News

Watchdog Group: Cyber Censorship a Growing Concern

People use the Internet at a cafe in Pakistan where officials want to implement content filters, March 7, 2012.
People use the Internet at a cafe in Pakistan where officials want to implement content filters, March 7, 2012.

About one-third of the world's population has access to the Internet. In cyber-speak, that means there are currently more than 2 billion netizens, or people active on the World Wide Web.

But not everyone enjoys the same degree of online access and freedom.

RWB's 2012 Enemies of the Internet

  • Bahrain
  • Belarus
  • Burma
  • China
  • Cuba
  • Iran
  • North Korea
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Syria
  • Turkmenistan
  • Uzbekistan
  • Vietnam

Delphine Halgand, Washington, D.C. director of Reporters Without Borders, says Internet censorship is an issue in more countries than ever before.

"Last year will be remembered as one of unprecedented violence against netizens," she says. "Five netizens were killed while engaging in reporting activities and nearly 200 arrests of bloggers and netizens were reported in 2011, which is a 30 percent increase on 2010."

According to its Internet freedoms report released Monday, the group says about 120 people are currently imprisoned because of online activities, and 12 countries as are identified as "enemies of the Internet." They are Bahrain, Belarus, Burma, China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

"These countries are combining drastic content filtering with access restrictions, but they also track their cyber dissidents," she says. "I think that they will monitor what is happening online and use this surveillance information to arrest opponents who are expressing themselves online."

Another 14 countries make the 2011 Reporters Without Borders' watch list, nations, including several major democracies, that exhibit signs of Internet restrictions or repression.

Australia, for example, which has been on the watch list since 2009, presses Internet service providers to voluntarily block sites that show child pornography and sexual abuse, while officials in Canberra are discussing a mandatory filtering system.

An official government statement says "some content has no place in a civilized society," and in 2010, communications minister Stephen Conroy told parliament the filter would block only material already banned on television, at magazine stands, and in book and video stores.

Although the Internet is a new distribution platform, Conroy said, it should be held to the same standards Australians apply to other media platforms.

But Reporters Without Borders is concerned that Australian officials might filter Web content by using overly broad criteria in a non-transparent manner.

India, the world's most populous democracy, also made the watch list.

"We observed that Indian authorities have stepped up Internet surveillance and pressure on technical service providers, even if, at the same time, authorities publicly reject accusations of censorship," says Halgand.

According to Internet search engine giant Google, the Indian government submitted 67 requests to have 282 items of content removed in the second half of 2010, about 80 percent of which company officials refused to comply with on the grounds that items, many of which were YouTube videos criticizing Indian officials, didn't violate Google's content standards or local laws.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who spoke passionately about Internet freedom at a conference last December in the Netherlands, has called securing peoples' rights in cyberspace an urgent task.

"As people increasingly turn to the Internet to conduct important aspects of their lives, we have to make sure that human rights are as respected online as offline," she said.

In the same speech, Clinton noted that the number of people on the Internet will more than double during the next 20 years, more than 1 billion of whom will be logging on from repressive countries.

Recently, the state-run Pakistani Telecommunications Authority published a request for proposals to companies worldwide for what it called the “deployment and operation of a national level URL Filtering and Blocking System”. That would establish in a similar fashion to China's Golden Shield, or "Great Firewall of China".

That proposal has drawn in attention of free speech groups, including the San Francisco based Committee to Protect Journalists. VOA’s Ira Mellman spoke with Danny O’Brien, CPJ’s Internet Advocacy Coordinator.

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Gennady
March 14, 2012 6:05 PM
Putin’s Russia should be under the concern too. After my VOA & BBC comments on the state of basic human rights in Putin’s Russia & how the Constitution is violated in order to make Mr Putin President for life they made DDoS attacks on my PC & lately completely switched me off from my prepaid access to the Internet without any explanation.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs