December 13, 2013

The Internet is ushering in a new age of censorship, says Jonathan Zittrain. Credit: Jason Verwey  / Flickr Creative Commons

Guest:

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:

  1. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  2. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
  3. The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
  4. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
  5. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
  6. Ulysses, by James Joyce
  7. Beloved, by Toni Morrison
  8. The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
  9. 1984, by George Orwell
  10. Lolita, by Vladmir Nabokov
  11. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
  12. Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
  13. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
  14. Animal Farm, by George Orwell
  15. The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway
  16. As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner
  17. A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway
  18. Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
  19. Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
  20. Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
  21. Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell
  22. Native Son, by Richard Wright
  23. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, by Ken Kesey
  24. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
  25. For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway
  26. The Call of the Wild, by Jack London
  27. Go Tell it on the Mountain, by James Baldwin
  28. All the King's Men, by Robert Penn Warren
  29. The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien
  30. The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair
  31. Lady Chatterley's Lover, by D.H. Lawrence
  32. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
  33. The Awakening, by Kate Chopin
  34. In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote
  35. The Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie
  36. Sophie's Choice, by William Styron
  37. Sons and Lovers, by D.H. Lawrence
  38. Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
  39. A Separate Peace, by John Knowles
  40. Naked Lunch, by William S. Burroughs
  41. Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh
  42. Women in Love, by D.H. Lawrence
  43. The Naked and the Dead, by Norman Mailer
  44. Tropic of Cancer, by Henry Miller
  45. An American Tragedy, by Theodore Dreiser
  46. 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.

Still curious?

Sci and Tech, books, censorship, Culture

Previous Post

Where are the Women in Tech?

Next Post

Breaking with Tradition

comments powered by Disqus