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Internet censorship: Violation of right to information?


China FlagA recent PC World | IDG News service article reports that bloggers in China have been exempted from mandatory registration of their real names. It isn't just the Chinese government that has been employing repressive tactics against freedom of expression over the Internet. State-led censorship of the net has been prevalent for political, social, and security reasons. And the trend is on the rise.

Excerpt from an article in NewScientistTech.com

"By comparing their findings to earlier reports, the authors conclude that filtering is currently increasing worldwide. They also believe that governments are extending restrictions beyond just information websites to other online services, such as Internet telephony network Skype."
The findings are attributed to a survey conducted by The OpenNet Initiative (ONI), a nonprofit collaborative partnership of four of the world's leading academic institutions: University of Toronto, Harvard Law School, University of Cambridge, and Oxford University.

"Our aim is to investigate, expose and analyze Internet filtering and surveillance practices in a credible and non-partisan fashion. We intend to uncover the potential pitfalls and unintended consequences of these practices, and thus help to inform better public policy and advocacy work in this area." (from ONI Web site)

More on the report is available at:

Internet Censorship on the Rise Worldwide (TechNewsWorld.com)

Internet censorship involves the following techniques in inhibiting users:

1. Technical Blocking : These techniques are used to block access to specific Web pages, domains, or IP addresses

E.g. Microsoft Considers China Policy (BBC News )

2. Search Results Removal : Companies that provide Internet search services cooperate with governments to omit illegal or undesirable Web sites from search results

E.g. Google Korea Restricts Search (PC World)

Google kowtows to Thai Censorship (Sun)

No booze or jokes for Googlers in China (News.com)

3) Take-down : Removal of Web sites with inappropriate or illegal content

4) Induced Censorship : A strategy to limit exposure to the Internet content by encouraging self-censorship both in browsing habits and in choosing content to post online with the threat of legal action or informal methods of intimidation

According to survey results for Internet penetration across the world (Internet World Stats) , around 16% of the human population is Internet-enabled, implying that approximately 1 in every 6 persons in the world has access to the Net. Many projects, like The OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) initiative, had been planned to bridge this gaping information divide.

Last year, the first United Nations' Internet Governance Forum, consisting of stakeholders in the Internet, was convened at Athens, "to get all interested parties together in one place to discuss key issues about the Internet, to help form consensus so that those who do have control over the net sit up and take notice" (article from BBC News).

When the statistics prove that the need of the hour is to make the Internet more accessible globally, the rise in censorship is indeed sad news. Moreover, this seems to be a trend that large technology corporations are unable to stop and are in fact abetting to protect their pecuniary concerns.

For a deeper insight into Internet censorship, read this study conducted by Craig. A Depken,II : Who supports Internet Censorship?

The Internet has emerged as the unhindered, uninhibited medium for information dissemination. In this age where progress of humanity is centered on our acknowledgement of several fundamental Human rights, isn't Internet censorship a blatant violation of the right to information? Join the discussion.

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