Monday, February 18, 2008

Internet censorship - a major global problem.

Whereas once it was assumed that states could not control Internet communications,
according to research by the OpenNet Initiative ( more than 25
countries now engage in Internet censorship practices. Those with the most pervasive
filtering policies have been found to routinely block access to human rights organizations,
news, blogs, and web services that challenge the status quo or are deemed
threatening or undesirable. Others block access to single categories of Internet
content, or intermittently to specific websites or network services to coincide with
strategic events, such as elections or public demonstrations.

Although some states enact Internet filtering legislation, most do so with little or no
transparency and public accountability. Most states do not reveal what information
is being blocked, and rarely are there review or grievance mechanisms for affected
citizens or content publishers. Compounding the problem is the increasing use of
commercial filtering software, which is prone to over-blocking due to faulty categorization.
Commercial filters block access to categorized lists of websites that are kept
secret for proprietary reasons, even for customers. As a consequence, unaccountable
private companies determine censorship rules in political environments where there
is little public accountability or oversight. For example, commercial filtering software
is used to censor the Internet in Burma, Tunisia, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and Iran.

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