Friday, December 3, 2010

Internet Censorship Around the World Part 8 Tunisia...

Is there Internet freedom, as well as general freedom in Tunisia?  Are human rights respected?

Tunisia is little known to the outside world.  If you are a human rights activist, you will be well aware of it.  It is a country where the Internet is filtered by experts not only in the country but from the outside.  Companies like Cisco Systems, and others, have sold the Tunisian government hardware,software and expertise, to censor the Internet access of its people.

In 2005, Tunisia while hosting the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), was also  harassing independent Tunisian bloggers, controlling the Internet cafes, and had imprisoned cyber-dissidents, like Mohammed Abbou, an Tunisian attorney, imprisoned, solely for objecting to the torture of Tunisian citizens through an article posted on the Internet.  He was released in 2007, after Amnesty International and other human rights organizations, protested and launched a campaign for his freedom.

The Tunisian government, on the surface has been a supporter of digital initiatives.  It has one of the lowest prices for broadband access in Africa.  It has 1.7 million registered users, out of which 114,000 have broadband access.  84% of the Tunisians have Internet access at home, 75% use it at work, and 24% use Internet cafes.  The education sector has 100% Internet access.*  You can watch this video which mentions some things about Internet use in Tunisia and Egypt.

Investigate and expose from Tactical Technology Collective on Vimeo.

The Dark Side of Tunisian Internet Use
Ziad El Heni
The government filters Web content.  There are laws which regulate, and permit surveillance of Internet traffic to achieve strict control.  The press is prevented from publishing anything the government considers to be "false news."**  Facebook was blocked in August of 2008 but unblocked in September of that year, due to legal suit that was brought by Ziad El Heni against the Tunisian Internet Agency (ATI).   You can read this government sponsored web page explaining the duties of ATI, obviously there is no mention of its censoring activities.

hacked by Vladamir
Many bloggers have had their sites attacked, hacked and in some cases removed.  The government has not claimed or admitted doing any of these things, but they are suspected for obvious reasons.  Kalima, an independent news site, was hacked into in 2008.  It contained eight-year-old Arabic and French archives.  There are two sites listed here: and  The last site clear shows that is has been the subject of an Internet attack.  The government has also blocked the Human Rights Watch websites in Arabic and French.  Also Youtube and Daily Motion was blocked by the government, after Tunisian dissidents, used it to question the government's policies.  Also in  May of 2010, Skype was blocked, which is used by many Tunisians out of the country to communicate with their families.  Also, gay and lesbian sites have been blocked, as well as sites that might question Islam.

American Companies Aid Tunisia in its Censorship
The web filtering is done through a program called, SmartFilter manufacture by Secure Computing, which was recently acquired by McAfee.  This program works by producing 403 "forbidden" error message when a user attempts to access a blocked site, this message has since been replaced with the standard 404 "File Not Found" error message to eliminate any suspicion that it is the government blocking the site.  This censorship was done on NetApp servers, a fortune 500 company, based in the United States.  

You can read a full profile on Tunisia at the OpenNet Initiative.

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