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Control and Censorship of the Internet

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Internet Rights Charter (November 7, 2006)

"At the recent UN Internet Governance Forum in Athens, Catherine Trautmann, France's former minister of culture and a current Socialist member of the European Parliament, took issue with "market laws that are considered more important than freedom of expression", wrote Declan McCullagh in UN attacks tech giants over China co-operation.

The Association for Progressive Communications (APC) believes that the "ability to share information and communicate freely using the internet is vital to the realisation of human rights as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1976), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1976) and the Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW, 1980)," and that the Internet can "only be a tool to empower the peoples of the world if the following rights are recognised, protected and respected."

China: We don't censor the Internet. Really (October 31, 2006)

"The only problem: Few cases of Net censorship are as carefully and publicly documented as the Great Firewall of China. A study by researchers at Harvard Law School found 19,032 Web sites that were inaccessible inside China."

Net censorship spreads worldwide (May 5, 2006)

"Repressive regimes are taking full advantage of the net's ability to censor and stifle reform and debate, reveals a report (PDF)."


International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions
"IFLA has been heavily involved in the preparations for the World Summit on the Information Society, the first phase of which was held in Geneva, December 2003. The second phase will be held in Tunis, 16-18 November 2005."  See also IFLA Position on Internet Governance.

OpenNet Initiative
"The OpenNet Initiative is a collaborative partnership between three leading academic institutions: the Citizen Lab at the Munk Centre for International Studies, University of Toronto, Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School, and the Advanced Network Research Group at the Cambridge Security Programme, University of Cambridge. Our aim is to excavate, expose and analyze filtering and surveillance practices in a credible and non-partisan fashion. We intend to uncover the potential pitfalls and unintended consequences of these practices, and thus help to inform better public policy and advocacy work in this area. To achieve these aims, the ONI employs a unique multi-disciplinary approach that includes: Advanced Technical Means—using a suite of sophisticated network interrogation tools and metrics; and Local Knowledge Expertise—through a global network of regionally based researchers and experts. OpenNet Initiative research will be published on this website in a series of national and regional case studies, occasional papers, and bulletins. As part of its work, the OpenNet Initiative also operates a "clearinghouse" for circumvention technologies that assess and evaluate systems intended to let users bypass filtering and surveillance. We also actively develop circumvention technologies in-house as a means to explore the limitations of filtration and counter-filtration practices."

World Summit on Information Society
"The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) is held in two phases. The first phase of WSIS took place in Geneva hosted by the Government of Switzerland from 10 to 12 December 2003, where 175 countries adopted a Declaration of Principles and Plan of Action. The second phase will take place in Tunis hosted by the Government of Tunisia, from 16 to 18 November 2005."

Towards Knowledge Societies Society (PDF)
"A UNESCO report launched [in March 2005] urges governments to expand quality education for all, increase community access to information and communication technology, and improve cross-border scientific knowledge-sharing, in an effort to narrow the digital and "knowledge" divides between the North and South and move towards a "smart" form of sustainable human development. . . . Encouraging the development of knowledge societies requires overcoming these gaps, "consolidating two pillars of the global information society that are still too unevenly guaranteed—access to information for all and freedom of expression." (The first in a new series of World Reports, "Towards Knowledge Societies" will be presented at the World Summit on the Information Society (Tunis, November 16-18). The next World Report, scheduled for 2007, will examine cultural diversity.)" French version (PDF). Spanish version (PDF).

Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG)
"The first phase of World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) agreed to pursue the dialogue on Internet Governance in the Declaration of Principles and Plan of Action adopted on 12 December 2003, with a view to preparing the ground for a decision at the second phase of the WSIS in Tunis in November 2005. In this regard, the first phase of the Summit requested the United Nations Secretary-General to establish a Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG). The WGIG has been asked to present the result of its work in a report 'for consideration and appropriate action for the second phase of the WSIS in Tunis 2005.'"  See also Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG) Final Report (June 2005). 

United Nations Information and Communication Technologies Task Force
"In March 2001, the United Nations Economic and Social Council requested the Secretary-General to establish an Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) Task Force. This initiative is intended to lend a truly global dimension to the multitude of efforts to bridge the global digital divide, foster digital opportunity and thus firmly put ICT at the service of development for all."

Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents
"Blogs get people excited. Or else they disturb and worry them. Some people distrust them. Others see them as the vanguard of a new information revolution. Because they allow and encourage ordinary people to speak up, they’re tremendous tools of freedom of expression."—Reporters Without Borders. See also Media watchdog tells bloggers how to avoid censors.

