The likes of Korea, China and Iran are perennial names on the list but for the first time the UK, USA and India appear alongside them.
These democracies have traditionally claimed to respect fundamental freedoms but the Centre for Development of Telematics in India, the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) in the United Kingdom, and the National Security Agency (NSA) in the United States have been exposed for spying.
• China is a champion of internet control. It is famous for blocking websites such as Facebook and Twitter (the ban was recently lifted but only to a 27km square area of the country) and its own social networking sites such as Weibo are watched closely.
China’s knowledge is being sought after with the country helping Iran build what is known as a “Halal internet”, a national internet completely disconnected from the World Wide Web and therefore totally under the control of the government.
But China’s assistance in gagging doesn’t stop there. It was reported in 2013 that the Zambian government was also seeking its help to install an internet surveillance network.
What’s even more concerning is how Britain is perfectly placed to tap into the internet as its geographical location sits next to 263 submarine cables that criss-cross the world and are owned by the big names of the World Wide Web, such as Verizon, Orange and Alcatel-Lucent.
• In Columbia, a digital surveillance unit believed to be run by the Columbian government intercepted more than 2,600 emails between international journalists and spokesmen of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombian (FARC) during recent peace talks.
• France’s parliament cavalierly adopted a Military Programming Law in December 2013 that allows the authorities to spy on phone and internet communications in real time without asking a judge for permission.
• North Korea — famous for its internet censorship — is not linked to the internet proper and the authorities keep most of the population isolated from the rest of the world and even from the national intranet. Their intranet is highly restricted and closely controlled by the domestic intelligence agencies. Its goal is not to keep the population informed but merely to broadcast the official ideology and strengthen the technical skills of those who work for the fatherland. To enforce this wall of silence, special units such as Group 109 and Department 27 are dedicated to tracking down digital devices brought in from outside the country.
But more radical measures are sometimes used. In November 2012, the Syrian authorities cut the internet and phone networks for more than 48 hours.
Chinese authorities disconnected the internet for several hours on 22 January 2014 to stop the circulation of reports about the use of offshore tax havens by members of the Chinese elite. While in Sudan, the authorities disconnected the internet throughout the country for 24 hours on 25 September 2013 to prevent social networks being used to organise protests.
To censor web activity some countries partner with Internet Service Providers (ISPs) who are asked to act as “internet cops”.
• Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro forced ISPs to filter content of a sensitive nature. The authorities ordered them to block about 50 websites covering exchange rates and soaring inflation on the grounds that they were fuelling an “economic war” against Venezuela. This did not prevent a wave of protests against shortages and the high crime rate. On 24 February, when many photos of the protests were circulating on Twitter, the authorities ordered ISPs to block all images on Twitter.
• In Gambia, a government legislation passed an amendment to make the “spreading of false news against the government or public officials” punishable by up to 15 years in prison or a fine of three million dalasi ($A85,300).
• In Bangladesh, four bloggers and its secretary of human rights were arrested in 2013 under an act that includes “publishing fake, obscene or defaming information in electronic form”. The bloggers criticised politicians and press for allegedly being biased towards Islamist views and under the country’s cyber laws could face up to 10 years in prison. However, the definition of digital crime is extremely vague giving a higher opportunity for arrests.
• And it gets vaguer. Grenada adopted an electronics Crimes Act in 2013 that prohibits an electronic system or electronic device to send “information that is grossly offensive or has a menacing character.”
In Singapore, it’s enforced by the authorities creating a major economic barrier for online news media. Under a measure that took effect in June 2013, news websites that post more than one article a week about Singapore and have more than 50,000 Singaporean visitors a month need a licence that requires depositing “a performance bond” of 50,000 Singaporean dollars ($A43,300). The licence has to be renewed every year.
The internet is the greatest communication tool giving freedom of speech to the modern age. Some of these methods enforced may seem extraordinary and we may count ourselves lucky to live where such measure aren’t in place, but we consider it more human right than luck and the rest of the world should experience the same.
news.com.au 21 Mar 2014
Probably unbeknown to the 'lay person', Australian internet traffic is monitored and stored 'NSA Style', and the policies of the Australian government are akin to that of Chinese authorities.
The Australian corporatocracy has only 23 million to control, not an overly difficult task.