The Battle Over Online Freedom Continues
The clash between citizens and governments over online freedom of expression is growing, according to a new report by Reporters Without Borders.
Called Beset by Online Surveillance and Content Filtering, Netizens Fight On, the study explores how both authoritarian and democratic governments attempt to control online activity. To do so, the authors label a number of countries such as Syria, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Bahrain, Iran and Turkmenistan among others as “Enemies of the Internet”; and say countries such as Australia, France, Egypt, Eritrea and India among others are “Countries Under Surveillance.”
Through this lens, the report’s authors declare, “More than ever before, online freedom of expression is now a major foreign and domestic policy issue,” and outline how:
- Internet and mobile phone shutdowns are occurring more frequently
- Content filtering is increasing
- Content removal is increasing
- Pressure on Internet Service Providers and Web site owners to police content is increasing
- Surveillance is more effective and more intrusive
- Government propaganda is increasing
- Cyber attacks are increasing
- Arrests, raids and roundups are increasing
While not a pretty picture for online freedoms the report does include examples of how citizens are fighting back. For example:
In order to combat increasingly competent censors, self-styled “hacktivists” have been giving technical assistance to vulnerable netizens to help them share information in the face of pervasive censorship. The campaigns on behalf of the Egyptian blogger Maikel Nabil Sanad and Syria’s Razan Ghazzawi have transcended international borders. The hashtag #OpSyria, started by Telecomix – a decentralised network of net activists committed to freedom of expression – has allowed Syrians to broadcast videos of the crackdown.
An overview of the report can be found here. The full report is available here (PDF).
Image: Wordcloud of Beset by Online Surveillance and Content Filtering, Netizens Fight On. Created with Wordle.
In related news, Canada just passed the government’s Omnibus crime legislation :(