Yesterday was World Day Against Cyber-censorship [insert snarky comment about the abundance of “Days against X” here]. To celebrate (is “celebrate” the right word?), Reporters Without Borders has released a report on the state of internet control and surveillance. The report labels 12 countries as “enemies of the internet”, claiming that they have turned their access to the network into an intranet, allowing them to completely monitor what gets through. The Dirty Dozen of censorship are Burma, China, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam. Other countries mentioned in the document as places which exert excessive control are Australia, Bahrain, Belarus, Eritrea, Malaysia, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, and Zimbabwe.
The report does make an interesting point about the effectiveness of cyber-censorship:
“But is blocking of news online still effective? Through experience and thanks to their technical knowledge, Internet users have learned to get round some censorship installed on the Web by their governments. In countries where access to news is prized, it is not unusual to find software to defeat online censorship installed on computers in cybercafés, and also managers willing to put them to use if need be. Internet experts belonging to some of the most recognised institutions constantly create and fine-tune software versions so as to adapt them to the reality of the virtual world and to ensure that news is accessible to all.”
While the document mentions some private companies, I was surprised not to find mention of some of the new censorship threats in countries like the UK, such as Cleanfeed. Nevertheless, this is a sobering and welcome reminder of just how restrictive the web can be.