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Censorship is a term used to define the removal of content deemed offensive from a piece of work or to remove the content in its entirity from the public sphere. It aims to ensure finished works such as films, music, speeches, or photographs do not contain objectionable, harmful, or politically incorrect matter such as sexual or violent content, references to drug use, and vulgar language.
Censorship is generally conducted on religious, moral, or political grounds. Censors may edit works to ensure they are not offensive or to make them appear more family-friendly. Media outlets, government bodies, and other authorities are generally responsible for censorship. Censorship may occur on a national level, such as when films are refused classification, or on a local level such as when high school libraries refuse to stock certain books.
Sexual content, such as partial or full nudity and footage of sexual acts, is often subjected to censorship and offending scenes may be removed. Similarly, when certain songs are deemed offensive, the lyrics of those songs may be "bleeped" when played on radio or television programs. Images deemed offensive may be pixilated, air brushed, or obstructed with a black bar. In many cases, the censored works may never reach the public in any form.
Censorship of pornography is just one form of sexual censorship. Other fields that may be subject to censorship include sex education, erotic literature, advertisements for contraception, public images that contain nudity, surveys about sexual issues, and websites with sexual content.
Critics of censorship argue that censoring practices violate free speech and threaten sexual freedom. They argue that consenting adults should be free to view whatever content they wish, without restriction from external bodies.
Some consider the ratings system which classifies creative work - particularly film - in North America to be a type of censorship, as the creator must adhere to certain standards in order to gain distribution.