In my research paper I would like to find the answer for two questions: 1) how is internet control being implemented by different regimes, and 2) how is internet censorship applied in different countries? It is very interesting to know how cyberspace influences cultures, and perhaps changes them. There are many societies all over the world and all of them are unique based on their respective historical and cultural backgrounds. All of these cultures have been shaped not during one day; instead it is a long historical process that has shaped the cultures we now see. People’s cultures are formed by many influences, like history, geographic location, wars, political regimes and so on. But what about now? What is cyber culture and how does it influence the society and political regimes? And it is very interesting for me to identify what influences what? Whether it is society that shapes cyber culture? Or instead is it cyber culture that shapes the society of the new age? It is obvious that the majority of countries on earth are either democratic or they strive to be democratic. So in my paper I would like to choose the particular regimes and explore how they treat dissident web based activities, and how cyber culture creates problems for political control.
Several countries and their examples of internet control will be analyzed in this paper, with a particular emphasis on the different organizations connected with internet censorship in each country. The countries I am going to look at are: China, USA, Russia, Australia And also in addition to the countries I will look at organizations, that deal with internet control, they are: ICANN and EFA.
The first country I want to look at is China and its control over internet. This country is famous for its big online censorship. The current Chinese president expresses his idea to control internet even more in order to shape “the proper public opinion” based on socialist ideas. Well, this is one example of how Internet is controlled by socialist political regime.
Or another example is how Europeans feel dissatisfaction of current US foreign policy, they think it is necessary to go over internet control again and revise it. At the World Summit on the Information Society in Tunis, on November 2005 European officials said that it is necessary to displace Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers’s (hereafter ICANN) position which is controlled predominantly by this US registered non-profit. This is another example of internet control.
Continuing talking about regimes and cultures of cyber space I will go on with further explanation of how different regimes influence cyber culture. Why some of them are sure that it is very important to keep an eye on internet development and to control cyber culture. From early 90’s internet has become a global market, a place for ideas and political expression and a huge storage of information the world has ever seen. The internet has become so powerful and influential, that many political officials are sure that it is necessary to control internet activities.
Since different governments think that this is the time when it is necessary to put internet control on the next level, it was a huge debate in Tunis in 2005, when EU officials express their view that it is the right time to displace ICANN (which has close contacts with US government) and to develop a new world system that would implement internet control. Looking at this issue we see that states’ politics and internet have more and more intersections right now. EU representatives think that in future it is essential to create such an organization, that would consist of representatives of different countries, such as US, EU, China, Iran, Russia etcetera, thus control of the internet will be realized altogether.
But at the same time there was opposite views on ICANN, who think that there is no need to diminish this non profit organization, because in this case some countries threaten to loose internet access freedom. This may happen with Taiwan, because China may require abolishing Taiwan TW country code for Taiwan websites and instead placing CN country code for all the web sites in Taiwan Island. And this will give the opportunity for Beijing to control Taiwan internet resources. Without ICANN there would a threat for many countries to loose the chance to surf the internet in the free manner, because government will try to control internet more and more. Along with China there is a strong internet control in such countries like Cuba, South Korea, Burma etc.
The US and Bush administration on their side claimed that they will continue to control internet and 13 computers (which are known as root servers, they inform web browsers and email programs how to direct internet traffic – to private users). They are sure that it is important to do because of global security threats. Moreover they think that they have the right to control the domain name systems because they were those who have established them. Some experts think that in case some countries refuse to accept US control over main computers they can establish their own domain name systems. All these actions and debate over internet control indicate how internet and politics of different states influence each other. If there was no correlation between governments and Internet these debates would never appear, but since internet plays very important role for people, such debate became more and more actual because it becomes to be a part of countries’ politics.
After looking at US and China, I decided to figure out how internet control is functioned in Russia. In all Russian sources it is stated that there is no control over internet from government, and all Russian citizen have full access to any web resources. However western sources claim that instead there is a control over internet from Russian government content. FSB (former KGB) keep an eye on web content. The document called SORM, which the abbreviation of System of Operative and Investigative Procedures in Russian, appeared in the Russian legislative world in 1995. The 1995 Law on Operational Investigations gave the FSB the authority to monitor all private communications, from postal correspondence to cell-phone calls and electronic mail, provided that the security service first obtained a warrant from a court. Later SORM2 more updated and modern version of SORM was developed. This software requires that all ISP to route incoming and outgoing data via FSB computers. It is said that those who refused to cooperate with FSB were forced to do so.
After having looked at such countries as China, Russia, and ICANN, my recent research was made on another organization called EFA. EFA is the abbreviation of Electronic Frontiers in Australia, an organization which deals predominantly with internet censorship laws in Australia. This can be a good example of internet control on different continent, which was not discussed so far. After surfing on EFA’s official website I have got some ideas about how internet control is implemented in such a distant country as Australia. The so called motto of this organization is: "It is not the function of Government to keep the citizen from falling into error; it is the function of the citizen to keep the Government from falling into error." - Robert H. Jackson (1892-1954), U.S. Judge, let’s see how it is related to the current Australian internet censorship.
