Internet Censorship

A review of Access Denied, edited by Ronald Deibert, John Palfrey, Rafal Rohozinski and Jonathan Zittrain, MIT Press: 2008.

In 1993, Internet pioneer John Gilmore said "the net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it", and we believed him. In 1996, cyberlibertarian John Perry Barlow issued his 'Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace' at the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland, and online. He told governments: "You have no moral right to rule us, nor do you possess any methods of enforcement that we have true reason to fear."

At the time, many shared Barlow's sentiments. The Internet empowered people. It gave them access to information and couldn't be stopped, blocked or filtered. Give someone access to the Internet, and they have access to everything. Governments that relied on censorship to control their citizens were doomed.

Today, things are very different. Internet censorship is flourishing. Organizations selectively block employees' access to the Internet. At least 26 countries -- mainly in the Middle East, North Africa, Asia, the Pacific and the former Soviet Union -- selectively block their citizens' Internet access. Even more countries legislate to control what can and cannot be said, downloaded or linked to. "You have no sovereignty where we gather," said Barlow. Oh yes we do, the governments of the world have replied.

Access Denied is a survey of the practice of Internet filtering, and a sourcebook of details about the countries that engage in the practice. It is written by researchers of the OpenNet Initiative (ONI), an organization that is dedicated to documenting global Internet filtering around the world.

The first half of the book comprises essays written by ONI researchers on the politics, practice, technology, legality and social effects of Internet filtering. There are three basic rationales for Internet censorship: politics and power; social norms, morals and religion; and security concerns.

Some countries, such as India, filter only a few sites; others, such as Iran, extensively filter the Internet. Saudi Arabia tries to block all pornography (social norms and morals). Syria blocks everything from the Israeli domain ".il" (politics and power). Some countries filter only at certain times. During the 2006 elections in Belarus, for example, the website of the main opposition candidate disappeared from the Internet.

The effectiveness of Internet filtering is mixed; it depends on the tools used and the granularity of filtering. It is much easier to block particular URLs or entire domains than it is to block information on a particular topic. Some countries block specific sites or URLs based on some predefined list but new URLs with similar content appear all the time. Other countries -- notably China -- try to filter on the basis of keywords in the actual web pages. A halfway measure is to filter on the basis of URL keywords: names of dissidents or political parties, or sexual words.

Much of the technology has other applications. Software for filtering is a legitimate product category, purchased by schools to limit access by children to objectionable material and by corporations trying to prevent their employees from being distracted at work. One chapter discusses the ethical implications of companies selling products, services and technologies that enable Internet censorship.

Some censorship is legal, not technical. Countries have laws against publishing certain content, registration requirements that prevent anonymous Internet use, liability laws that force Internet service providers to filter themselves, or surveillance. Egypt does not engage in technical Internet filtering; instead, its laws discourage the publishing and reading of certain content -- it has even jailed people for their online activities.

The second half of Access Denied consists of detailed descriptions of Internet use, regulations and censorship in eight regions of the world, and in each of 40 different countries. The ONI found evidence of censorship in 26 of those 40. For the other 14 countries, it summarizes the legal and regulatory framework surrounding Internet use, and tests the results that indicated no censorship. This leads to 200 pages of rather dry reading, but it is vitally important to have this information well-documented and easily accessible. The book's data are from 2006, but the authors promise frequent updates on the ONI website.

No set of Internet censorship measures is perfect. It is often easy to find the same information on uncensored URLs, and relatively easy to get around the filtering mechanisms and to view prohibited web pages if you know what you're doing. But most people don't have the computer skills to bypass controls, and in a country where doing so is punishable by jail -- or worse -- few take the risk. So even porous and ineffective attempts at censorship can become very effective socially and politically.

In 1996, Barlow said: "You are trying to ward off the virus of liberty by erecting guard posts at the frontiers of cyberspace. These may keep out the contagion for some time, but they will not work in a world that will soon be blanketed in bit-bearing media."

Brave words, but premature. Certainly, there is much more information available to many more people today than there was in 1996. But the Internet is made up of physical computers and connections that exist within national boundaries. Today's Internet still has borders and, increasingly, countries want to control what passes through them. In documenting this control, the ONI has performed an invaluable service.