International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) Campaigning for Freedom of Expression (PDF)
"International case studies, tools and resources for mounting campaigns against constraints on freedom of expression, including censorship of the press and the internet. The publication is aimed at equipping human rights activists around the world with essential tools to campaign more effectively for freedom of expression and press freedom. It provides best practice case studies and showcases a variety of campaign tools, including investigative missions, coalition-building, legal advocacy and Internet-based actions, such as blogging, e-mail protest letters and SMS text messaging. It also gives activists important tools for mounting campaign strategies and doing power analyses of their local situations."

The Internet Under Surveillance
"The Internet has a bad reputation. With authoritarian regimes, that’s no surprise. It’s to be expected the enduring dictatorship in Beijing (and we must call it that, whatever the fans of the Chinese "economic miracle" think) has set up a big Internet police force. Dozens of Internet users languish in Chinese prisons for imaginary crimes—for looking at banned websites or, even "worse," daring to post news online about forbidden topics such as the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre and repression in Tibet. China is unfortunately not the only country where dissident Internet messages are tracked down. In Vietnam and Tunisia, big shots (official or otherwise) are distinctly unenthusiastic about this vast discussion forum and information exchange they have so much trouble controlling."

The Internet Under Surveillance, China
"The tremendous growth of the Internet now makes it technically impossible for the authorities to monitor the content of all the millions of e-mail messages being exchanged around the country. But the regime is still banning users from looking at websites it considers endanger "the social order and the socialist system." The authorities have created a legal arsenal to punish cybercrime and cyber-dissidence."


Yahoo calls for policy on Web censorship  (February 14, 2006)

"Yahoo Inc. responded to the firestorm of criticism it's endured after helping China's government limit free speech by releasing a statement Monday that described the Web portal's belief in openness and the need for an industrywide policy dealing with repressive regimes."  See also Yahoo committed to openness but will follow laws.

The End of the Internet? (February 13, 2006)

"The nation's largest telephone and cable companies are crafting an alarming set of strategies that would transform the free, open and nondiscriminatory Internet of today to a privately run and branded service that would charge a fee for virtually everything we do online."

Thailand to block over 800,000 sites (November 29, 2005)

"Thailand plans to block more than 800,000 pornographic or violent websites that officials say are harming the kingdom's youth, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra says."

Statements from the World Summit on the Information Society (November 28, 2005)

"See also Final DocumentsWebcast archives, and Newsroom."

World summit puzzles over delivering Internet access for all (November 27, 2005)

"Now that the world's powers have agreed to stop squabbling over control of the Internet (for now), the more than 10,000 people here for the recent United Nations forum focused on creating an information society for all people."

Voice of innovation at net summit (November 25, 2005)

"At the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), international diplomats turned their attention to the most important question yet to face the net: who should control it?"

US endorses Internet Governance Forum (November 16, 2005)

"By signing the statement (PDF), the Bush administration formally endorsed the creation of an 'Internet Governance Forum' that will meet for the first time in 2006 under the auspices of the UN. The forum is meant to be a central point for global discussions of everything from computer security and online crime to spam and other 'misuses of the Internet.'"

U.N. control of Internet? An idea for the 'delete' file (November 14, 2005)

"The best news? The Internet is already deeply entrenched. No matter how much countries huff and puff about creating alternative networks or turning off the Internet within their borders, that's likely too expensive and impractical. Even China's experiments with Internet censorship—dubbed the Great Firewall of China—have had limited success."

Summit Highlights Internet Censorship (November 15, 2005)

"As the Internet's influence grows, so too does resistance from nations wary of giving their citizens the tools to voice their opinions and mine the online mother lode of knowledge."

Who Will Control the Internet? (November/December 2005)

"The controversy over who controls the Internet has simmered in insular technology-policy circles for years and more recently has crept into formal diplomatic talks. Many governments feel that, like the phone network, the Internet should be administered under a multilateral treaty. ICANN, in their view, is an instrument of American hegemony over cyberspace: its private-sector approach favors the United States, Washington retains oversight authority, and its Governmental Advisory Committee, composed of delegates from other nations, has no real powers."

The Stage Is Set: Who Will Control the Internet? (November 8, 2005)

"The call has sounded for the creation of an international body to govern the Internet as a global resource. Such a move is expected to draw fierce opposition from the U.S., which holds firm to the belief that any change in the status quo would jeopardize the Internet's ability to function as a medium of free expression."

