Tag Archive | "internet censorship"

Internet Censorship in Malaysia

The Internet first became available in Malaysia in 1995 and offers Malaysians a way to express alternative views that would otherwise not be allowed to appear in the country’s otherwise tightly controlled state media. In fact and while there are strict censorship laws for other forms of media, there is no official Internet censorship policy in Malaysia – so far. For that reason, many anti-government activists or critics such as political caricaturist Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, otherwise known as Zunar, have turned to the Internet to express themselves when traditional avenues of expression were blocked by government censors.

Internet Access and Usage in Malaysia

Malaysia has an Internet penetration rate that places the country right behind Singapore for Internet penetration in Southeast Asia. Moreover, the Malaysian government has aggressively pushed to make the country a major IT hub through special economic zones and has also strongly encouraged broadband Internet adoption in order to facilitate the development of the country’s IT sector. Hence, the Malaysian government has largely not applied the country’s strict censorship laws to the Internet.

What Websites are Blocked in Malaysia by Internet Censorship?

However and in May 2011, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) informed Malysian ISPs to block ten websites that allow the illegal download of movies and videos. Specifically, the MCMC said it had received the blocking request from the Domestic Trade, Co-operatives and Consumerism’s Enforcement Division which had found that the websites contravened the country’s Copyright Act 1987.

Otherwise, there have been a number of cases where the government of Malaysia has detained, prosecuted or put pressure on Malaysian bloggers who have exposed government corruption or were critical of the government or who allegedly insulted Malaysian royalty. Specifically, the most high profiled cases involved Malaysian blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin who was detained for 56 days for writing about government corruption, Irwan Abdul Raman (otherwise known as Hassan Skodeng) who was charged for writing a satirical article about a state-owned energy firm and Khairul Nizam Abd Ghani who is facing up to one year in prison and a fine for insulting the Sultan of the State of Johor.

Internet Censorship in Malaysia: Further Reading

To learn more about Internet censorship in Malaysia, check out the OpenNet Initiative’s Malaysia profile along with Reporters Without Borders’ Malaysia country page. In addition, the Wall Street Journal has a recent article about political caricaturist Zunar and about censorship in Malaysia in general.

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Internet Censorship: Why Turkey Internet Users Should Use a VPN

Turkey has had public access to the Internet since 1993 and while the country’s government has implemented both legal and institutional reforms in the hopes of becoming a member of the European Union (EU), the country has also shown itself to be highly sensitivity to defamation and ‘‘inappropriate’’ online content. Hence, Reporters Without Borders has placed Turkey on its “under surveillance” for Internet censorship.

Internet Access and Usage in Turkey

Turkey has at least 35 million active Internet users but the country also actively censors websites dealing with controversial topics such as Ataturk (the founder of modern Turkey), the Turkish Army, issues involving minorities (especially the Kurds) and so-called “terrorist” organizations. Other websites that are subject to bans include those that deal with prostitution, gambling, drugs and pornography. Websites can also be banned for perceived defamation or copyright law violations.

What Technology Does Turkey Use to Restrict Internet Access?

The Telecommunications Authority (TA), the Information Denouncement Center (which accepts complaints about websites via email or phone) or Turkish courts can order a particular website blocked. However and under Turkish Internet Law, it is also the responsibility of individual Turkish ISPs to block potentially offensive content before an official order is given to do so.

What Websites are Blocked in Turkey by Internet Censorship?

YouTube is the most high profile victim of Turkish Internet censorship as it has been blocked on and off in Turkey due to videos deemed offensive. In addition, Google-owned Blogger, which is used by some 600 000 Turkish bloggers, was blocked by a court after satellite TV firm Digitürk complained that streaming media feeds from local soccer games were being posted on Blogger websites – in violation of copyright laws. Otherwise, engelliweb.com has reported that some 8,170 Internet websites that are inaccessible in Turkey either as the result of action by the Telecommunications Authority or a court decision.

Critics point out that Internet censorship in Turkey has been implemented piecemeal and that there appears to be no clear-cut definition or directives of just what is permissible and what violates the law. In fact, some critics contend that Turkish authorities are simply banning sites with little consideration.