This was originally published in Nature.

Posted on April 7, 2008 at 5:00 AM • 45 Comments

Comments

D0RApril 7, 2008 5:47 AM

The Italian law requires all italian ISPs to block access to foreign gambling websites at the DNS level. This block, however, is easily circumvented by using open DNS servers. This is obviously known both by web-surfers and ISP managers.

LarsApril 7, 2008 6:08 AM

I think it's a mistake to think that only countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia block and censor access to the Internet. It just reinforces the notion that WE are GOOD and THEY are BAD, period. In reality it's not black and white. Take Sweden for example, a modern western democracy. There is an agreement with most major ISP:s that they will block everything on a list composed by the police. There is no law regulating this, there is nowhere to appeal, there is no transparency etc. The list is only supposed to include child pornography sites, but of course "mistakes" happens now and then. What is the state of censorship in the rest of the Western world?

twhApril 7, 2008 7:04 AM

And once physical wires have been replaced by global high-speed wireless connections that drift across boarders? I'm not thinking of any existing wireless technologies here, but some future wireless broadband that is essentially without limits. Will we see an internet version of Radio Free Europe? Or maybe a free-market, underground "Internet Free Earth"?

AnonymousApril 7, 2008 7:11 AM

"Take Sweden for example, a modern western democracy. There is an agreement with most major ISP:s that they will block everything on a list composed by the police"

The situation is quite similar in Finland. The police maintains a list of sites containing child pornograhy, and there is a law that allows the police to give the list to ISPs. The ISPs are the allowed (= they don't have to) block access to those sites.

However, Suvi Lindén, one of our ministers, has said that if ISPs don't volunteer to block access to those sites, they will consider a change in the law which would FORCE the ISPs to block access. Obligatory volunteering -- does such thing exist?

The law was passed even though it was objected by EFFI and experts in Turku University. It is currently considered whether or not the censorship should be broadened to apply to gambling, violence and other unpleasant content.

Here's a thought for all the pro-censorship people: You're watching news, and there's a story about a war. If turn the TV off, does it mean the war has ended? No. Censorship does nothing to help the victims.

DaveShawApril 7, 2008 7:56 AM

"It is often easy to find the same information on uncensored URLs, and relatively easy to get around the filtering mechanisms and to view prohibited web pages if you know what you're doing"

Could this lead to easy to use tools to bypass such filters? Browser Plugins for example that route through external DNS servers, or translation pages, etc, etc.

Back in the day file sharing was for the "computer elite", now any 12 year old with High School IT lessons can download a films and music for free.

Dave

mumbleApril 7, 2008 8:13 AM

In response to DaveShaw, right now I'm writing what I believe (can't prove it) is the best technical guide to bypassing firewall restrictions which has been written to date. It is perfect? No. The result of the research I've done so far is that bypassing todays firewalls is technically trivial, and that situation is unlikely to change.

As far as automated tools is concerned, there are already a whole raft of popular tools and methods. Anonymous proxy servers are commonplace, and are being put up faster than they can be added to block-lists. At this point, censorship is a speed bump, not a wall - and pretty much everyone admits it.

James FrazerApril 7, 2008 8:28 AM

I live in Canada, and I've found that alleged "good/legitimate censorship" has pretty much always done more harm than good. I have experienced censorship at three schools (two post secondary), and one place of work. In all cases I was inhibited from doing/viewing something that fell in the category of "allowed" but that the filtering framework was too stupid to get right. It reduced my productivity because I had to wait until I was at home to finish the task -- all in the name of what? My experience is that the people who want to abuse the school network or waste time at work are going to figure out ways of doing this inspite of filtering. People with legitimate needs will be hindered and forced to either circumvent the restrictions or access from a free terminal.

I'm unaware if the government censors anything here, but I have reached my limit for being told by content creators how I can or cannot use something that should be freely available. There are far too many organizations that exceed the boundaries of what could be considered reasonable in their censorship regimes. Far too often I have received the infamous: "we're sorry we cannot serve this page to your region"...

