Can you go to jail for looking at a website? The Internet has changed the way people consume information. Now, with a direct connection to the Web, it is easy for people to find out about anything they want.
The entire collective knowledge of the world is accessible through the palm of your hand, and while that may seem pretty impressive, you need to understand that there are some rules and regulations that must be followed.
The Internet was originally designed for file sharing. Today, that is only a fraction of what you can do on the World Wide Web. The content on the Web is regulated by different countries, which is why certain websites are banned in certain parts of the world. For instance, you can’t access Facebook, the world’s largest social network, in China. While that may seem weird at first, governments usually do this because they don’t want people accessing certain information.
However, accessing these banned websites is not actually a crime. With the help of a VPN, you can easily access any of the sites from across the globe. A VPN allows you to conceal your identity online and masks your IP address so that your location cannot be traced.
Can You Go To Jail For Looking At A Website?
It all depends on the nature of banned websites and the laws of specific countries with regards to accessing banned information online.
Which Websites Are Banned?
Before we talk about punishments and jail time, it is important to understand the nature of banned websites, and why governments do it. In some cases, it is to prevent access to information that the government does not want its citizens to know. For instance, a common case is North Korea, which limits information to the outside world and has painted its own image. Many people from North Korea are not even aware of the facilities and amenities available in different parts of the world.
In some cases, it is to prevent the citizens from engaging in harmful activities. China, for instance, also an authoritative country, has banned almost all major social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram, and many others. A significant portion of Wikipedia is also blocked. This is because they have their own social networks and communication apps, and the country makes sure that only local content is consumed. Moreover, it also gives the government greater control on regulating information.
A popular case is porn; millions of porn websites are banned in parts of the Middle East and other regions. It’s considered to be a destructive activity, and that is why most governments ban it. Now, you can easily access it, and while it’s not exactly a crime unless otherwise stated, you should know that accessing illegitimate websites that pirate videos is actually illegal, and a crime.
So, How Can You Be Jailed?
First of all, let’s talk about what happens when you write the URL in the address bar. When you view something online, a copy of the content is saved on your computer. This is done so that when you access the same website again, it will load up much faster on your screen. Of course, it’s easy to clear all of that content from your website, but you need to understand that a log is also being kept on the portal of the website.
Many websites have sophisticated tracking tools that determine how long a person stays on each page. This is designed to understand consumer behavior and get a better idea about what pages attract the most attention. They check what device you used it on, and other details.
In fact, a simple rule of thumb is to make sure that you never download, upload, visit, or create anything on the web that you don’t want your boss, your friends, your family, or your children to see. If you think what you are doing is objectionable and should be avoided, it’s best to stay away.
Always remember that your feelings don’t lie to you. If you feel that what you are doing on the web is wrong, it probably is, and you should avoid doing it. Another important thing that you should know is that once information goes on the web, it becomes immortal.
There is absolutely no way to remove something once it goes online. People take screenshots, and information is stored on multiple servers with several backups, so no matter how hard you try, there’s simply no way to completely remove a piece of content from the web.
Now, there are certain acts that are regarded as criminal and can lead you into hot water. For instance, viewing child porn is absolutely illegal, and the government actively searches for and keeps tabs on people who they suspect are involved in the consumption of child pornography. Each year, hundreds of people are arrested because of this crime. Even if you accidentally stumbled on a child porn website, you are at risk and can be arrested.
Another example is websites that sell guns illegally. The illegal arms trade is rampant in different parts of the globe, and you need to make sure that you avoid doing anything that violates state and federal laws. Law enforcement has the tools to track the location of your computer and can make an arrest.
It’s important to note that almost all of your information is traceable on the web, especially if you haven’t taken any serious measures to protect yourself and your information online, you might find yourself in jail. Child pornography is a common example, but others such as buying illegal guns or drugs online is also prohibited.
A famous example is the Silk Road Drug Trade, which was an online marketplace for selling different kinds of drugs. It was taken down, and many people were arrested. Any act that violates the federal or the state laws is a crime. Bestiality, for example, can also land you 10 years on the sex offenders’ register.
The crimes and felonies depend upon which country you are in, and the manner of the act that has been committed. So, in a nutshell, yes, you can be jailed for looking at specific websites online.