Internet Censorship in Turkey: Further Reading

To learn more about Internet censorship in Turkey, check out the OpenNet Initiative’s Turkey profile along with Reporters Without Borders’ Turkey country page.

How to Bypass Internet Censorship in Turkey

By using a VPN service accessible from Turkey, Internet users can access any website as if they were anywhere else in the world (depending on the location of the VPN server you choose).

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Internet Censorship in United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Despite its image of being the technological leader of the Arab world and the Middle East, the United Arab Emirates has a very strict Internet censorship and filtering policy. In fact, the government tries to block any pornographic content along with any website that discusses dissenting political views, non-orthodox views of Islam, religion, human rights or criticisms of society and especially of the royal family.

Internet Access and Usage in United Arab Emirates (UAE)

At least 75% of the United Arab Emirates population has Internet access plus the country plans to invest several billion dollars into developing both Internet infrastructure and access – especially in government offices and schools. Moreover, the government has set up Dubai Media City and Dubai Internet City as free economic zones where IT and media companies can set up their offices.

What Technology Does United Arab Emirates (UAE) Use to Restrict Internet Access?

Decisions to block individual websites in the United Arab Emirates are made jointly by the Telecommunication Regulation Authority (TRA) and the Ministry of Communications. The country’s two ISPs, Etisalat and Du, must then enforce these decisions.

Currently, Du is known to use SmartFilter, a software program developed by Secure Computing, which McAfee acquired in 2008, to enforce the government’s censorship policies.

What Websites are Blocked in United Arab Emirates (UAE) by Internet Censorship?

The United Arab Emirates blocks specific parts of Wikipedia along with all VoIP services such as Skype and the entire Israeli internet domain (.il). Some social networking services such as hi5 and Friendster along with all dating such as Yahoo! Personals and Match.com are blocked but some social networking websites such Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are only subject to partially Internet censorship. In addition, some 500 key words are also said to be currently blocked and the government is also filtering Blackberry and mobile phone Internet access.

Internet Censorship in United Arab Emirates (UAE): Further Reading

To learn more about Internet censorship in the United Arab Emirates, check out the OpenNet Initiative’s United Arab Emirates profile along with Reporters Without Borders’ United Arab Emirates country page.

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Proposed Internet Censorship in India

While the US is considering taking measures to block illegal websites, India’s government is going a step further and is following in the footsteps of China, so to speak. They want companies such as Facebook and Google to begin screening all user generated content.

In other words, the Indian government has requested these companies, “to remove disparaging, inflammatory or defamatory content before it goes online.” This is very similar to the so-called China’s Firewall. Though, India’s actual proposal on how they plan to do this, has only been reported on in very vague terms in The New York Times’s India Ink blog. The Internet companies concerned say that any such action is not an option.

Overall, India’s plan to screen online content does sound rather impossible to achieve. According to sources, the idea behind this plan came to light about six months ago, when Kapil Sibal, India’s acting telecommunications minister, informed government officials that disparaging comments on the Congress Party president Sonia Gandhi’s Facebook page were “unacceptable.” He went on to ask Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo representatives, “to set up a proactive prescreening system, with staffers looking for objectionable content and deleting it before it is posted.”

The companies responded that this demand is impossible because of the sheer volume of user-generated content coming from India. They also said that they can’t be responsible for determining what is defamatory or disparaging. As Facebook alone has an estimated 25 million users in India, the volume of user generated content does seem unmanageable.

Sibal’s request does greatly resemble the Great Firewall of China, however the way they want to go about it is very different. However, should the companies accede to the Indian government’s requests, and begin removing “unacceptable” user generated content, it would open up the possibility of much broader Internet censorship.

The Indian government is proposing that the companies themselves put all the effort into moderation and Internet censorship. The government will only provide guidance in what is acceptable and what is not. This plan does seem less strict than the censorship in China where officials have the power to block entire websites. In China they don’t just screen the content that goes up on websites like Facebook; they block the site completely. In that, the Indian approach does seem a lot more permissive than China’s. It is however still a form of censorship.

Between China’s Firewall, India’s intent to block certain types of content, and the pending legislation in the United States aimed towards blocking sites altogether, it does seem that more and more governments are seeking out more aggressive ways to regulate and censor the internet.