On certain websites that allow comment posting I've had specific words censored out -- to the extreme of the word 'dick', which seems somewhat extreme considering said word was being innocently used as the short form of the name Richard... Obviously they can't know this -- but it serves as a good example of censorship taken a step too far. One has to wonder what the limits are...

Nancy LebovitzApril 7, 2008 8:31 AM

Software for filtering is a legitimate product category, purchased by schools to limit access by children to objectionable material and by corporations trying to prevent their employees from being distracted at work.

Is it quite so obvious that children have no right of access to information?

AlanApril 7, 2008 8:44 AM

Whatever happened to the principle of least privilege? Companies don't provide workers with unfettered cable television at their desks. Why should employers provide workers with one bit of information more than is necessary to do their jobs?

Rich WilsonApril 7, 2008 9:29 AM

@Alan

"Why should employers provide workers with one bit of information more than is necessary to do their jobs?"

If you're already providing Internet access so they can do their jobs, then you're going to more work to block some of it. If they really want to waste their time, they can sit and play solitaire. I would argue that there are more effective ways to ensure productivity.

bobApril 7, 2008 9:54 AM

There is also filtering in the form of control of search engine output (typically with collusion from the search engines, most notoriously Google). In China if you search google for "Tiananmen Square" you get only idyllic tourist scenes; whereas the rest of the world gets revolution and freedom fighters and that guy with the tank(s) in his face.

Carlo GrazianiApril 7, 2008 10:26 AM

It should be remembered that a lot of the brave early rhetoric about freedom and the Internet by people like Gilmore and Barlow was (a) U.S.-centric (so was the Internet, back then), and (b) set in the context of the U.S. government's failed attempt to rein in private cryptography and indecency -- the Phil Zimmerman prosecution fiasco, and the rejection in court of the Communications Decency Act.

The fact that the government seemed destined to lose those cases on constitutional grounds long before it gave up gave supporters of the view of the Internet as a new medium of freedom the cachet of visionaries and prophets. Unfortunately, the victories seem in retrospect much more limited in scope and meaning than they seemed at the time.

In the first place, it turns out that while the U.S. government is still relatively powerless to coerce U.S. ISPs and web content providers, U.S. corporations have been enormously successful in doing so, to the point that today, systematic expansion and abuse of Intellectual Property law through the DMCA routinely produces the kind of non-reroutable damage that Gilmore never envisioned.

In the second place, when most of the content on the Internet stopped being hosted and produced in the U.S. a few years ago, it became obvious that government impotence over Internet content was strictly a U.S. phenomenon, and that there are many other places where there are no safeguards in jurisprudence against takedowns for political reasons. Germany has laws against publishing Nazi and Scientological tracts; Italy actually impounded entire editions of some satirical newspapers for inappropriate content in the '70s; there are many other examples. There was never any reason to believe that even such relatively enlightened governments would not naturally extend their legal powers to Internet "Publication", especially when the "Publishers" lived in their respective jurisdictions. And this is before we even talk about places like Turkey, or China, or Myanmar. People who thought such governments would naturally fail atnet censorship never really examined their own logic.

Michael AshApril 7, 2008 10:32 AM

@Alan

"Why should employers provide workers with one bit of information more than is necessary to do their jobs?"

Because it is generally impossible to know exactly what bits are necessary to do their jobs.

I have friends in IT who tell me tales of over-restrictive blocking. The internet is a great resource for their jobs but they can't use most of it. Instead the blocking forces them to resort to vastly inferior local resources.

Meanwhile I work at home and therefore have completely unfiltered access. I constantly use the internet as part of my job, to search for tips, solve problems, and communicate with colleagues (both within my company and outside it).

This kind of central planning destroyed the Soviet Union and it will bring great harm to companies who do it too much. You cannot make decisions about what information is needed by the low-level workers when you aren't one of them.

You waste time implementing the blocking, and then you destroy productivity because it is there. Does this really outweigh the harm caused by some people goofing off on the internet at work? Management should start actually managing people, by properly motivating them and making sure, in person, that they are doing the work they need to be doing.

