Information Warfare: The War Against the Internet

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June 5, 2007: When it comes to censoring the Internet, China is a the leader in terms of filtering questionable political content. But politics is not what causes most nations to interfere with Internet use. The most frequent reason for net censorship is the search for pornography and questionable religious content. Another popular government ploy is not trying to keep their citizens from certain kinds of Internet content, but rather eavesdropping on who is saying what to whom. In all, we're talking about some three dozen nations here that meddle with Internet use.

In China, 30,000 Ministry of Public Security employees man the Golden Shield Project (also known as The Great Firewall of China), and monitor Internet use throughout the country. In the last decade, over a billion dollars has been spent on this effort. This has inspired other police states, like North Korea, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Syria, Iran, Cuba, and Myanmar to do the same.

A much larger number of nations censor Internet access to keep people away from "impure" material. Most of the nations in the Persian Gulf (especially the oil rich nations) spend lots of money on commercial filtering technology, and make it very difficult to reach web sites that allow gambling, show naked women, or say anything bad about Islam.

A lot of other nations recognize that fact that the Internet has replaced letters (on paper) and telephone calls. Police cannot bug criminal suspects unless they can do it on the Internet. But the law, in most countries, is a little vague on this point. So many countries just set up filters on all, or a great deal, of their Internet traffic, and fish for certain words or phrases. This has become a big deal in the war on terror, as Islamic terrorists have become big users of the Internet.

The Internet has changed the ways in which people communicate, and governments are responding in many ways. It's still rather confusing out there, if you are trying to figure out who is doing what to whom. It may be another generation before the situation clarifies.

 


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