The United States of America is known for its declarative stances on life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. However, this doesn’t seem to be the case when we spend a lifetime – pursuing liberty – only to be met with the unhappiness of censorship. In today’s modern world, the battle for freedom, along with the war against freedom of expression, has shifted gears online. Repressive regimes persistently undermine global civil liberties; cunningly employing various Internet censorship techniques to appear stagnant and under the radar.
The magnitude of Internet filtering and censorship in any given nation is measured by the OpenNet Initiative, or “ONI.” According their website mission statement, the OpenNet Initiative aims to “identify and document Internet filtering and surveillance, and to promote and inform wider public dialogues about such practices.” There are 5 categories of censorship magnitudes (in addition to various nations profiled on ONI’s website) that are structured upon the following bases:
1.) Lack of Evidence
In this case, there is no apparent evidence that websites are being blocked by the government, though forms of control may be employed. The biggest offending countries of proof-voided corroboration are: Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Egypt, France, Germany, Iraq, Israel, Malaysia, Nepal, Nigeria, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Venezuela and finally, Zimbabwe.
This category alludes to suspicion of blocked websites by governmental influences, yet without tangible confirmation. A prime example is North Korea, which has a national intranet with approximately 30 approved websites. North Korea is an extremely isolated country, and this separation contributes to the difficulties posed in obtaining substantial information.
This grouping implies that a small number of websites may be blocked, and/or a small number of people may see filtered results. Countries such as Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, India, Italy, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Libya, Moldova, Morocco, Russia, Singapore, Tajikistan, Thailand and Turkey serve as the deeming nations under this category.
This category identifies nations that filter search results, while further blocking websites at a regularly-low or moderate level. Countries likely to be considered under this grouping are Burma, Ethiopia, Gaza and the West Bank, Indonesia, Pakistan, South Korea, Sudan and Uzbekistan.
Under this extreme magnitude, massive censorship is implemented by the government. Many websites are blocked and freedom of expression is severely limited. Participating nations include: Bahrain, China, Iran, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, North Korea, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Vietnam and Yemen.
In an attempt to expose cyber filtering and surveillance practices, OPI monitors and rates four areas of Internet activity, as listed below.
These websites generally centralize around taboo issues; ranging from sexually-explicit content, various forms of betting and drugs. The worst offending countries are considered to be: North Korea, Yemen, Uzbekistan, United Arab Emirates, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, Iran and Bahrain.
This area pertains to website content that opposes, refutes or negates governmental control. Additionally banned are issues regarding human rights and freedom of expression. Implied transgressing countries are North Korea, Vietnam, Turkmenistan, Tunisia, Syria, Libya, Iran, China, Burma and Bahrain.
iii.) Internet Tools
This degree interferes, monitors and tampers with e-mail; web hosting; search and translation; VoIP communications and social media. In light of the Arab Spring uprising, social media has skyrocketed as expressive platforms that convey both sentiments and information in opposition with imposed, authoritative control. The worst offending nations are North Korea, Yemen, United Arab Emirates, Tunisia, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and Iran.
iv.) Conflict & Security
This classification includes anything spanning a vast military spectrum, with sectors in opposition, separatist movements and militant groups. The nations assumed under this category are North Korea, South Korea and China.
In a June 2011 issue of the New York Times, the United States was chronicled as a nation engaged in a global effort to “deploy shadow Internet and mobile phone systems[in which] dissidents can use to undermine repressive governments that seek to silence them by censoring or shutting down telecommunications networks.” Additionally, internet censorship can be circumvented by utilizing a proxy server website to access banned data. A proxy server website is an un-blocked server that is outside of the censored geographic area of the user. This website tool enables retrieval of censored data. Another way to informationally-intervene is by changing a censored IP address to that of an IP from a non-censored country, for example by using change IP address software. For assistance in visualizing the above information, look at our infographic below which showcases the key points of anti-censorship data. After all, it’s only fair that a democratic nation encourages “freedom of speech” as a globally-applicable entitlement.