Internet Freedom & Internet Bill of Rights


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Robert Guerra's presentation at the 2008 icommons session on Internet Bill of Rights

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  • Freedom House oldest American organization that promotes democracy and human rights. created in 1941 by, among others, Eleanor Roosevelt and Wendell Willkie. a non-profit and non-partisan organization. best known for our work in the first area listed here “monitoring freedom” annual survey on Freedom in the World. - only comprehensive study that measures democracy and respect for political and civil liberties in every country of the world In addition, “Support Democratic Change” by conducting programs in countries in transition to democracy and closed regimes to assist in democratic reforms and human rights protections. Finally, “Advocate on behalf of democracy and human rights”
  • Internet Freedom & Internet Bill of Rights

    1. FREEDOM HOUSE Internet Bill of Rights GC & Global Internet Freedom
    2. INTERNET BILL OF RIGHTS <ul><li>Internet Freedom </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Monitor – Incident Tracking, news, developments </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Reporting </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Country reports to compare and rank countries. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Base reports on well developed methodology and existing reports </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Advocacy – Promoting internet rights such as freedom of expression & privacy </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Global Online Freedom Act – US & Now Europe </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Facilitation & coordination with civil society </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Human Rights, Freedom of Expression, etc </li></ul></ul></ul>
    3. FREEDOM OF THE PRESS : BASICS <ul><li>Analytical reports and numerical ratings for 195 countries and territories </li></ul><ul><li>Print, broadcast, and Internet news media freedom. </li></ul><ul><li>Entire “enabling environment” that contributes to press freedom: legal, political, and economic categories. </li></ul><ul><li>Both an examination of the media’s ability to operate freely and without fear of repercussions as well as the ability of the public to access diverse and independent sources of news information. </li></ul>
    7. RECENT TRENDS IN INTERNET FREEDOM <ul><li>Internet-based newspapers, blogs, and social networking sites emerging as an important force for openness in restricted media environments and key areas of contestation. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Broadening diversity of available information, empowering citizens, acting as a potent weapon against lack of transparency </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>In very repressive media environments, the internet is often the only sphere in which anti-government opinions can be expressed. </li></ul></ul>
    8. RECENT TRENDS IN INTERNET FREEDOM (CONT.) <ul><li>Several repressive governments have allowed the internet to remain relatively free, BUT realizing its potential for political mobilization, an increasing number of governments are expanding their methods to control and monitor internet based media. </li></ul><ul><li>Variance between regions in terms of how much the Internet is a site for political contestation and mobilization. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Less in the Americas and Africa; more in Asia and MENA </li></ul></ul>
    9. REGIONAL TRENDS: THE AMERICAS <ul><li>Variance in internet penetration across the region, from the U.S. and Canada with very high levels, to Chile and Argentina with about 40 percent, to Bolivia and Haiti with under 10 percent. </li></ul><ul><li>Unlike most other regions, consistent pattern of very few, if any, government restrictions on internet access. </li></ul><ul><li>Cuba – the exception: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Among the most restricted internet environments in the world </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>BUT, example of a very repressive regime where bloggers are pushing back </li></ul></ul>
    10. REGIONAL TRENDS: AFRICA <ul><li>Internet not playing a major role due to financial and infrastructural constraints, as well as low literacy. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Lowest regional average penetration rate – under 5 percent in most countries and under 1 percent in many. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>BUT, a number of countries where the internet increasingly provides a forum for more open discussion and a primary source of unfiltered news (Kenya, Nigeria, Sudan, Zimbabwe). </li></ul><ul><li>A number of governments also working to block sites and restrict access (The Gambia, Ethiopia). </li></ul>
    11. REGIONAL TRENDS: WESTERN EUROPE <ul><li>Among the highest internet penetration rates in the world and no significant restrictions when compared to other regions. </li></ul><ul><li>Blocking of content is more in terms of pornographic content or hate-speech. </li></ul><ul><li>Turkey – internet is generally unrestricted, but in 2007 YouTube was blocked twice for airing videos perceived as insulting to government leaders and Ataturk. </li></ul>
    12. REGIONAL TRENDS: ASIA-PACIFIC <ul><li>High diversity within the region—home to most active and freest internet environments in the world (South Korea, Japan, Taiwan), but also to the most restricted (North Korea, Burma, China). </li></ul><ul><li>Internet played a major role in political developments: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Burma: Junta added restrictions, banning YouTube and temporarily shut down the internet completely following pro-democracy protests in September. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Vietnam: One of the worst government crackdowns in years on peaceful dissent; included sentencing online prodemocracy writers to long prison terms. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>China: Significant efforts to restrict and control internet content in months before 17 th Party Congress, including blocking over 18,000 websites. </li></ul></ul>
    13. REGIONAL TRENDS: ASIA-PACIFIC (CONTINUED) <ul><ul><li>Bangladesh: During and after protests in August 2007, authorities re-routed all internet traffic through state telecom company. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Sri Lanka: Government ordered to largest ISP’s to restrict access to pro-LTTE news website. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Pakistan: blocks some access to politically-sensitive websites; occasionally imposes crude blocks – YouTube incident. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Fiji: Authorities attempted to shut down pro-democracy blogs critical of 2006 military coup. </li></ul></ul>
    14. REGIONAL TRENDS: CEE/FSU <ul><li>High regional diversity – some very free countries with no restrictions (Estonia, Poland) and some highly repressive regimes seeking to control access. </li></ul><ul><li>In repressive countries, often freer than print and broadcast media. </li></ul><ul><li>Particularly in FSU and central Asia, steps taken to limit internet freedom: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Independent and opposition websites blocked (Belarus, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Restrictive legislation or regulations requiring user registration passed (Belarus, Tajikistan) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Financed pro-government propaganda sites (Russia) </li></ul></ul>
    15. REGIONAL TRENDS: MENA <ul><li>Region where overall media environment benefited significantly from greater internet access. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>A major force behind numerical improvements in several countries and Egypt’s upgrade to Partly Free. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Various methods of control employed: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Crackdown on online dissent, especially bloggers critical of government (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iran) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Blocking websites (Syria, Iran) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Filtering and monitoring through government-owned ISPs (Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, UAE) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Requiring user and website ownership registration (Syria, Iran, Kuwait) </li></ul></ul>
    16. THOUGHTS <ul><li>Despite variation across regions, clear similarities in mechanisms of repression and internet users’ efforts to ‘push the envelope.’ </li></ul><ul><li>Overall, internet has the potential to be a force for more open political discussion and civil society mobilization </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Facebook protests in Egypt, demonstrations in Malaysia, anti pollution protests in China, online petitions in Singapore. </li></ul></ul>
    17. <ul><li>BUT, such openness is not inevitable as repressive governments commit significant funds to curb information flow. </li></ul><ul><li>Such efforts need to be countered by more serious commitment from international community to keep internet free. </li></ul>
    18. More information is available on our website at or by contacting Robert Guerra at guerra @ freedomhouse. org