Internet freedom is under threat worldwide

Government censorship and surveillance of Internet users was once the purview of oppressive regimes, like China and Iran, but now Western countries are trying to tame the digital frontier.

The Arab Spring has shown us that authoritarian states have good reasons to want to suppress free speech and monitor political dissent. In October, author Malcolm Gladwell argued that social networking sites would never be able to foment the bonds that are needed for organized groups to bring about real social change. He was proven wrong in February, when Egypt’s long-standing dictatorship was brought down by a protest movement that was started, and largely organized, online. The subversive power of the Internet to spread ideas and organize protest movements is now seen as a real threat to regimes that deny their citizens basic political and social freedoms.

The wave of political change that’s been sweeping across the Arab world began in Tunisia, where the Internet has traditionally been heavily censored. After the people successfully overthrew their dictator, government restrictions on online communication were lifted, for a time. Then the ruling military tribunal started blocking sites once again. And on June 13, a court ordered the Tunisian Internet Agency to block pornographic websites, even though it had initially refused.

Turkey, which has long been the most westernized Islamic state and has aspirations of joining the European Union, has also stepped up its censorship regime. The government has blocked access to popular sites, such as YouTube and WordPress, and further restrictions are often implemented at the behest of the courts and politicians.

Australian Internet service providers (ISPs) recently began bl0cking over 500 sites, based on a blacklist maintained by the Australian Communications and Media Authority. Details of the sites included on the blacklist are a closely guarded secret, but when it was leaked a few years ago, it was found to contain the website of a dental practice, religious sites and perfectly legal YouTube videos… Read more [via nationalpost]

Comments are closed.