THE INTERNET STATE
How and why do governments monitor and filter Internet data and in what ways
does this affect us?
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)
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)
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
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 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
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.
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
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).
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
• 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).