The champions of Internet censorship has been announced by RSF. March 12th is the International Day against cyber-censorship. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) organization takes the most of this key date, each year, to update its “Report against the Internet Enemies”. The 2013 edition of this report presents the top 5 countries but also top 5 companies which collaborate with these countries to establish or expand cybercensorship.
The five countries distinguished as champions of Internet censorship, which are indeed the worst ones are: Bahrain, China, Iran, Syria and Vietnam. They violate human rights and freedom of information in maintaining populations of intrusive surveillance on the Internet to strengthen their power. They do use two main types of technology: the listening material for mass interception and highly sophisticated spyware to target opponents in particular. These spyware programs are used to spy on the contents of hard disks, recover passwords, but also to access the contents of electronic mail or communications spy voice. They can either be installed directly on computers or via the Internet through false up-to-day or attachments in e-mails, without the user noticing it. The civilian use of such programs is quite limited. Some manufacturers provide their services directly to governmental entities, such as intelligence and security services. Other companies do not hesitate to promote their capacity to monitor and track political opponents. Authoritarian regimes use those to spy on journalists and their sources to constrain the freedom of information.
Some of these technologies may be used in two ways: they can be used for legitimate fight against cybercrime, but they can also be used as tools of censorship and surveillance against human rights actors and information when used by authoritarian regimes.
That is the way the Fisher technology from Gamma International operates by installing undetectable spyware and has been used by countries such as Syria, Libya or Bahrain which are also champions of Internet censorship.
The lack of trade supervision of these digital weapons therefore allows these authoritarian governments to check on citizens and journalists.
Entities such as Citizen Lab, or media reports from media such as the Wall Street Journal or Bloomberg has also long denounced this type of trade. Some of these companies are already the subject of legal proceedings, as it is the case for Gamma International and Trovicor, which are subject to a complaint launched by several NGOs to the OECD.
RSF’s report depicts a state of vigilance that makes these drifts quite disturbing. RSF is also soon to update its report with new nations and pirate companies.
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