As 2011 Begins, Censorship Still Opposes Internet Openness
Today is the day many people are headed back to their jobs and routines after the holidays, and as the routine part of 2011 begins, it's worth remembering that one of the biggest roadblocks to true openness online remains censorship. That's the stance that the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)--a long-time censorship watchdog organization--takes in an update post summarizing 2010. At the beginning of 2010, EFF identified a dozen trends that it felt would play key roles in defining digital rights during the year, and censorship was among them. Here is where Internet censorship trends are heading, and how many users around the globe defy censorship laws and practices.
In its original post on censorship at the beginning of 2010, EFF analysts wrote:
"For years, the obvious benefits of an uncensored Internet have kept advocates of Net blocking on the defensive. But new filtering initiatives in Australia and Europe combined with growing rhetoric around child protection, cybersecurity and IP enforcement means that blocking websites isn't just for authoritarian regimes any more. That's not to say tyrants aren't paying close attention to the West's new censors. When democratic governments complain about Iran and China's net policing in 2010, expect defenses of "we're only doing what everyone else does".
Indeed, governments in regions like Iran and China are still among the worst offenders when it comes to online censorship. Here in the U.S., though, censorship on the Internet is still very much an issue. The EFF also notes:
"The other push for Internet censorship is a response to Wikileaks. Wikileaks has been subject to an astonishing amount of informal government pressure, which convinced a string of Internet hosting companies to drop the site."
All of the global issues surrounding Internet censorship have a similar ring to the problems that surrounded the music industry as its archaic distribution models came to clash with new, digital models. Information and content flow freely on the Internet at levels that are unprecedented.
While it's confounding to start 2011 with censorship remaining such an obstacle to true openness on the Net, even people in Internet-repressed societies are finding ways to defy censors. There are many free tools for anonymous browsing, reading and posting, as we covered in this post and in this post. For example, Sesawe.net is a portal that provides many, many ways for users around the world to circumvent tracking when online. Visitors to the site can display content on it in many languages by toggling with the toolbar atop the site.
Sesawe.net is proof of an ultimate truth about Internet censorship, which is that it won't win in the end due to the sheer will of people who value freedom. People will find ways to access and post information online no matter how repressed a society they find themselves in, and societies with the worst online censorship records will suffer substantial competitive setbacks over time.