There are very strict regulations and measures against pornography in Australia – to such an extent that censorship in Australia has been compared with politically focused censorship in China. Many types of content other than pornography are affected by censorship such as gaming websites. The focus is, however, not explicitly politically oriented. In-spite of the strict regulations there seems to be some public support for even more strict control of access to pornographic information. Although it might not have a real impact on government’s decisions and handling of Internet censorship, there is room for people to express themselves against Internet censorship. Government websites have been targeted by cyber-attacks.
Rather limited reports (in English) could be traced on Internet censorship in Chile. Some issues that stood out are the fact that it does not seem as if Internet censorship is strongly regulated and enforced, decisions on censorship often relies on the arbitrary views of a judge, and equipment such as hard drives to be destroyed in cases where people were held in police custody have been noted. Chile is noted for its network neutrality, and also attempts to make it less cumbersome for people to request public information via the Internet. It has been noted for fast speed Internet access in comparison to other countries in the region.
China is noted for severe measures of censorship and surveillance, as well as a lack of freedom of speech. Email and other forms of Internet communication are strictly monitored: it seems not possible to send anonymous email messages, and government security has been noted to infiltrate online systems for purposes of surveillance. Filtering software is used, and a wide spectrum of information resources are subject to censorship, e.g. websites, blogs, chat sessions, Internet telephone calls. China is not only noted for a very sophisticated system of censorship and surveillance, but also that it might have research limitations in terms of counteracting circumvention methods. More reports on side-stepping and countering censorship have been noted for China than for any of the other countries included in this study. These include the use of circumvention software, the use of overseas ftp sites, misspelling keywords, using allegories, using web proxy servers and cryptic codes. Harsh measures are used for censorship including Internet blackouts and Denial of Service attacks, prison sentences and intimidation of journalists, bloggers and Internet content creators.
As a democratic country reports on Finland mostly reflect concerns about pornography and specifically child pornography, as well as the protection of rights: intellectual property and copyright. However, it seems to be affected by terrorism incidents in other countries such as Norway to steepen up measures on surveillance. Concerns have been noted that Finland in reality covers more than pornography, and that even websites criticizing censorship have been blocked. Blocking and filtering is voluntary. There are perceptions that it is easy to side-step censorship in Finland. The blacklist of blocked sites is kept secret. Concern has been expressed that nobody seems to take responsibility for the choices of websites to be blocked.
Libya is marked by controversial opinion on the scope and severity of Internet censorship. Although it is no longer on the list of countries under surveillance for the list of “Enemies of the Internet”, serious concerns are noted in reports, especially while Libya was under the Gaddafi rule. Although there is no formal legislation on censorship in Libya, it is nevertheless marked by strong surveillance of a variety of media ranging from email to Yahoo Chat and Skype. Very few reports were picked up on concerns about the violation of personal privacy. Under the Gaddafi government, censorship was mostly politically orientated with numerous reports on actions against conduct considered as criminal. Libya is especially noted for a lack of freedom of speech. There is strong enforced reliance on cyber cafés to cooperate in surveillance. Means of censorship include blocking, curfews, blackouts and the hacking of websites.
Internet censorship and surveillance in Myanmar is strongly associated with violations of human rights. Although there are claims by the new government that they are slackening government control, opinions are voiced that government control is actually tightening. Apart from blocking websites with content in contrast to government views, and especially those of a political nature and dealing with human rights, there is severe surveillance of Internet traffic and communication, and also limits on freedom of speech. A variety of media is monitored ranging from websites and emails to Internet telephone services. With regard to violations of privacy there is much more reported than for other countries. Myanmar is also associated with pervasive censorship, lack of Internet infrastructure for the general public and high cost for using the Internet. Apart from legislation on censorship there is also legislation on methods for circumvention of Internet censorship. Myanmar also developed means to deny the general population access to Internet content, while government officials maintain access.
Although Singapore is not considered an “Enemy of the Internet” there is strong evidence of Internet censorship and restrictions on freedom of speech. The motivation for censorship is based on moral grounds and especially protection against pornography; thus Singapore works from a “symbolic list of 100 websites”. Furthermore the claim is that the government gives preference to educate and prepare the general population to act responsibly. Although the proclaimed intention is to prevent ethnic and religious conflict, it seems as if criticism against the government is also censored. There is limited reliance on technology, and sometimes the blocking of websites relies on trial and error research by Internet users to identify websites to be blocked. Different guidelines apply to deciding on websites to be blocked; these are influenced by where websites originated from (e.g. from home versus an institution) and who is accessing the information (i.e. younger or older people). Universities have been reported to maintain different Internet servers for staff and students.
Although there is an increase in mobile access, parts of Turkey are still marked by limited Internet infrastructure and thus subject to pervasive censorship. Censorship in Turkey is aligned to the protection of families especially with regard to protection against pornography. Like in many other countries, the actual scope of censorship, however, seems wider, e.g. websites with negative information on Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (considered as the father of modern Turkey by many) being blocked. Concerns on violation of individual privacy did not quite feature in the data mined. Turkey uses a centralized system of filtering, and there is a lack of transparency in terms of websites blocked. Although there initially was no formal legislation on censorship and surveillance, there are moves in this direction. Faced by large scale national protests against Internet filtering, steps were taken to prevent attacks on government websites. There also seems to be a rise in government censorship with actions being taken against websites supporting actions against censorship. Earlier in 2012 large numbers of people participated in national protests against Internet filtering. Positive trends in Turkey include the fact that the content of blocked websites can sometimes still be accessed.
