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[liberationtech] NEWS: Online censorship, intimidation increasing around the world

Yosem Companys ycompanys at
Fri Mar 19 20:22:28 PDT 2010

  'Enemies of the Internet': Not Just For Dictators Anymore
Written by Abraham
ReadWriteWeb / March 11, 2010 7:00 PM / 9
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 [image: enemies internet reporters without borders]Reporters Without
Borders released its annual report <>
on online access today. They call it Enemies of the Internet, and it shows a
world where online censorship, intimidation and worse is increasing.

It's not surprising that as access to the Internet expands, more and more
dictators and tyrants will try to suppress it. But what's troubling about
this year's report is the inclusion of two democratic countries: Australia
and South Korea.

Both countries were included in the report's Under Surveillance list - a sub
group of the main Enemies list.

Australia's proposed online filtering system is something RWB says it has
"never before seen in a democracy." Additionally, in the state of South
Australia it's now against the law to be anonymous online if it's in the
context of an election.

In South Korea, a new censorship law allows for five-year prison sentences
for anyone found using the Internet "to disseminate false news intended to
damage the public interest." The same law requires online visitors to
register their real name and national ID card number when visiting sites
with more than 100,000 members.

Here are a handful of the worst violators of online freedom of expression on
the Enemies of the Internet list:


Two high-ranking government officials have been 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. The
legislation governing Internet use - the Electronic Act - is one of the most
liberticidal laws in the world.


As its polemic with Google and the United States on the Internet's future
unfolds, China continues to intensify Web censorship, faced with an
increasingly forceful online community.The much-vaunted promises made by
organizers at the open ceremonies of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games have
proven to be mere illusions for the world's biggest netizen prison. Expanded
dissemination of propaganda, generalized surveillance and crackdowns on
Charter 08 signatories are commonplace on what has become the Chinese
Intranet - with significant consequences for trade.


More than a mere virtual communications tool, the Egyptian Internet has
become a mobilization and dissension platform. Although website blocking
remains limited, authorities are striving to regain control over bloggers
who are more and more organized, despite all the harassment and arrests.


Iran, one of cyber-censorship's record-holding countries, has stepped up its
crackdown and online surveillance since the protests over the disputed
presidential reelection of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on June 12, 2009. The regime
is demonizing the new media, which it is accusing of serving foreign
interest.While a dozen netizens are serving out their terms in Evin Prison,
bold Internet users are continuing to mobilize.

 *Saudi Arabia*

An emerging bloggers' community is up against harsh censorship. These
bloggers are confronting the traditional forces of Saudi society, which are
attempting to prevent the Internet from becoming a forum for free
discussions. Saudi Arabia is one of the first countries to have been
authorized to write Internet domain names in Arabic.The Internet penetration
rate, currently estimated at about 38% of the population, is rising. How-
ever, it is still one of the most repressive countries with regard to the


Syria 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.
The promised technological improvements are slow to materialize. The
authorities' distrust of the potential for dissident online mobilization may
be playing a role in this delay.


The progress made by Vietnam in the domain of human rights, which allowed
the country to become a member of the World Trade Organization in 2007, is
nothing but a distant memory. As the 2011 Communist Party Congress draws
nearer, the regime is muffling dissident views on the Internet, and its
first target is critics of the country's policy toward China.
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