JasonApril 7, 2008 10:47 AM

Blocking the Internet is part of my job. I manage our corporate proxy server. I don't get to decide what is and is not allowed, but I do get to technically enforce it.

It is a massive pain in the butt and takes a majority of my time to maintain.

I think they were actually hoping for a plug-in-and-go sort of thing, but obviously, that's not possible.

When you get down the level of granularity needed to make sure that each employee can access only what they need to do his or her job, keeping track of that and managing the rules becomes difficult and convoluted.

Not to mention some applications simply won't work through a proxy server. You end up opening holes in your firewalls just for these one-offs and managing a huge list of exceptions for individuals, groups, and IP address ranges all to keep someone from visiting a web page that might be inappropriate.

The executives, of course, are allowed nearly unfettered access because they alone are mature enough to police themselves. For now, they are blocked from blatant malware or criminal sites, but I imagine that will be removed in time.

I agree that if an employee is going to waste time surfing the Internet (much like I am doing now), they will find another way to waste their time if they are blocked.

Clueless BiochemistApril 7, 2008 11:00 AM

Just curious: Why publish this in Nature?

I know they've expanded their scope to be more interdisciplinary, but it seems like there are other venues where this review might be more appropriate.

BubbaJoeBobApril 7, 2008 11:08 AM

Jason: Instead of blocking, I just made the proxy logs public. Yes, anyone can look and see what anyone else is doing. It makes the system self-policing, and I don't need to filter a thing.

BubbaJoeBobApril 7, 2008 11:08 AM

Jason: Instead of blocking, I just made the proxy logs public. Yes, anyone can look and see what anyone else is doing. It makes the system self-policing, and I don't need to filter a thing.

CraigApril 7, 2008 11:08 AM

I think you pay Barlow's silly little manifesto too much respect even by mentioning it, much less giving it the serious critical treatment. Really, it's little more than a bunch of empty rhetoric aimed at pleasing its own constituency; it preaches to the choir, and only to the choir, for the simple reason there is no reason for anyone else to care about it. But this is about what should be expected when a "political manifesto" is written by someone whose only qualification for the job is to have been the second-string lyricist for the Grateful Dead.

Gilmore's comment is a little better, but still painfully naive, as should be expected when computer nerds attempt to address issues that relate to things beyond the world of the silicon substrate.

JasonApril 7, 2008 11:10 AM

@BubbaJoeBob

That's been discussed among my teammates and immediate manager, but so far, that's as far as it has gone.
Either that or a "most interesting" report being posted weekly.

This place is a small company on the verge of becoming a large company, so the execs are still learning how to manage a business where you don't know everyone on a first name basis.

alanApril 7, 2008 11:18 AM

"Information does not want to be free. Information wants to be tied up and spanked."

raiApril 7, 2008 11:57 AM

there is a natural tendency of a large minority of the population who do not want others to be free. and they will give up some of their own unused freedom to make it so.

This is called the "fascist personality" you can google it. there is a personality test you can take.

Basicly, these are people who grew up under parents who withheld love to cooerce obedience.

They are the definition of an "arguementum ad vericundiam."

Fascist personalities get thier self esteem from following others who have similiar violent and oppressive views on how to regulate society.

they kiss up the heirarchy, and shit down.

AnonymousApril 7, 2008 12:07 PM

@Craig

"I think you pay Barlow's silly little manifesto too much respect even by mentioning it [..]"

Spoken like someone who probably didn't even know the Internet existed at the time Barlow wrote it.

I agree with Schneier: "Brave words, but premature." The technologies that formed the backdrop of the cypherpunks -- many indeed "Internet pioneers" -- have not been deployed. Maybe Craig would object to their (eventual) deployment, and if so, then let the shame be affixed to his cowardly head.

p0rn @ workApril 7, 2008 12:36 PM

@alan

ohh... spanking......

@rai
What a crock. Based on a study of what? 20 people all from the the same small town? All had the same teachers at school, all from the same cultural upbringing....

Instead of claiming it was parents why not blame (correlating) a Gene, or TV (I bet they all watch TV) or video games.