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How to Bypass Internet Censorship in Bahrain

Bahrain is considered to be a major regional ICT center for the Middle East but the country also has a wide ranging Internet censorship policy targeting websites critical of the Bahraini government or the royal ruling family along with any content that is related to pornography, homosexuality or is critical of Islam. Moreover, tensions between Sunni Muslims (who control the government) and the Shia Muslim majority has given the Bahraini government an excuse to crackdown and censor the Internet.

Internet Access and Usage in Bahrain

Bahrain has had Internet access since 1995 and is one of the most connected countries in the Middle East thanks in part to Mena Telecom having launched a nationwide WiMAX network to provide high speed wireless voice and data services.

Internet censorship in Bahrain is governed by the 2002 Press Law and specifically by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA). In addition, two Internet specific decrees were adopted in 2009 with the first one allowing websites to be closed without a court order and at the request of the Minister of Culture while the second one requires ISPs to block pornographic websites or any website that could incite violence or racial hatred.

More specifically, Internet control is coordinated by a commission comprised of four ministries who monitor the compliance of cybercafés which are also under tight surveillance. In fact, cybercafés in Bahrain are not allowed to have private rooms for surfing the Internet and all computer screens must be clearly visible to everyone in order to make surveillance easier.

What Technology Does Bahrain Use to Restrict Internet Access?

After pro-democratic demonstrations broke out in February 2011 in Bahrain’s capital, filtering intensified thanks to filtering software supplied by SmartFilter, a software program developed by Secure Computing which was acquired in 2008 by US based McAfee. Otherwise, all Bahraini ISPs must have some kind of filtering software installed but many Bahrainis are also using proxy servers to get around them.

What Websites are Blocked in Bahrain by Internet Censorship?

Some prominent websites being blocked in Bahrain include the website of Cairo-based Arabic Network for Human Rights Information and that of the Arabic regional portal and blog hosting service Al-Bawaba. In addition, Google Earth was briefly blocked after a PDF file containing annotated Google Earth screenshots of the country that purported to show the inequity of land distribution in Bahrain was circulated.

In addition, it’s also worth noting that unlike other Middle East countries or Gulf States, Internet censorship in Bahrain is not always transparent as some blocked sites will simply give users an error message rather than inform them that the site is being blocked.

Internet Censorship in Bahrain: Further Reading

To learn more about Internet censorship in the Bahrain, check out the OpenNet Initiative’s Bahrain profile along with Reporters Without Borders’ Bahrain country page.

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New Copyright Bill Would Give Corps Power to Censor the Internet

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) was recently introduced in the House of Representatives and while the bill is intended to stop online piracy, it will in fact give corporations unprecedented power to censor websites.

Specifically, SOPA contains the following provisions that worry Internet free speech advocates:

  • The Attorney General will be able to cut off websites from the domain name system – meaning they will virtually disappear them from Internet.
  • Foreign websites would have to submit to a US jurisdiction in order to contest the Attorney General. This would be a costly and timely process for most websites who will probably not be able to afford to undertake this process even if they are innocent.
  • Corporations will be able to force payment processors and advertisers alike to cut off any infringing websites’ money supply – even if just a small portion of the website site is allegedly infringing on the copyright.
  • Companies who voluntarily cut off suspected infringing websites will have immunity along with virtually no oversight.

However, critics of the bill contend that while Google and Facebook may have enough money and lawyers to fend off any lawsuit or court ordered shutdown, newer social networking sites in foreign countries would probably not. This means that a website hosting videos, even if the videos draw attention to alleged human rights abuses or other issues, could be targeted by an overzealous copyright holder who then uses one alleged violation to strangle an entire website.

Moreover, circumvention tools could be under threat from SOPA as Virtual Private Networks, proxies or anonymisation software might be deemed illegal under the law if they are used to get around its censorship mechanisms.

Finally, critics contend that the US State Department’s support for the bill undermines its own Internet Freedom Initiative. On the other hand, it was also the US State Department that led the charge to stop WikiLeaks by pressuring US companies to stop doing business with the website. After Paypal, Mastercard and Visa complied, WikiLeaks was financially crippled.

Nevertheless, its worth noting that the WikiLeaks cables have also revealed that the State Department has been lobbying other countries for aggressive new copyright laws just like SOPA.

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