Main findings show that what happens in other countries influences countries as a whole.
Here are interesting trends to follow :
Negative trends :
- Internet related privacy
In many countries strong trends toward nation-wide monitoring, sometimes even calling on the support of search engines such as Google, Internet café owners and Internet service providers, were noted. In some countries serious invasion of individual privacy are noted, e.g. not even being able to send anonymous emails, and government security infiltration of online networks. In some contexts the rationale is for preventing criticism against the government and in others for national security. In some countries strong surveillance were noted, but limited reports on reactions to invasion of privacy were picked up through data mining.
- Ubiquitous society and control
Various bodies are involved in control, ranging from governments and bodies of authority mandated by them, to a strong reliance on Internet service providers, and also Internet café owners (even by enforcement). Sometimes this is enhanced by the use of filtering software on personal computers and calls on parents to accept more responsibility. Especially in Myanmar strong reliance on Internet café owners was noted.
- Internet related media being censored
Although mostly websites are targeted, censoring of social media websites, chat groups, and Internet telephony service (e.g. Skype) also occurs. In some countries, Internet censorship is formerly regulated by the government; in others there are no formal legal structures but very strong surveillance and enforcementactions.
- Filtering and blocking Internet content & blocking software
Blacklists of websites to be blocked depend on input from various resources: body of authority assigned by the government, combination of bodies of authority, input from blacklists compiled by other countries, trial and error research and input by the public. The United Kingdom uses, amongst others, trained police analysts. Some blacklists are available, while others are kept secret -this even in democratic countries such as Finland; some, such as Singapore, claim a “symbolic list of 100 websites”. From the spectrum of content addressed by censorship, political issues and anti-government sentiments and actions, plus pornography stand out. The sophistication of Internet filtering differs widely across countries, e.g. ranging from layered filtering to specialist software such as Websense and Cleanfeed to filtering software for personal computers. Filtering ranges from voluntary to mandatory and legally enforced. In some countries filtering is also aimed at protection of intellectual and copyrights. Some countries, for instance Singapore, claim to rather focus on educating and preparing the general population to act responsibly. Different guidelines on levels of blocking depend on origin of generation and who is accessing the information. Censorship is also aimed at the protection of families, and political leaders as it is the case in Turkey.
- Monitoring technologies
Although not much was picked up by data mining, the use of specific software was noted. Sometimes, as in the case of Libya and Myanmar, such software is even supported by companies in democratic countries. Cross-country expertise is also employed in censorship, e.g. drawing on experts from Russia, Pakistan and Poland (in the case of Libya). A wide variety of software is used. Some countries rely strongly on technology while others are marked by limited reliance and even trial and error research by Internet users as it is the case in Singapore.
The United Kingdom uses deep-packet inspection technology. Many countries are planning to step up on surveillance technology.
- Criminalization of legitimate expression on the Internet
Actions against those considered in breach of regulations and legislation differs widely between countries. It can range from a fine, police custody, imprisonment, intimidation and even alleged murder. Actions in China and Myanmar for instance are so severe that it is actually seen as violations of human rights.
- Support for Internet censorship
Although very diverse opinions on censorship are noted, and although opinions expressed via Internet communication channels are often against Internet censorship and especially surveillance, there are from time to time calls for stricter censorship coming from the public.
- Enforcing regulations and Internet censorship
Great diversity was noted between countries, ranging from rather lenient, e.g. fines and blocking websites, to harsh prison sentences and the use of fear and punishment to put pressure on people to keep to regulations.
- Internet related communication surveillance
In especially democratic countries such as the United Kingdom a strong trend towards nation-wide surveillance was noted. Very heavy surveillance in China, Mynamar (seeming to draw on all possible resources) and Libya were noted. The United Kingdom, Finland and Turkey are also considering stricter surveillance.
Also some positive trends were seen :
- Reactions to Internet censorship
Cyber-attacks on key websites such as those of the government, activities of anti-censorship groups
and even large scale protests such as in Turkey are used to relay the feeling of the public or specific interest groups. Dedicated groups such as Electronic Frontier Australia, Reporters Without Borders and the OpenNet Initiative also make considerable contributions in raising awareness of the scope and form of Internet censorship. Where censorship is politically focused, some countries claim to be slackening control with a change of government, such as in Mynamar and Libya. There are, however, some doubts about this.
- Attempts and means to side-step Internet censorship
The use of circumvention software, overseas ftp sites, misspelling of keywords, allegories, web proxy software, and cryptic codes were noted.
- Cyber actions against Internet censorship
Some incidents of cyber-attacks on key websites such as those of the government are increasing as means to express anti-censorship sentiments. Innovative ways of showing opposition to
- Internet censorship
Data mining focusing specifically on means of showing opposition as noted in the subject literature might be more effective. Search engines such as Google have voiced concerns about the plans of some countries, and some politicians have been noted to speak out against Internet censorship.
Support from specialists such as Global Internet Freedom and the Global Internet Freedom Fund strengthens the case of those against censorship. Often criticism from outside a country is noted as well as from international monitoring services, such as OpenNet Initiative and Reporters Without Borders
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