Or even access to internet p0rn?

Timm MurrayApril 7, 2008 12:46 PM

I think it's more interesting to ask why the Internet hasn't ended up the way Barlow and other EFF/WELL people thought it would.

At the time, it was generally assumed that everyone could eventually be a content hoster and creator. The pervasive use of dial-up modems at the time prevented it, but that would be taken care of as the Internet matured.

There are three reasons that didn't happen:

1) IPv4 doesn't have the address space to handle that sort of thing
2) US broadband infrastructure was built around an overcommitment strategy,which comes with user agreements that forbid the use of servers
3) The current design of the worldwide Internet is far more centralized than expected

#1 should have been taken care of by IPv6, but without a good transition plan, IPv6 still hasn't arrived in any meaningful way. This has tended to increase the number of NATs around, which hinder servers. It also makes for an easy point of censorship.

#2 is American-specific, but since America tends to draw a lot of foreign talent, it has limited the entire world. With the use of servers restricted (even ad hoc servers like BitTorrent), people have to use external providers for content creation (YouTube, MySpace, etc.). Compared with everyone running their own thing, it's far easier to apply censorship with legal leverage to these external providers.

#3 is more widespread. Unlike the original intent of the ARPANET, the current network wasn't designed to withstand large chunks of it being bombed out of existence. It was designed primarily for commercial interests, which has made it far more economical to rely on a few big routers and links rather than lots of smaller ones. Like the problem with NAT, this makes it much easier to apply filtering.

LeoApril 7, 2008 1:58 PM

@Anonymous
"Spoken like someone who probably didn't even know the Internet existed at the time Barlow wrote it."

I knew the Internet existed back then, I'd even used it all the way back in the eighties, and I thought at the time that Barlow's comments were naive. Hell, I was even on the cypherpunk's mailing list way back when. I've always thought of people who make such comments as dangerously ignorant, not just of how the Internet works but of how corporations and governments work as well.

"The technologies that formed the backdrop of the cypherpunks -- many indeed "Internet pioneers" -- have not been deployed."

Like what for example - PGP? Most of the things the cypherpunks discussed were pipe dreams that never will be deployed. The "virtual" space of the Internet depends on the physical existence of routers and servers and even the wire, or wireless link, that provides access to those things. Those physical things will always be under the thumb of those who hold power in the physical world. Control of those physical things is and will always be control over the "virtual" space of the Internet.

Do you really want to create freedom in the world of information? Then stop pretending that the Internet has some independent, non-physical existence that can magically bypass all the power structures of the real world and start working to make the legal and social changes needed to support that freedom in the real world. Otherwise the naivete of people like you and Barlow will jeopardize all our freedom, on the Internet and in the physical world.

MikeAApril 7, 2008 2:07 PM

@Timm Murray
I agree that commercialization has led (via "efficiency" and "economy of scale") to the situation you mention. As I read it, I was reminded of the response one friend made to the public-transit utopian ranting of another: "Show me an efficient system, and I'll show you a single-point failure". Redundancy costs, and if the one writing the check for the infrastructure is not the one who will be inconvenienced (or worse) when it fails, the result will be failure-prone. That's defining "failure" as "not meeting the promised spec". It is doubly true when there is little or no competition, and where the infrastructure guy can be pretty sure that any regulators will let him off the hook for failing to live up to his promises, asking only that certain convenient failures be facilitated.

Tom DavisApril 7, 2008 2:33 PM

Most declarations of independence are issued at the start of a war for independence. Barlow's certainly was. And the war continues.

Corporations no longer have the ability to block sites. They can filter content on the computers they provide, but not the ones in their employees' pockets.

Every time there is glitch in the national filtering, it reminds citizens of the incompetence of government bureacracy. As Prince Phillip suggested, there is no quicker way to the destruction of the monarchy than for people to have to wait in traffic while the royal entourage passes. It's the same for all forms of government. It's the irritation of standing in line at the DMV or the Post Office that move most people to cry for change.

