Web Censorship Spreads

While recent posts have noted a favorable trend in China with regard to greater respect for property rights, China and other countries remain restrictive with regards to internet access. The Financial TImes reports on the goblal spread of web censorship:

A recent six-month investigation into whether 40 countries use censorship shows the practice is spreading, with new countries learning from experienced practitioners such as China and benefiting from technological improvements.

OpenNet Initiative, a project by Harvard Law School and the universities of Toronto, Cambridge and Oxford, repeatedly tried to call up specific websites from 1,000 international news and other sites in the countries concerned, and a selection of local-language sites.

The research found a trend towards censorship or, as John Palfrey, executive director of Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, said, “a big trend in the reverse direction”, with many countries recently starting to adopt forms of online censorship.

Ronald Deibert, associate professor of political science at the University of Toronto, said 10 countries had become “pervasive blockers”, regularly preventing their citizens seeing a range of online material. These included China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Burma and Uzbekistan.

New censorship techniques include the periodic barring of complete applications, such as China’s block on Wikipedia or Pakistan’s ban on Google’s blogging service, and the use of more advanced technologies such as “keyword filtering”, which is used to track down material by identifying sensitive words.

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