Tag Archives: Australia

Internet enemies list; No real surprises here

Reporters Without Borders has a great list of governments that are “Enemies of the Internet.”

And there are no real surprises.

The hostility governments in places such as Burma, China, Cuba exhibit toward freedom of speech, press and expression is well documented. What I like about the RSF Internet list is the detail it provides about those governments.

For example in China we learn more than just the Great Firewall is functioning but also that the number of Internet users in the country exceeds the population of the United States (384 million Chinese Internet users v. 308 million people in the United States.)

We also learn that the average cost of one hour of Internet cafe time is US$2/hour. To me this is interesting because the average MONTHLY wage in China is US$219-274.

And we learn that 72 “netizens” are in Chinese jails, among them Nobel Peace Prize winner Lio Xaiobo who is serving an 11-year jail term for writing his opinions on the Internet and helping launch Charter 08.

We also see more details about the censoring of information in China and its impact on a generation of Chinese:

On the eve of the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square events, a dozen websites such as Twitter, YouTube, Bing, Flickr, Opera, Live, WordPress and Blogger were blocked. The information blackout has been so well-enforced for the last 20 years that the vast majority of young Chinese citizens are not even aware that the events of June 1989 ever happened.

Other countries listed as enemies of the Internet are:

  • Burma: Two high-ranking government officials sentenced to death for having e-mailed documents abroad: Net censorship is a serious matter in Burma. Massive filtering of websites and extensive slowdowns during times of unrest are daily occurrences for the country’s Internet users.
  • Cuba: Despite a few improvements, Internet access actually remains beyond the reach of most of the population because of its high cost and low connection speeds. The regime, which maintains two parallel network, is now taking aim at a small blogger community that is becoming increasingly active.
  • Egypt: Since early 2007, the government has been reinforcing Web surveillance in the name of the fight against terrorism, under the iron fist of a special department of Egypt’s Ministry of Interior. Facebook is monitored, rather than blocked, so that activists can be observed or arrested. Authorities are monitoring their people’s emails and telephone calls without any court order, by virtue of the Telecommunications Law, which requires Internet service providers to supply them with the necessary surveillance services and equipment.
  • Iran: Censorship is a core part of Iran’s state apparatus. Internet surveillance has been centralized, thereby facilitating implementation of censorship.
  • North Korea: Let’s start with an average charge for one hour’s connection at a cybercafé at US$8.19 with an average monthly salary of US$17.74. The large majority of the population is not even aware that the Internet exists. An extremely limited Intranet has been created, but few can access it.
  • Saudi Arabia: Websites that broach the subject of religion, human rights or positions taken by the opposition are rendered inaccessible. Far from denying it, the authorities maintain that their censorship decisions are justified and claim to have blocked some 400,000 websites.
  • Syria: The country is reinforcing its censorship of troublesome topics on the Web and tracking netizens who dare to express themselves freely on it. As a result, social networks have been particularly targeted by omnipresent surveillance.
  • Tunisia: The Internet is seen as a potential threat to the country’s stability and image and is thus the target of pernicious censorship. Very strict filtering, opponent harassment and Big Brother-like surveillance enable the authorities to keep tight control over the news media.
  • Turkmenistan: Very strict filtering is now focused on critical publications likely to target local users and potential dissidents. Opposition websites and regional news sites covering Central Asia are also blocked. YouTube and LiveJournal are rendered inaccessible.
  • Uzbekistan: This country is deprived of independent media outlets. The authorities impose a very strict Internet censorship, while refusing to admit it publicly. Website filtering, sanctions and intimidation are used against potential critics of the regime. Netizens have learned to practice self-censorship.
  • Vietnam: The government claims to filter only content that is obscene or endangers national security, but censorship also affects opposition websites or those that are in any way critical of the regime. Censorship primarily involves blocking website addresses, and particularly concerns sites in Vietnamese.

Then there are countries the RSF is keeping an eye on, such as Australia:

Under the guise of fighting child pornography, the government wants to set up a filtering system never before seen in a democracy. The State of South Australia has passed a law prohibiting online anonymity in an electoral context.

And South Korea:

The authorities are using the criminalization of defamation against their critics and do not hesitate to make examples of them. Since June 2008, a dozen Web surfers have been briefly arrested and interrogated for having posted online comments critical of the government within the context of these demonstrations.

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Filed under Asia, Censorship, Freedom of Information, Harassment, International News Coverage, Middle East, Press Freedom

Enemies of the Internet

Updating older story.

March 12 was declared World Day Against Cyber Censorship. On that day, Reporters Without Borders issued a report on the Enemies of the Internet. (Read summary here.)

Not surprisingly the worst violators of free speech and expression on the Internet are Saudi Arabia, Burma, China, North Korea, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, Uzbekistan, Syria, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, and Vietnam.

Internet shutdowns or major slowdowns are commonplace in periods of unrest. The Internet’s potential as a portal open to the world directly contradicts the propensity of these regimes to isolate themselves from other countries.

The RSF also has an “Under Surveillance” category for countries that are moving away from Internet freedom and toward a more controlled or censored one.

On the “Under Surveillance” list is Australia for its proposed mandatory Internet filter law.

The growing tendency of Russia to exercise control over all media outlets is now being extended to arrests of independent bloggers.

In Turkey, the government is making it clear that bloggers who discuss the Kurds or Armenians affect “the dignity of the nation” and could be subject to prosecution.

Other countries, such as the United Arab Emirates, Belarus and Thailand are also maintaining their “under surveillance” status, but will need to make more progress to avoid getting transferred into the next “Enemies of the Internet” list. Thailand, because of abuses related to the crime of “lèse-majesté”; the Emirates, because they have bolstered their filtering system; Belarus because its president has just signed a liberticidal order that will regulate the Net, and which will enter into force this summer – just a few months before the elections.

As more people depend on the Internet for their news and information, journalism organizations need to approach attacks on Internet freedom with the same force and vigor as if a government was trying to shut down a mortar and brick newspaper.

It’s all part of that freedom of speech, press and expression thing we all so love.

And dictators so hate.

And just a few other articles of interest from the RSF:

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Filed under Censorship, Connections, Freedom of Information, Harassment, International News Coverage, Press Freedom

Step up against Internet censorship

Reporters Without Borders is stepping up the pressure on countries that censor or otherwise restrict access to the Internet in their countries. The RSF is kicking off its campaign with World Day Against Cyber Censorship March 12.

Places such as Iran and China pop into mind right away. Some democracies are also jumping on the censorship bandwagon.

A couple of years ago the Australian government proposed mandatory Internet filters be installed in all computers. At the time the Labor government did not have the votes to enforce the idea. But late last year the government announced new legislation to get the mandatory filters in place.

The so-called “Measures to improve safety of the internet for families” act is expected to be introduced in the Fall 2010 session of parliament. The measure is undergoing public comment at this time.

The proposed legislation has raised the hackles among many in Australia.

In January The Great Australian Internet Blackout urged Aussies to write to their members of parliament AND  blackout their profile pictures for a day. The cyber-demonstrations were planned for Australia Day, Jan. 26.

The problem with any filtering software — besides the anti-democratic nature of FORCING people to use it — is that the programs are easily circumvented and too often block important information. For example, most filters will block “breast cancer” but not sexual explicit web sites related to “Little Women.”

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Filed under Censorship, Freedom of access