John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

In America, You Look at Computer Monitor; in People’s Republic of China, Computer Monitors YOU!

If conversation is a key theme of Web 2.0, then government-directed Internet censorship of that conversation is certain to be a theme of Web 3.0. According to an OpenNet Initiative report issued today, government censorship of the Internet is becoming a global phenomenon–a practice that has grown well beyond just a handful of countries, such as China and Saudi Arabia. Of the 40 nations OpenNet surveyed, 26 were found to block or filter online content. “It’s an alarming increase,” said Ron Deibert, associate professor of political science at the University of Toronto and director of its Citizen Lab. “Once the tools are in place, authorities realize that the Internet can be controlled. There used to be a myth that the Internet was immune to regulation. Now governments are realizing it’s actually the opposite.”

Indeed, with the sophisticated filtering techniques available today, it’s a simple matter for repressive regimes to, say, disrupt access to opposition media at strategic moments during and after a presidential election, or knock out YouTube. “In the early days, countries used relatively crude blocking mechanisms at the national backbone level, or imposed restrictions upon ISPs that were applied in uneven ways,” Deibert told Technology Review. “Now we see first and foremost that many countries are using commercial filtering technologies, most of which are made by U.S. companies. That’s providing them with a finer-grain level of service.”