Kofi Annan says U.N. won't "take over" the Internet (November 7, 2005)

"As a United Nations summit on the Internet next week in Tunisia nears, last-minute politicking is on the rise. On Thursday, for instance, tech companies held an event in Washington to back the Internet status quo. Then, in an opinion article published in the Washington Post on Saturday, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan tried to play down worries about greater control of the Internet by an international bureaucratic body. "The United Nations wants only to ensure the Internet's global reach, and that effort is at the heart of this summit," Annan said. He added: "Governance of matters related to the Internet, such as spam and cybercrime, is being dealt with in a dispersed and fragmented manner, while the Internet's infrastructure has been managed in an informal but effective collaboration among private businesses, civil society and the academic and technical communities. But developing countries find it difficult to follow all these processes and feel left out of Internet governance structures. And: "Everyone acknowledges the need for more international participation in discussions of Internet governance. The disagreement is over how to achieve it. So let's set aside fears of U.N. 'designs' on the Internet. Much as some would like to open up another front of attack on the United Nations, this dog of an argument won't bark." Not all the nations participating in the event—called the World Summit on the Information Society—have been as diplomatic as the U.N. chief."

See No Evil: How American Businesses Collaborate with China’s Repressive Government (October 24, 2005)

"The sports marketer is guilty of keeping his mouth shut. But other Americans actively assist the Chinese government in the maintenance of its repressive regime. Even as I talk to the sports marketer, Microsoft is concocting an Orwellian policy for its new Chinese version of MSN, a news site and search engine. Microsoft has decided (and publicly confirmed this summer) that anyone in China doing a search containing the words "freedom" or "democracy" will be shown a message explaining that those words are banned and the requested search query will not be processed."

Big Brother Is Talking (October 17, 2005)
"Like many Chinese twenty-somethings, Lu Ruchao loves to surf the Internet. He often visits a local chat room to sample the neighborhood buzz. One day, Lu noticed that Netizens were complaining that local police often drove down the main street of Suquian with sirens blaring, disturbing half the city. Lu, himself a policeman, jumped into the e-fray. He tapped out a defense of the police, arguing that a cop car sounding its siren is responding to an emergency and shouldn't be criticized. But Lu isn't just any cop. He's one of China's estimated 30,000 to 40,000 e-police who collectively serve as an Orwellian Big Brother for the country's nearly 100 million Internet users."

Who Really Runs the Internet? (October 14, 2005)

"It seems to be quite acceptable lately to invoke the UN oil-for-food scandal, say, as a reason why the US should retain oversight of the internet, while cheerfully ignoring the multitude of brazen corruptions in America's own political system. That said, very few Westerners would argue that a more suitable venue for managing the internet is a body that could so easily be steered by censorial, authoritarian regimes like China and Iran (like, say, PrepCom-3 was). It would go against the principles of openness, designed into the protocols and enthusiastically embraced by those who use the network to communicate, on which the internet has operated for the last decade. But, equally, unilateral US oversight of ICANN leaves the policymaking process open to capture by the views of those in power. Currently, that means politicians who are frequently influenced by the lobbying of right-wing Christian activists."

Study Says Software Makers Supply Tools to Censor Web (October 12, 2005)
"But a 
new report from the  OpenNet Initiative , a human rights project linking researchers from the University of Toronto, Harvard Law School and Cambridge University in Britain, once again raises tough questions about the use of filtering technologies—often developed by Western companies—by autocratic governments bent on controlling what their citizens see on the Web."

The Beneficiaries of the Internet Break-Up (October 12, 2005)
"The impact of e-commerce offering accessibility to information, goods and services has become so powerful that it has shaken the economic and socio-cultural foundations of the developed countries. With the genie out of the bottle, the world is questioning whether a single country should be in charge. The United States is openly isolated and being pushed to relinquish control, or the more aggressive nations will simply develop their own Internet ... which would be a global disaster, a major earthquake for e-commerce, causing the most disruptive global shockwave to our daily lives that mankind has ever seen."

Reding takes on US over internet control (October 12, 2005)
"Information Society Commissioner Viviane Reding is on the offensive in the dispute with the US about governance of the internet, evoking the spectre of the internet falling apart."

Net power struggle nears climax (October 11, 2005)
"America's determination to remain the ultimate purveyor of the internet has angered other countries which believe it is time to come up with a new way of regulating the digital traffic of the 21st century."

Control of Internet Being Taken Away From US For Questionable Reasons (October 11, 2005)
Currently the US Department of Commerce (DoC) controls the 'root servers' through a private company called the 'Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers' (Icann). A number of countries, including some of the world’s most notorious violators of human rights, such as China, Cuba, Iran, Brazil and several African states, requested that the US relinquish control. The DoC refused. As a result the EU has announced that it will create a new forum that would decide public policy, and a 'cooperation model' comprising governments that would be in overall charge.

