Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Censorship in cyberspace
Censorship in cyberspace is often treated as a separate issue from censorship of offline material, but the legal issues are similar.
The major difference is that national borders are more permeable online: residents of a country that bans certain information can often find it on web sites hosted elsewhere. Conversely, attempts by one government to prevent its citizens from seeing certain material can have the effect of restricting foreigners, because the government may take action against Internet sites anywhere in the world, if they host material it objects to. For example:
- A French court has asked auction sites hosted in the United States to remove Nazi memorabilia. The matter was not appealed and it is thus unclear whether this decision will be kept as jurisprudence. French law criminalizes the publishing of material deemed to incite to racial hatred.
- The United States of America enacted in 1996 the Communications Decency Act, which severely restricted online speech that could potentially be seen by a minor – which, it was argued, was most of online speech. Free speech advocates, however, managed to have most of the act overturned by the courts. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act criminalizes the discussion and dissemination of technology that could be used to circumvent copyright protection mechanisms, and makes it easier to act against alleged copyright infringement on the Internet. It has already been used by certain organizations (e.g. the Church of Scientology) to have unfavorable information about them censored, under the guise of copyright protection.
- The People's Republic of China has set up systems for Internet censorship that are collectively known as the Great Firewall of China.
- Burma maintains the restrictive Myanmar Wide Web.
- Cuba has made Internet usage illegal without a permit. For the most part only medical doctors can get permits, making the neighbourhood doctor the place to go to send e-mail to family abroad, but the Cuban government has been trying to restrict this.
- Tunisia has blocked thousands of websites (such as pornography, mail, and translation services) and peer-to-peer and FTP transfer. [Technically, the filtering is made via a transparent proxy and the ports 23, 80, 1080, 3128 and 8080 are blocked.]
- Syria has banned websites for political reasons and arrested people accessing them.
- South Korea has ordered its ISPs not to allow access to various sites it considers too sympathetic to North Korea.
- The majority of Internet access in the Middle East and a number of other countries is through government controlled proxy servers that block access to sites that are considered to be 'immoral'. This includes not only directly pornographic websites but also certain chat forums discussing any issues of sexuality, controversial blogging hosts, sites showing nudity of any description (including online businesses selling women's lingerie), as well as politically sensitive or controversial topics. Copies of pages are reviewed and eventually blocked when they do not meet set criteria.
- The efforts of Scientology to stifle online discussion of its activities has been seen by many as a form of censorship.
- The Project for the New American Century published plans that some said would control cyberspace and militarize near-Earth orbits in September 2000 .
- The BBC is proposing to offer it's entire range of terrestrial television broadcasting as free downloads, but only to people within the UK. At the moment most internet content is available regardless of where one is in the world.
Censoring information on the internet, however, is very difficult (or impossible) to achieve due to the underlying distributed technology of the internet. Pseudonymity and data havens (such as Freenet) allow unconditional free speech, as the technology guarantees that material cannot be removed and the author of any information is impossible to link to a physical identity or organization.
- Internet censorship in the People's Republic of China
- Internet censorship in Australia
- Bypassing Internet censorship
- International Freedom of Expression eXchange — monitors Internet censorship worldwide
- Bypassing Internet censorship
- Cuba cracks down on internet use BBC, 11 January 2004.
- Open Net Initiative
- Syrian jailed for internet usage BBC, 21 June, 2004.
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