The internet censorship in Australia consists of laws and different regulations at both Commonwealth and State/Territory Government level, that is because Australian constitution does not mention any regulations on web activities, thus Australian government does not have any privileges to regulate online content. However internet content is regulated.
Commonwealth law applies to Internet Content Hosts ("ICHs") and Internet Service Providers ("ISPs"), but not to content providers/creators or ordinary Internet users.
State and Territory criminal laws and regulations enable prosecution of ordinary Internet users and other internet providers for such online materials that refer to be intolerable or unsuitable for minors or downloading web content that is illegal to posses.
The goal of EFA organization is to oppose current Commonwealth laws and State and Territory criminal laws and their censorship regimes. In March 2002, EFA had conducted a huge research about internet control in different countries, and what they found was there are few democratic regimes in the world that would have as strict Internet censorship laws as Australians. Canada, China, Denmark, European Union, France, Germany, Malaysia, New Zealand, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Sweden, U.K., U.S.A. – this is the list of countries that were observed during the research. The main reason, why they oppose internet censorship is – all the regulations are not successful on making internet safer for children in Australia, but instead the laws restrict and limit opportunities for adults. In simple words, both Commonwealth law and State and Territory criminal laws have lost their initial purpose, and right now they regulate such things, that are not regulated in such a harsh manner in Australian offline publications. Also, because of these laws, Australians spend money for overseas internet resources to access content that they need. By mentioning all those facts, EFA claims, that these laws are useless and in reality they just prevent internet access, limit freedom of speech for ordinary Australian users, which contradicts with democratic values.
I have looked at various examples of internet control; I have looked at some organizations that are also involved in internet control and censorship. What I found is there is always a debate, should we control it or not? Should we support censorship or just let internet develop on its own free manner? The question is complicated, but, many countries, even those, which are considered to be most democratic, they still prefer to put control on some web activities. I found a web site, where there is a description of some examples of internet censorship software programs, which can be applied when full internet access is not preferable, it can be schools, where students work with computers and surf internet, public libraries or some other organizations. This is a religious web site with the list of such programs. Unfortunately this list was updated in July 2004, but I do not think that it can be a reason not to look at it, because it gives basic overview of such programs, that can filter web access. Of course all the information on this site is given with religious purpose, and I use this information only as the example of internet filtering software that can be used everywhere.
After talking about internet censorship and control, the question comes to my mind, do ordinary people who are internet users have concerns about unlimited internet content without censorship or may be it is more a deal of governments who want to put some control on society via internet access? I found the peer reviewed journal “First Monday” on the internet, where can be found some statistics and main characteristics on those people who do support internet censorship in the US. In most of the cases these are people, who are married, have children under age of 16, who have college education, live in urban areas, attend religious services, and use internet to access religious resources, who have more then one year experience in the internet, work for public sector, consider pornography as the most important issue concerning the Internet.
To conclude the research on internet control, I see that online censorship is a big issue right now, and I’m sure it is getting bigger with internet expansion and growth. It is not the time, when it was uncomplicated to say, that internet should be developed and not controlled by anybody. Different regimes choose different methods on control implementation, some of them are extremely strict on internet content, in case with China there was a chance to observe it. Others prefer to be more tolerate and democratic in terms of internet usage. Of course there is no single answer for the question whether or not censorship can exist? There are pros and cons in both answers. And it is hard to judge to what extent internet should be controlled, and where there is a point from which there can be free access. What materials can be banned and prohibited? What information can be available? My paper does not answer these questions, because I cannot give universal answers that can be applied for every single internet user on Earth in such way that nobody would be offended but everybody would be satisfied, all I have is my personal opinion. But what the paper gives is general overview of internet control in different regimes, under the pressure of dissent organizations, and cursory knowledge on web content policies.
Well after reviewing all the materials, with a help of which I could write and organize my paper, it is a right time to give my personal opinion of internet censorship. Frankly speaking, before starting to make the research for the paper, I was sure that internet censorship is not a good thing for democratic society, and internet should be developed and functioned on its own way without human interference. But right now I would say that censorship should exist. Of course I definitely do not support Chinese position on internet control; I also think that ICANN organization has its right to exist. But since internet development comes on a global scale, this process should be watched and surveyed. The more difficult question is who should control the internet? Well in my opinion ideally this should be independent organization that would set up certain standards on the web content. The standards should be set up on democratic manner, concerning global values and traditions of the society of new age. Internet should be regulated, but it should not belong to someone, to the certain country or organization, since I consider Internet to be so-called universal property. Right now there is no such an organization and governments can regulate internet content on their own way. Because of such regulations, like in China, people suffer on lack of full internet access. But that should not be like that. I think every person has a right to access the information, and nobody has a right to put any limits on this process. So I came up with the certain idea: in future people should create the organization like UN that would be responsible for web content. They would decide what type of information is legal and what is not legal to be on the web. This organization would work on bringing internet to each person not regarding what country he or she might be from. They would work under democratic values. Internet usage should be a universal right, and nobody has to be cut down on information access.