SkorjApril 7, 2008 2:51 PM

In the end, it comes down to whether governments will tolerate encrypted traffic. Freenet gets a lot of ridicule, but its speed and non-pornographic content surpass the internet of the 80s IMO.

A Freenet-like infrastructure makes fine-grained censorship impractical: you either have to block most encrypted content (allowing only servers on a goverment-approoved whitelist, such as https to banks), or allow it.

I think it's a very real possibility that even "enlightened western nations" will begin outlawing most encrypted content to protect commercial interests. I'd like to think we were more protective of our liberties, but recent history shows otherwise.

David HarperApril 7, 2008 3:01 PM

Meanwhile, in the "Land of the Free", a U.S. government funded medical information web site hosted at a major university quietly introduced censorship by blocking searches on the word "abortion".

"We recently made all abortion terms stop words," [database manager Debbie] Dickson wrote in a note to Gloria Won, the UCSF medical center librarian making the inquiry. "As a federally funded project, we decided this was best for now."

http://blog.wired.com/27bstroke6/2008/04/a-government-fu.html

Fortunately, the dean of the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins displayed rare courage in the face of criticism and vowed to reverse the ban.

http://blog.wired.com/27bstroke6/2008/04/administrators.html

But don't imagine that government censorship is something that only happens in faraway lands.

LeoApril 7, 2008 3:58 PM

@Tom Davis
"Corporations no longer have the ability to block sites."

One of my favorite websites disappeared temporarily some time ago. The _corporation_ responsible for administering the domain name decided to jerk the person paying for the name around and took back the name. He was forced to find another. Fortunately he was simply able to change from a ".org" name to a ".us" domain name, at least until the corporation administering that name takes a dislike to him.

Corporations control all the websites. They control the databases and the routers. Barring laws in the real world restricting their behavior they can do what they want.

CraigApril 7, 2008 5:43 PM

"Spoken like someone who probably didn't even know the Internet existed at the time Barlow wrote it."

No, spoken like someone who isn't nearly as naive about society as most computer professionals (despite 20+ years of commercial software engineering experience). My first experience of the Internet was back around 1985. Nice try. Always go for the ad hominem argument; it's less work than thinking.

@Tom Davis:

I think you're over-dramatizing things and grossly overestimating the significance of the Barlow/EFF axis. Not that EFF doesn't do useful work; it does, but it works within the legal system and is not in any sense playing Thomas Jefferson to King George. There is no "war of independence" here, and it's silly to suggest that there is.

mooApril 7, 2008 7:03 PM

For now, governments will just have to tolerate encrypted traffic, because their corporate patrons need it for VPN connections and secure office-to-office connections.

I'm sure they'd love to get rid of it if they could, through mandatory key escrow or something.

AnonymousApril 7, 2008 9:36 PM

@Craig

"No, spoken like someone who isn't nearly as naive about society as most computer professionals (despite 20+ years of commercial software engineering experience). My first experience of the Internet was back around 1985."

If you say so. (But evidence still suggests otherwise.)

"Nice try. Always go for the ad hominem argument; it's less work than thinking."

For example, ad hominem like this:

"But this is about what should be expected when a "political manifesto" is written by someone whose only qualification for the job is to have been the second-string lyricist for the Grateful Dead."

But that's ok, Craig: maybe you simply aren't cut out for "thinking". 20+ years you say? (cf. 'evidence', above).

@Leo

"Most of the things the cypherpunks discussed were pipe dreams that never will be deployed. "

Thanks for your opinion.

Now, let's move on to your reading comprehension!

Ubiquitous, automatic, encryption was at the core of almost everything the cypherpunks were talking about. I guess it must have pervaded the conversation to such a degree that you, supposedly on the cypherpunk mailing list, missed it all or something. You'd think with a name like "cypherpunks" it would have been somewhat obvious, but if the mailing list software is anything, it isn't discriminating. (And just in case it also isn't obvious: if you can't tell what kind of traffic is flowing through your piece of the network, you have a choice to make: either shut it off, or keep it up.)

