Here is an introduction video by the organization, Reporters without Borders on the issue of Internet censorship. We tried searching for our website on the Chinese Google website. We found it! After this post, that my no longer be true.
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Any attempt to filter or block websites is seen as Internet censorship. Since the Internet is based on distributed technology (the information is could be anywhere, including outside the country), it is almost impossible to censor totally. There are "data havens." These data havens provide complete anonymity to whistleblowers by using encryption and basing the server or network in a country that has no laws regarding the Internet or has no extradition treatises with other countries. One such attempt is in Iceland, where there is the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative. Sites like Wikileaks would be protected under Icelandic law. Another type of network to protect anonymity is freenet. It is based on open source software originally written by Ian Clarke. In some cases, Internet censorship may include government sponsored fake 404 error messages saying that the site is "not found" but in reality has been blocked. This happens when the Internet Service Provider of that country filters requests to certain websites and returning that 404 error.
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The OpenNet Initiative is a collaborative partnership of three institutions: the Citizen Lab at the Munk Centre for International Studies, University of Toronto; the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University; and the SecDev Group (Ottawa). Our aim is to investigate, expose and analyze Internet 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: Development and deployment of a suite of technical enumeration tools and core methodologies for the study of Internet filtering and surveillance; Capacity-building among networks of local advocates and researchers; Advanced studies exploring the consequences of current and future trends and trajectories in filtering and surveillance practices, and their implications for domestic and international law and governance regimes.***Here is a more concise explanation of ONI's efforts and concerns:
The number of states that limit access to Internet content has risen rapidly in recent years. Drawing on arguments that are often powerful and compelling such as "securing intellectual property rights," "protecting national security," "preserving cultural norms and religious values," and "shielding children from pornography and exploitation," many states are implementing extensive filtering practices to curb the perceived lawlessness of the medium. Many others are debating the enactment of similar measures and pursuing technological solutions to complex sociological issues. The following briefly describes the various methods of Internet filtering, the inherent limitations of filtering, and the OpenNet Initiative’s methodology for the study of filtering practices.****This site is a wealth of information on blockage attempts, as well as, techniques by which nation states filter or block the Internet for their people. It is sponsored by two research groups: The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, and the SecDev Group based in Canada. If you are interested in visiting many links on Internet censorship you may look here. China has the biggest reputation for Internet censorship. If you wish to compare how American Google and Chinese Google compare in their searches you may go here. You enter a search item and see the differences in what is found or filtered in both, in a side-by-side comparison.
As of the latest reports from ONI, these are the countries where there is "pervasive" Internet filtering: Afghanistan, Burma, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, North Korea, People's Republic of China, Syria, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Vietnam. Countries where the censorship is termed "substantial" are: Bahrain, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. In other countries there is "nominal" censorship. These countries are: Australia, Belarus, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Georgia, Iceland, Ireland, India, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Pakistan, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Slovenia, Sweden, Thailand, Turkey, United Kingdom, and the United States of America.
Well Publicized Cases of Internet CensorshipThese stories are just the tip of the iceberg. There are hundreds more. We will go country by country.
ChinaThere is no censorship in Hong Kong or Macau, because of international treaties which guarantee free flow of information. There apparently exists an "Internet police" which is part time and whose job it is to direct public internet chat rooms towards positive opinions of government policies.
Although the existence of an internet police force - estimated at more than 30,000 - has been known for some time, attention has previously focused on their work as censors and monitors. Countless critical comments appear on bulletin boards of major portals such as Sohu and Sina only to be erased minutes, or sometimes just seconds, later.**
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The Golden Shield Project is part of what has been called the "Great Firewall of China," a play on the famous great physical wall. This great firewall by some accounts, blocks around 500,000 websites around the world from the Chinese people. Reports made to the US Congress state that China uses American companies like Ciscso Systems and Juniper Networks to upgrade this censorship network known as "CN2" in 2004. ** Cisco Systems is the most deeply involved according to Derek Bambauer, a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School.
Yahoo gave information to the Chinese police to track down a blogger dissident journalist Shi Tao who shared information on restrictions related to the Tiananmen Square anniversary. Google has also collaborated with the Chinese in censorship. In 2006, they excised the name of a former professor at the Nanjing University, as well as a democratic activist, named Guo Quan. Microsoft, in 2005, shut down the site of a Chinese blogger who had been addressing sensitive political issues. ** Some Chinese have been installing free software called Ultrareach. The Ultrareach site states this:
Internet anti-censorship technology was thought of as "mission impossible" two years ago. We started thorough R&D on other existing technologies as well as from end users' perspective. While other existing technologies were developed for user's privacy and anonymity on Internet, we solved the connection and reconnection problem, which is the key issue for user to access web site without being blocked. Built on solid theoretical analysis and professional quality, UltraReach has successfully invented the technology platform called the GIFT system, which offers guaranteed connection and reconnection service to users inside these censor countries and capability of serving very large number of users with affordable resource. More than one year live service performance has proved that the GIFT technology has successfully broken through the so-called "Great Firewall" which is built with state-of-art firewall equipments and softwares with virtually unlimited resource from government.
In Part 2 of this series, we will continue to cover censorship around the world. Stay tuned.