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The Internet State Filter

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A brief overview of the issue of Internet filtering by governments. How, why and where it happens and what it means for us.

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The Internet State Filter

  1. 1. THE INTERNET STATE FILTER How and why do governments monitor and filter Internet data and in what ways does this affect us?
  2. 2. “ ” STATES ARE ADOPTING PRACTICES AIMED AT REGULATING AND CONTROLLING THE INTERNET AS IT PASSES THROUGH THEIR BORDERS. MUCH LIKE GEOGRAPHICAL BOUNDARIES, STATES ARE SEEKING TO ASSERT INFORMATION SOVEREIGNTY OVER THE INTERNET… INTERNET CONTENT FILTERING AT THE NATIONAL LEVEL IS IMPOSED ON ENTIRE POPULATIONS, OFTEN WITH LITTLE ACCOUNTABILITY. IT IS, IN EFFECT, AN INFORMATION CONTROL POLICY IN WHICH WEB CONTENT, DEEMED TO BE UNDESIRABLE, IS CENSORED THROUGH TECHNICAL MEANS. Nart Villeneuve (2006)
  3. 3. HOW IT'S DONE Content is filtered in a number of ways. Domain Name Service (DNS) filtering is controlled by Internet Service Providers (ISP) on behalf of governments. However this form of filtering is easy to circumvent and therefore less common. Internet Protocol (IP) filtering happens when the ISP blocks the identified IP address through routers. URL filtering is more complex as it requires an extra device, but is the most effective control method (Villeneuve, 2006)
  4. 4. WHY FILTERING OCCURS Villneuve (2006) highlights the following factors that motivate nations to implement internet monitoring and filtering: • Led by business and financial interests such as taxation and rights ownership • Protection of children from online dangers • Cultural conventions imposing restrictions on gambling and pornography • Political ideology attempting to control opposing views and quell dissidents • Online crime prevention
  5. 5. ONLINE FREEDOM USED AS A FOIL The onset of Internet technology was seen by many as a path to increased liberty and freedom of speech for countries that sought to restrict the public's right to information and public opinion. However, as Golkar (2011)notes, Iran is an example of a country which has used this technology to further its control over its populous and extend the strength of the regime.
  6. 6. THE GREAT FIREWALL OF CHINA China is one clear example where the state has taken the decision to block content in the form of the Great Firewall. • The Chinese government blocks around 3000 websites (such as the BBC and Facebook) from around the world. In a meeting with key players at Microsoft headquarters last year, the Chinese premier outlined the need for a safe and secure Internet(Day, 2015).
  7. 7. PROBLEMS WITH THE POLICY Under-blocking, over-blocking and flaws in the system Regardless of the ethical validity of governments infringing the privacy and restricting free access to information of its populous, there are other concerns with the effectiveness of filtering Internet data. As August (2009) points out, there is very little consistency with what officials in China restrict. Some websites are blocked while others are missed. Offensive material remains available and seemingly innocuous content gets blocked. In addition to this with every advance in filtering, new methods to unlock content become available.
  8. 8. THE WIDER IMPLICATIONS What are the ramifications of an authority creating restrictions on data flow in the assumed interest of protecting its citizens? With many web developers unable to have a working platform that works both in and out of China, they are forced to choose between the Chinese or international markets.This restriction has had huge implications on the development of divergent online technology inside China(Day, 2015).
  9. 9. NOT JUST A TOTALITARIAN ISSUE It isn't just countries with extreme political ideologies that have implemented systems to monitor and control Internet traffic. Many Western democratic countries have been shown to monitor the public's Internet use. In 2008 Australia became the first Western state to enact legislature to filter the Internet (Bambauer, 2008).
  10. 10. THE FREEDOM FIGHTBACK In response to attempts by governments and businesses to gain control of the flow of information on the Internet, there has been a rise in what Croeser(2012) describes as the Digital Liberties Movement (DLM), which centres on the challenges faced by users claiming a free and libertarian Internet for all. In a show of solidarity, some of the leading online companies have agreed to commit to the Global Network Initiative to ensure that business practices follow ethical lines that protect public freedom (Harris, 2009).
  11. 11. REFERENCES • August, O. (2007). The Great Firewall: China's Misguided - and Futile - Attempt to Control What Happens Online. Wired, 15(11). • Bambauer, D. (2008). Filtering in Oz: Australia's Foray into Internet Censorship. Brooklyn Law School, Legal Studies Paper, No. 125. • Croeser, S. (2012). Contested Technologies: the emergence of the digital liberties movement. First Monday, 17(8). • Day, M. (2015). Internet security a priority, Chinese president tells tech executives. The Seattle Times. • Golkar, Saeid (2011)Liberation or Suppression Technologies? The Internet, the Green Movement and the Regime in Iran, International Journal of Emerging Technologies and Society, 2011, Vol.9(1), pp.50-70 • Fallows, D. (2008). Most Chinese Say They Approve of Government Internet Control. • Harris, L. (2009) Advancing Global Internet Freedom. • Villeneuve, N. (2006). The filtering matrix: Integrated mechanisms of information control and the demarcation of borders in cyberspace. First Monday, 11(1).

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