Other things you may have missed include Gilmore essentially footing the bill for the ultimately disappointing FreeS/WAN project (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FreeS/WAN). He also managed the EFF DES crack, in part for the purpose of ensuring that truly strong cryptography would be used (or at least not DES).

As for "pipe dreams": the principle P2P application today -- BitTorrent -- was foreshadowed in the mailing list in many forms. (Recall Tim May's notorious BlackNet proposal!) Mind you, it would probably be still a dream if it wasn't for the RIAA ...

... and this is why I think Schneier was right about "Brave words, but premature", though probably not that exact meaning. In the end I expect most of the cypherpunk vision will be put into operation. Contemporaneous example: packing sniffing and traffic shaping ISP's run a real risk of pushing IPsec-as-default to the forefront at last. Oops!

Any MouseApril 7, 2008 9:49 PM

@moo: as the clipper chip fiasco demonstrated key escrow wont work.

Dave B.April 7, 2008 10:03 PM

@bob
Regarding China, that may have been true when Google was first allowed in China, but it didn't seem to be true in January: a search for Tiananmen Square seemed to be about the same as elsewhere, including Wikipedia and references to the protests of 1989. To be fair, I didn't do an image search, though.

I fact, China has relaxed its policy further since then, allowing limited acces to the BBC.

@Anonymous
Wow, you're pretty patronising aren't you?

Cy CynicApril 8, 2008 12:18 AM

"For now, governments will just have to tolerate encrypted traffic, because their corporate patrons need it for VPN connections and secure office-to-office connections."

"I'm sure they'd love to get rid of it if they could, through mandatory key escrow or something."

What, do you think that having the one major SSL certificate provider (Verisign) being based in the US isn't the same as key escrow?

D0RApril 8, 2008 3:40 AM

The company I work for uses Internet filtering... which, according to my colleagues, from time to time blocks access to MS Windows Update patches while happily allowing websurfing on porn sites.

PaeniteoApril 8, 2008 3:50 AM

@Cy Cynic: "What, do you think that having the one major SSL certificate provider (Verisign) being based in the US isn't the same as key escrow?"

I am not aware of Verisign's processes, but the last time I created an SSL certificate, the private key remained securely on my server.

However, if someone gets control over a trusted (=pre-installed) CA's signing key (by legal or clandestine means), a man-in-the-middle attack would become possible, that's true.

AlanApril 9, 2008 12:10 AM

I work in the infosec dept of a large corporation with 10s of 1000s of employees. We have a fraction of one FTE devoted to blocking sites. If you're spending most of your time doing it, you need a (albeit imperfect) subscription service or you need to push back more.

At-home workers could be tied to filters; it's not a function of working at home but rather a function of the remote working architecture embraced by an organization.

I agree on the collaborative and productive benefits of the Internet for some jobs, especially "white collar" jobs. But I don't agree as a general principle that unrestricted access benefits all jobs, especially task workers (e.g., call centers). Furthermore, some environments--especially highly regulated ones--must engage in some kind of filtering (e.g. messaging services) if they're going to offer Internet access at all.

With legs wide openApril 9, 2008 3:10 AM

Even if censorship isn't prevalent in the US, access to or creation of certain sites can probably land you in jail more frequently than any other country on the planet. This is the land of thought crimes after all.

I've accessed certain (apparently legal) sites in the past that I've later found out were raided by cops. Usually they get charged with obscenity (going against community standards). Remember that viral video "2 girls 1 cup". The guy who brought it into the country was charged with obscenity and given probation. This is stuff that doesn't happen in the free world, people.

Land of the free, my ass. Free speech was dead before I was even born. The US is the land of hypocrites and they have no right to be criticizing other countries.

And by the way, censorship of child porn is still censorship. Most of the world doesn't censor it. You can't censor the internet based on your arbitrary standards and then criticize other countries for doing the same, according to their standards. It's just common sense, but it's hard to find people with much of it anymore.

Jeffrey A. WilliamsApril 15, 2008 10:56 PM

It seems sensable to me that the only form of censorshp that is exceptable is self censorhsip. Government censorship from whatever government that is practicing it, is obviously wrong and largly encourages anger and sometimes violance.

