for a plethora of reasons – including challenging political regimes, introducing radical ideas, pushing buttons with controversial language or content. But Jonathan Zittrain, author of “The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It,” argues that censorship today in the digital age is more insidious than ever before.
Take this example. After the release of Amazon’s e-book reader, the Kindle, one publisher offered an edition of George Orwell’s dystopian classic 1984. Panic ensued when the publisher realized it did not have the proper copyright permissions, and Amazon – fearing litigation – reached into the Kindle of every user who had downloaded the book and deleted it.
Unlike buying a paper book, Zittrain says, whenever you purchase an e-book you’re really purchasing a service, not a product. “When you get something like an e-book reader, you’re starting a long term relationship with the vendor of that device,” he says. That means that, instead of having an unadulterated hard copy of a text in your possession, the copy on your reader can be tweaked, or edited, or deleted altogether by the provider at any time.
In the case of this ill-fated copy of 1984, Amazon wasn’t seeking to ban the book, just pull an unlicensed copy. But Zittrain warns that, as we rely less and less on the written word, it will be more difficult to prevent content from being censored or changed, even for seemingly innocuous reasons.
To hear more from Zittrain about the changing landscape of privacy in the age of the Internet – including the trouble with wearable tech and a mobile app that could obliterate the concept of a private conversation - tune in to our full interview, above.
- Read Zittrain's take on Amazon and censorship from the July 2013 edition of WIRED.
- Check out Zittrain's appearance on The Colbert Report.
- Read Zittrain's article on buying services versus products: "The Personal Computer is Dead."