Keep the Internet Free (October 10, 2005)
"It would be profoundly dangerous to now set up an international mechanism, controlled by governments, to take over the running of the Internet. Not only would this play into the hands of regimes bent on limiting the freedom that the Internet can bring, it also risks stifling innovation and ultimately endangering the security of the system."

Say Goodbye to Internet Freedom - the UN is Coming (October 10, 2005)
"In a recent meeting of the Working Group on Internet Governance in Geneva harsh words were exchanged between representatives of the US government and representatives of the UK and other European countries over the issue of who controls or should control the internet."

Google reveals its 300-year plan (October 10, 2005)

"During the question-and-answer session, audience members turned to social, ethical and legal topics. One question dealt with criticism Google and Yahoo have received for cooperating with Chinese government censorship efforts. The technology is neutral. It can be applied for good or evil," he said. "Overwhelmingly, the message of technology is a positive one."

EU fights US for control of the internet (October 7, 2005)
"Amidst calls for international intervention to avoid dominance of the internet by a single state, Nominet believes that we should be looking to take more a pragmatic, incremental approach to internet governance and not seek to completely overhaul a model that allows for flexibility and innovation, and is founded on private sector investment," she said."

Breaking America's grip on the net (October 6, 2005)
"After troubled negotiations in Geneva, the US may be forced to relinquish control of the internet to a coalition of governments."

Internet Governance: Do We Expect Fireworks in Tunis? (October 5, 2005)
"The complaints in recent times from developing countries had emanated from the developing countries who were already overloaded with the one—way flow of information from the advanced nations of the world to the less developing countries. Africans have joined in the cry of Internet marginalisation. No one seems to be listening until the UN summoned anough courage to look into the all issues bothering on the Information Society."

China's Web Watchers: The Internet was supposed to be immune to censorship, but Beijing has found ways to stifle online dissent (October 3, 2005)
"Likewise, mainland Internet companies have become virtual appendages of the government censorship apparatus, employing their own human monitors to ensure their sites remain free of banned content."

Power grab could split the Net (October 3, 2005)
"At a meeting in Geneva last week, the Bush administration objected to the idea of the United Nations running the top-level servers that direct traffic to the master databases of all domain names. That's not new, of course—the administration has been humming this tune since June. What's changed in the last few months is the response from the rest of the world."

China tightens net news rules (September 26, 2005)
"China set new regulations on internet news content on Sunday, widening a campaign of controls it has imposed on other websites, such as discussion groups. Announcing the new rules, which took effect immediately, the official Xinhua news agency said: 'The state bans the spreading of any news with content that is against national security and public interest.' The news agency did not detail the rules but said internet news sites must 'be directed toward serving the people and socialism and insist on correct guidance of public opinion for maintaining national and public interests'." See also International news report: China takes aim at its bloggers.

The 11 commandments of the Internet in China (September 26, 2005)
"'You shall not spread rumours", "You shall not damage state security", "You shall not destroy the country’s reputation'. There are just three of the 11 commandments ordered by Beijing, on 25 September, aimed at bloggers and websites managers. Reporters Without Borders expressed concern at this latest turn of the screw in an ongoing crackdown on freedom of expression. 'The Chinese authorities never seem to let up on their desire to regulate the Web and their determination to control information available on it ever more tightly,' the worldwide press freedom organisation said."

UN control of internet? Try again. (September 16, 2005)
"The document, produced by the UN's Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG) this summer, calls for shared roles by government, commercial interests, and private citizens but doesn't spell out exactly how these roles would be played. It also calls for "effective and meaningful participation of all stakeholders, especially from developing countries" and more resources—human, financial, and technical—for poorer countries."

Iran's Internet censorship growing (September 14, 2005)
"Iranian Internet censorship has grown substantially over the past year, with an increasing focus on those who maintain web logs, The Guardian reports."

Yahoo 'helped jail Chinese journalist' (September 7, 2005)
"As Internet firms scramble over each other for a slice of the Chinese market, Yahoo's practices in the country have been condemned by an international media organisation."

Singapore Net controls shun filters (August 18, 2005)
"Singapore maintains some of the world's tightest restrictions on free expression on the Internet, but unlike other regimes, it doesn't do it with technological filters. Instead Singapore controls the Web through an unusual mix of legal pressures and access restrictions, according to a new study from three universities. Testing of 1,632 Web sites by the OpenNet Initiative found only eight blocked, mostly for pornography.

Watchdog 'disgusted' by Microsoft censorship (June 15, 2005)
"Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders said today it was "disgusted" with US software giant Microsoft for working with China to censor politically sensitive content on the internet."

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