Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
. Military Space News .

Subscribe to our free daily newsletters

Walling Off The Net

Governments target not only Web sites but also Internet cafes and individual bloggers like Egypt's Abdul Kareem Nabeel Suleiman, who was imprisoned for four years in February for "insulting Islam" and defaming Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
by Martin Walker
UPI Editor Emeritus
Washington (UPI) Jun 07, 2007
One issue that this week's G8 summit will not be addressing is the emergence of a new ideological divide. It is not as sharp as the grim rivalry of the Cold War, but it carries profoundly unpleasant implications for the future. Most of us think the Internet has been a great boon, spreading communication and access to information. But some states are terrified of this, and Amnesty International warned this week that the Internet "could change beyond recognition" unless governments are stopped from installing their creeping censorship systems across cyberspace.

It is the gap between the authoritarian states and the free, between those who think that elections and a free press and free markets and an independent judiciary are vital, and those who think the authority of the state is far more important. It is an argument about that age-old and ever-shifting balance between the rights of the individual and the needs of the collective, and one that illustrates real disputes about human rights and freedoms.

In that triumphal moment at the end of the Cold War, scholars like Francis Fukuyama hailed "the end of history," assuming this meant the argument had finally been won by liberal democracy. Not so; from China to Venezuela, from Russia to Burma, the autocrats are back, or they never really went away, and they have learned how to control the Internet's new challenge to their authority.

The Open Net Initiative, which monitors efforts to censor the Internet, reckons that 25 governments are now actively policing and controlling their citizens' access to the vast store of knowledge and trivia and chatter and gossip and human interaction that make up cyberspace. ONI calls it "state-mandated Net filtering" and has found it operating in a swathe of countries that include Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Burma, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Iran, Morocco and Saudi Arabia.

What Amnesty calls the "virus of Internet repression" has spread from some censorious pioneers to more and more governments, with U.S. corporations like Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! who ought to know better becoming part of the problem. The companies claim they have to abide by local laws, but they risk becoming complicit agents of censorship.

Two Chinese dissidents, Wang Xiaoning and Shi Tao, are in jail, allegedly because their e-mails were turned over to the Chinese authorities by Yahoo!. Both men have joined a lawsuit against Yahoo! in the U.S. District court in San Francisco brought by the World Organization for Human Rights under the Alien Tort Claims Act and the Torture Victim Protection Act.

Human rights campaigners have claimed that Cisco is at fault for selling routers to China that have allowed government censors to block traffic to any sites with references to the Tiananmen Square massacre. Microsoft's blog network has filtered delicate words like "democracy," and Google cooperates to block sites that the Chinese government does not want its people to see. They have become, one might say, contractors in constructing the Great Firewall of China.

"The Chinese model of an Internet that allows economic growth but not free speech or privacy is growing in popularity, from a handful of countries five years ago to dozens of governments today who block sites and arrest bloggers," says Tim Hancock, Amnesty's campaign director. "Unless we act on this issue, the Internet could change beyond all recognition in the years to come.

Nobody can say they were not warned. In January this year, Chinese leader Hu Jintao promised to "purify the Internet," saying the Communist Party had to "strengthen administration and development of our country's Internet culture," according to the official Xinhua news agency. "Maintain the initiative in opinion on the Internet and raise the level of guidance online," he instructed a meeting of senior party officials. "We must promote civilized running and use of the Internet and purify the Internet environment."

A survey by Business Week found that more than 30,000 monitors are employed by the Chinese state agencies that are responsible for monitoring the Internet -- almost twice as many as are employed by the CIA. But much of the work is done by the Internet companies, censoring themselves on state orders, blocking key words and phrases. Hackers found a list of more than 900 banned terms on China's QQ instant messaging service.

Companies that use Chinese servers (which have included Yahoo!) are ordered to sign the "Public Pledge on Self-Discipline for the Chinese Internet Industry," which requires them to undertake not to spread information that "breaks laws or spreads superstition or obscenity ... may jeopardize state security and disrupt social stability."

