I n t e r n e t E n n e m i e s
The Internet represents freedom, but not every-where. Under the pretext of protecting morals,national security, religion and ethnic minorities,even the “spiritual cultural and scientific poten-tial of the country”, many countries resort to fil-tering the Web in order to block some content.Governments have no hesitation in allowingtheir citizens only partial connections. Use of theInternet can rest on a tacit agreement: Govern-ments do not make websites inaccessible in ex-change for self-discipline on the part of Internetusers.The 12 “Internet Enemies” presented in this re-port (
Saudi Arabia, Burma, China, Cuba,Egypt, Iran, North Korea, Syria, Tunisia, Turk-menistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam
) have alltransformed the network into an intranet, pre-venting Internet users from obtaining news seenas “undesirable”. All of these countries markthemselves out not just for their capacity to cen-sor news and information online but also fortheir almost systematic repression of Internetusers.Ten governments which Reporters Without Bor-ders has placed under its own “surveillance”,still alternate between censorship and harass-ment of Internet users.But is blocking of news online still effective?Through experience and thanks to their techni-cal knowledge, Internet users have learned toget round some censorship installed on the Webby their governments. In countries where accessto news is prized, it is not unusual to find soft-ware to defeat online censorship installed oncomputers in cybercafés, and also managerswilling to put them to use if need be. Internet ex-perts belonging to some of the most recognisedinstitutions constantly create and fine-tune soft-ware versions so as to adapt them to the realityof the virtual world and to ensure that news isaccessible to all.Even major Internet sector companies, who co-operate either willingly or unwillingly with cen-sorship within the countries of the “Internetenemies”, agreed a compromise at the end of2008. By signing the Global Network Initiative,the US firms Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft pub-licly said that they wanted to respect their cus-tomers' freedom of expression worldwide. Howmuch they may in reality defy the demands ofauthorities in countries to which they provideservices remains to be seen. But it will no longerbe as easy for governments of these countriesto obtain confidential information about their cit-izens.But for now, at least 69 people are behind barsfor having expressed themselves freely online.
Australia and South Korea: democracies“under surveillance”.
The Australian parliament in January 2008 ex-amined a draft law requiring service providers tosystematically provide two connections perhousehold, one for adults and the other for chil-dren, both of them submitted to strict, andabove all secret, filtering. This draft was put for-ward against a background in which anti-terrorlegislation is already allowing serious inroadsinto the confidentiality of private correspon-dence. Since 2001, the law has allowed anagency independent of the government to inter-cept all suspect email and to carry out inde-pendent investigations, including in the absenceof any prior judicial authorisation.South Korea, one of the world’s most connectedcountries, also has recourse to some dispropor-tionate measures to regulate the Net. A bloggerwas arrested on 7 January 2009 for having af-fected “financial exchanges in the markets” aswell as the “credibility of the nation” because ofarticles he posted on one of the country’sbiggest discussion forums. He is still being heldin detention.
A participatory censorship
The most technically advanced repressiveregimes know it well: playing the online censor-ship card means taking the risk of coming upagainst experts determined to develop the toolsto guarantee access to news despite everything.Most of the regions do not have the means to join an endless technological struggle.So, in the face of the fad for social networkingsites such as Facebook, Twitter and other onlineexchange platforms like the Arabic-languageMaktoob and the Russian language LiveJournal,censorship operates through a battle of com-ments.For example, in a bid to limit online criticism dur-ing the Beijing Olympics in August 2008, thegovernment paid some Internet users to leavepro-government comments on the spaces re-served for online discussion where debateswere being held. Called the “Five cents” – anironic reference to the money paid for non spon-taneous comments, they contributed to the ma-nipulation of news and information. But thereare other ways of manipulating onlineinformation.