Information Warfare: Stifling Seditious Speech

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October 9, 2011: Kazakhstan has joined a growing list of nations that are trying to censor the Internet. While China is considered the most vigorous and effective censor of the Internet, many other nations are using the same techniques. These include Cuba, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam. None of these nations are democracies. All are police states or monarchies determined to keep their subjects from having free use of the Internet. In most cases, the real purpose is to prevent the people from overthrowing the rulers. In this latest incident, Russia assisted Kazakhstan and pointed out that social networking websites in general, like Facebook, were a police problem, as they allowed "criminal elements" to plan illegal acts.

But there are many other nations, most of them democracies, who are also striving to control Internet to protect their citizens from unsavory material. These nations include Australia, Bahrain, Belarus, Eritrea, Malaysia, Russia, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. Most other nations are watching these efforts, as there are many people on the planet who see the Internet as more of a threat than an opportunity.

Kazakhstan got a court to order nearly 30 blogs to be shut down, because these sites were, in the eyes of the government, supporting Islamic radicalism. People in Kazakhstan could get around the block, at least those with a little technical knowledge. But for many people, these blogs were simply no longer available.

China leads the way in all this, and it's not just politics. For example, over the last few years, China has made a major effort to protect adult Internet users from pornography, and children on the Internet from, well, everything. In that time, China has closed over 20,000 websites it considered pornographic. In doing this, millions of images, videos and other items were removed from the Internet. Thousands of people were arrested, and several thousand were prosecuted.

The growing number of governments seeking to control Internet content are all concerned about how they have lost control of information flow because of the Internet. This is a matter of life and death for a dictatorship, but can be very annoying for leaders (honest or otherwise) in a democracy. No leader, elected or otherwise, likes to have contrary opinions popping up. Something must be done.

 

 


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