Well these are my analysis of web censorship and internet control. I have given my opinion towards how internet should be regulated. And I hope that in future every single person on our planet will get a chance to get an access to any online information.
Alexander, Marcus “The Internet in Putin’s Russia: Reinventing a Technology of Authoritarianism” April 2003. May 10 2007 <www.henryfarrell.net/internet/alexander.pdf>
This online document in PDF format describes Russian internet policies. It covers such issues as laws Internet and the process of democratization in Russia and making in Russia internet policies. The paper gives good overview and some explanations of online Russia. It provides some numbers and graphical data to show internet activities in Russian Federation.
2. Depken, Craig A. “Who support internet censorship”. First Monday Peer-reviewed journal on the Internet
20 July 2006. 24 April 24 2007 <http://www.firstmonday.org/issues/issue11_9/depken/>
The paper describes internet censorship, gives numbers and description of people who mainly support online censorship. There is a brief review of internet censorship, its history and an empirical analysis of who supports it
3. Farrel, Nick. “Chinese president wants more internet control. Tool for guiding public opinion” The Inquirer.
25 Jan 2007. 09 Feb 2007. <http://www.theinquirer.net/default.aspx?article=37189>
This web resource is about news, facts and reviews covering different topics, including politics. There is an article about Chinese president and his ideas about how internet control is implemented. There Chinese officials give explanation on why internet control is so important for Chinese society.
4. “ICANN Information”
21 Dec 2005. 2007-02-09 <http://www.icann.org/general>
The web site is dedicated for Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers organization. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is an internationally organized, non-profit corporation that has responsibility for: Internet Protocol (IP) address space allocation, protocol identifier assignment, generic (gTLD) country code (ccTLD) Top-Level Domain name system management, and root server system management functions.
5. “Internet Censorship Laws in Australia” Electronic Frontiers Australia
31 Mar 2006. 24 April 24 2007 <http://www.efa.org.au/Issues/Censor/cens1.html>
Web site is about EFA organization, Electronic Frontiers in Australia. The organization that opposes current laws and regulations on internet freedom and censorship. They claim that such a way of internet control contradicts with democratic values. The site provide with different papers, and research dedicated to internet censorship both inside the country and overseas.
6. “Laws Restricting Internet Content” Ontario Consultant on Religious Tolerance.
24 July 2004. 24 April 24 2007 <http://www.religioustolerance.org/cyberpat1.htm>
Religious group web site, the link leads to the page with a list of software that can be applied for internet censorship which is necessary for us. Especially such programs can be used at schools, public libraries and other places, where minors have internet access and can get bad information.
7. Politech: Internet control in post-USSR countries: Russia, Ukraine, etc.
Internet control in post-USSR countries: Russia, Ukraine, etc. Declan McCullagh. 12 Apr 2000. 20 March 2007 <http://seclists.org/politech/2000/Apr/0021.html> This web resource provides us with information of Russian, Ukrainian and Kazakh internet control. Many examples of how Russian former KGB agents keep an eye on web activities and users who use internet. Tactics and techniques are used to monitor online activities in post soviet territories are described here. 8. “Seven Questions: Battling for Control of the Internet” Paper presented on World Summit on the Information Society in Tunis
A U.N. sponsored summit on information technology November 2005 in Tunis. The meeting was intended to discuss how to foster Internet growth in developing countries. In reality Tunis summit was a struggle over who should control the Internet. Debate on whether ICANN organization should be displaced. Pros and cons are given from different sides.
9. Younge, Gary “Bush administration to keep control of internet's central computers.” The Guardian
2 July 2005. 22 March 2007. <http://www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,12271,1519539,00.html>
The Article is about how Bush administration reply to the concerns of ICANN possible displacement. The US and Bush administration claimed that they will continue to control internet and 13 computers (which are known as root servers, they inform web browsers and email programs how to direct internet traffic – to private users.) They are sure that it is important to do because of global security threats.
10. Young, Jeffrey. “Who Should Control the Internet?” Voice of America
08 November 2005 Washington, D.C. 23 Mar 2007 <http://www.voanews.com/english/archive/2005-11/2005-11-08 voa24.cfm?CFID=51476862&CFTOKEN=99782610>
The article is about pros and cons of ICANN displacement. Internet control should not be in the hands of one private organization but instead it should be controlled by different governments or Without ICANN there would a threat for many countries to loose the chance to surf the internet in the free manner because the governments will control Internet in a different way.