The autocrats can be relatively subtle. Chess maestro Gary Kasparov, who now devotes his energies to the pro-democracy (and thus anti-Putin) movement in Russia, notes that "the Internet is our best weapon to let the world know what's really going on behind Putin's 21st century iron curtain."

But that weapon is being deliberately blunted. Kasparov goes on: "There remains the constant threat of being jailed for 'extremist speech,' the Kremlin's Orwellian justification for suppressing criticism. Individuals have been criminally charged for Internet posts. The security forces and their allies engage in online harassment as well. Our Web sites are under constant threat of coordinated hacker attacks, forcing us to look outside Russia's borders to establish a network that cannot be shut down by the government."

Governments target not only Web sites but also Internet cafes and individual bloggers like Egypt's Abdul Kareem Nabeel Suleiman, who was imprisoned for four years in February for "insulting Islam" and defaming Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Professor Jacques Marcovitch, former president of the University of Sao Paolo, has said that the defining issue of our time is "how societies that believe in tolerance relate to countries, religions or organizations that are themselves intolerant." He was thinking primarily about radical Islamists, but the same principle relates to the Internet as a global utility, and to the renewed confidence and arrogance of authoritarian states. In that sense, perhaps the Cold War did not really end, it just shifted location to cyberspace.

Source: United Press International

Email This Article
Comment On This Article

Related Links
Amnesty International
Open Net Initiative
Cyberwar - Internet Security News - Systems and Policy Issues

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

North Korea Reactor Resumes Operations
Seoul (AFP) Jun 04, 2007
North Korea's only nuclear reactor has resumed operations after suspending them briefly last month, South Korea's spy agency said Monday. The Yongbyon reactor, whose spent fuel rods produce atomic raw material to make bombs, "was shut down for about 10 days but resumed operations recently," a spokesman for the National Intelligence Service told AFP without elaborating.

  • Putin's State Of Mind
  • Sarkozy Debuts On World Stage At G8 Summit
  • In Praise Of Pessimism
  • G8-Fortress Heiligendamm

  • US Mulls Lifting Macau Bank Sanctions
  • Putin Missile Threats Seen As Rational By Some As Putin Confronts G8 Critics
  • Russia Plans Totally Effective Response To US Missile Plan
  • Will The Guns Of August Go Atomic

  • Coping With Gaza's Rockets
  • Raytheon And UAE Sign Rolling Airframe Missile Contract
  • Boeing Wins Next Phase Of US Air Force Missile Technology Program
  • Russia May Redeploy Missiles In Europe Warns Putin

  • A Coalition Of Rogues Could Dent The Shield
  • GAO Tips The Scales On ABM
  • Czech PM Says US Missile Base Is Question Of National Courage
  • Russia Missile Tests Aimed At US ABM Plans In Europe

  • Airlines Pledge Emissions Cuts But Warn EU Curbs Could Jeopardise Sector
  • Sandia And Boeing Collaborate To Develop Aircraft Fuel Cell Applications

  • MQ-8B Fire Scout To Enter Production

  • Former Generals Slam Iraq-Korea Comparison
  • Iraqi Kurds Face Crunch Time
  • Foster-Miller Gets Big Boost In Contract For Talon Robots And Spares Parts For Iraq
  • US Wants Insurgent Ceasefire Agreements As Congress Sets New Benchmarks

  • Raytheon-Led Warrior Training Alliance Wins US Army Warfighter FOCUS Program
  • Thales And Boeing Announce FRES Team
  • QinetiQ's Polarisation Technology Results In GBP800K Contract For Further Research Into Tripwire Detection

  • The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2006 - SpaceDaily.AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA PortalReports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additionalcopyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by SpaceDaily on any Web page published or hosted by SpaceDaily. Privacy Statement