MinervaNovember 4, 2008 10:26 AM

In my view the internet is simply a virtual society. Governments and corporations can infiltrate it just as much as the physical world. I too have had ridiculously tame posts removed from forums, one today removed from a women's magazine website.

I'm still struggling to figure out exactly what I wrote that was so wrong! There were no swear words, no obscenities.

I feel that we are censored more than ever. Even in the last five years in the UK, TV and the Internet has become increasingly censored. I was watching an hilarious episode of Catherine Tate last night from a couple of years ago and there were parts of it that would almost certainly be complainted about and censored now.
My father is convinced we are slowly sliding into a fascist dictatorship and I have to be honest looking around me and due to personal experience I am starting to see what he means!

Imagine the internet with all it's forums in a different way - rich sources of information on individuals and their personal opinions. Talk about getting to know the dissenters before the regime starts!

Indeed I was just on a site for webmasters (on the subject of censorship) and they were actually referring to censored posters as 'dissenters' !! Excuse me? I thought! Controlling topics? Is such control really necessary? Sounds a little bit too much like they want posters to remain within their little boxes defined by the moderators. Remind you of anything a certain Mr Orwell wrote?

There is no free speech in society, not truly. As someone else on here has said, there will always be the few who want to control the majority and suck up to the establishment to do so. The internet is simply another tool in their hands and we are falling for it hook, line and sinker.

What do we do about it? I have no idea. I'm only 29. I lack the life experience and wisdom at the moment to know what to do for the best. But I do know something dark and sinister is happening to our freedom right now and I don't think I'm the only one who feels that way.

MinervaNovember 4, 2008 10:30 AM

I also find that the forum moderators who tend to delete me are younger than I am, incredibly immature and not very clever!

ger eganMarch 22, 2009 3:26 PM

Can you please help me in relation the censorship of the internet in ireland.

Eircom the main internet provider in Ireland has plans to curb peoples use and enjoyment of the internet by filtering all content on the internet. This non government controlled filtering of the internet is to stop the illegally uploading and downloading of copyrighted material. IRMA (Irish Recorded Music Association ) which is controlled by the main record labels (EMI, Sony, Universal and Warner) are to supply Eircom with the IP addresses of all people they detect illegally uploading or downloading copyrighted materials. If you are found to be illegally downloading copyrighted materials you can be disconnected from the internet.

The filtering of the internet and the treat of disconnection is serving a commercial interest group and is not to the benefit to the people of Ireland. We do not condone piracy but we should never have censorship, surveillance and treat of disconnection from the internet. The internet has become a main part of Modern life people use it everyday for doing business, communicating with friends buying and selling goods, reading the news as well as many other reasons. There is over a billion people in the world that use the internet and half the world have mobile phones to disconnect people from the internet is ending there freedom to work and communicate with the world. Censorship, surveillance and disconnection of the internet for the benefit of music industry is ridiculous. How can a democratic nation allow a private industry association to dictate what information their population can/cannot read. The future of the internet is at stake if we let censorship of the internet start now we can never stop it.

can you please help me make this be known to the public or give me advice in how i should launch a campaign to stop it at the moment i am sending this email and asking people to forward it toThe following email addresses the minister for communication the irish media and eircom (please help forward to the following and to your friends)


eamon.ryan@oireachtas.ie, customer.services@eircom.net, sales@eircom.net

eircomadvertising@eircom.net, newsonline@rte.ie, info@tv3.ie

.

Thanks

Ger

Paul CoddingtonAugust 9, 2009 2:43 AM

@BubbaJoeBob: That is (or was, at the time I heard it from the horse's mouth some years ago) the policy at Microsoft.

The reasoning was that paying someone to monitor was not only less effective, but a needless waste of money. There also was a light-hearted incentive to avoid being in the list of the Top 10 users (in time/bandwidth).

When I mentioned this policy in a government department as an example of what we do wrong that could be done better (in an organisation where junping to the first random web page that matched a search term was default policy with all the security hilarity that might result), it was as if I had proposed an annual stoat-gobbling contest be held in Majorca on double-pay during a lunar eclipse...

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