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Home  Aggregator    World Day Against Cyber-Censorship  77395

Aggregator • Mideast Youth • ID=77395


The world commemorates the 12th of March every year as the World Day Against Cyber-Censorship.

The day was first launched by Reporters Sans Frontières in 2008, and it’s intended to rally everyone in support of a single Internet without restrictions and accessible to all. Never have so many countries been affected by some form of online censorship, whether arrests or harassment of netizens, online surveillance, website blocking or the adoption of repressive Internet laws. Netizens are being targeted by government reprisals. Around 120 of them are currently detained for expressing their views freely online, mostly in China, Iran and Vietnam. World Day Against Cyber-Censorship pays tribute to them and their fight for Internet freedom.

“…Democratic countries continued to set a bad example by yielding to the temptation to prioritize security over other concerns and by adopting disproportionate measures to protect copyright…” – The introduction of 2012 report.

Internet users in 'free' countries have learned to react in order to protect what they have won. Some governments stepped up pressure on technical service providers to act as Internet cops. Companies specializing in online surveillance are becoming the new mercenaries in an online arms race. Hacktivists are providing technical expertise to netizens trapped by a repressive regime's apparatus. Diplomats are getting involved. More than ever before, online freedom of expression is now a major foreign and domestic policy issue.*

2011 was the deadliest year for netizens, its violence unmatched in the time that dissidents and human rights campaigners have been making widespread use of the Web. Several were killed in Bahrain, Mexico, India and Syria. Dozens of others are probably still to be identified and there will undoubtedly be still more to add to the toll, particularly in Syria.

Ammar 404 is crawling back to Tunisia cyberscene after a judicial verdict set to ban pornographic content. Meanwhile, Syria's cyber army is expert in the art of trolling the Facebook walls of opponents and dissidents, often with the aim of discrediting them, and to drown out critical comments with a tide of praise for the government of President Bashar al-Assad. Twitter accounts have been created to exploit the #Syria hashtag, sending out hundreds of tweets with keywords that link to sports results or photos of the country.

Some countries such as Burma, North Korea, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Cuba, and also Iran, censor Internet access so effectively that they restrict their populations to local intranets that bear no resemblance to the World Wide Web.

Two countries, Bahrain and Belarus, have been moved from the 'under surveillance' category to the 'Enemies of the Internet' list, joining the ranks of the countries that restrict Internet freedom the most: Burma, China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam. They combine often drastic content filtering with access restrictions, tracking of cyber-dissidents and online propaganda. Iran and China, in particular, reinforced their technical capacity in 2011 and China stepped up pressure on privately-owned Internet companies in order to secure their collaboration.

Countries under surveillance include: Australia, Egypt, Eritrea, France, India, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Russia, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey and United Arab Emirates. View the full map here.

It is no longer enough to take a bullet-proof vest when setting off for a war zone or troubled region. A 'digital survival kit' is also needed to encrypt information, anonymize communications and, if necessary, circumvent censorship. The likes of SOPA, PIPA, ACTA, IPRED, and all the repressive siblings alike face a lot of resistance, which should escalate; because obviously, there’s a fine line between protecting intellectual property and violating netizens’ freedom.

In 2011, the fragmentation of the Internet gathered pace. Web users were granted varying access depending on where they were connected. This is contrary to the original concept of the founders of the Web. Digital segregation is spreading, or what I like to call, isolated digital islands. Solidarity between defenders of a free Internet, accessible to all, is more than ever needed for the information to continue to flow.

The report, which has been released annually for five years in row, has become the world’s most comprehensive source on monitoring cyber-censorship and clamp down against netizens. The editors used the highly-regarded reputation of the report to warn Pakistan of possible inclusion in the Enemies of Internet 2013, if she pursues the setup of a national Internet filtering and blocking system, which would result in the creation of an Electronic Great Wall.

* Excerpts of the report were used. Read the full report here, published on 12 March 2012.

Read also the new version of Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents here.

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