OpenNet Initiative Releases Results on Filtering in Asia

From the Great Firewall to the Myanmar Wide Web, Asia is well-known for its practices in Internet filtering. China has long taken the lead in blocking Web sites, filtering sites across the spectrum – from social to political content, pornography to Internet tools. The OpenNet Initiative (full disclosure: I'm involved) has been studying the Internet in Asia and around the world since 2002, and has just released its latest reports on Internet surveillance and controls in Asia, and specifically in China.

New research from the OpenNet Initiative (ONI) reveals accelerating restrictions on Internet content as Asian governments shift to next generation controls. These new techniques go beyond blocking access to websites and are more informal and fluid, implemented at edges of the network, and are often backed up by increasingly restrictive and broadly interpreted laws.

According to an recent ONI press release:

“Since 2006, many Asian governments have quickly realized the potential benefits of exploiting opportunities for conducting propaganda or public relations strategies over the Internet, even while cracking down on independent and critical voices thriving in these online spaces- an example of the evolution towards next generation controls,” said Ron Deibert, director of the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto and one of four principal investigators at the ONI.

These controls were evidenced recently in ONI's analysis of China's latest attempt at controlling the flow of information, Green Dam Youth Escort filtering software mandated for pre-installation on PCs sold in China starting July 1. “However, even China's example demonstrates that restrictions on information are far from uniformly effective, and will meet resistance and be contested by the very groups they are intended to silence,” said Rafal Rohozinski, CEO of the SecDev Group and co-founder and principal investigator of ONI and ONI Asia.

The reports for Asia, as well as Burma, China, Pakistan, and South Korea will be featured in a forthcoming MIT Press volume, Access Controlled: The Shaping of Rights, Rule, and Power in Cyberspace, to be published by MIT Press (2010). Access Controlled will include a series of analytical chapters and regional overviews that contribute to the developing discourse around global Internet regulation and censorship raised in the first ONI volume Access Denied: The Practice and Policy of Global Internet Filtering, (Cambridge: MIT Press) 2008.

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