The Threat of Internet Censorship Around the World
Political interest groups and businesses have long called for internet censorship as a way to further their agendas. On the other hand, the citizens over which they hold influence have of course opposed such limitations because they enjoy the freedom of the internet. In fact, freedom is the single most important aspect of the internet because it levels the playing field for small businesses and international businesses, small political parties and dominant political parties, and so on. In the United States hard fought battles have recently been implemented by the likes of Google and other big-time players to preserve the current freedom of the internet. This is particularly due to the knowledge that censorship doesn’t just happen once, it is a continuous process that leads to greater restrictions over time.
Censorship in Australia
Although censorship in Australia hasn’t reached the levels of places like Turkey — namely political control — lawmakers there are currently considering blocking websites which allow online streaming. The problem with these sites, according those supporting censorship, is that many of them infringe on the copyrights of content owners. Ultimately, any website that hosts content which infringes on copyrights could be removed. Legislation has not yet been finalized however due to issues like how to financially cover the measure. Based on a substantial past record of seriously considering this issue, it looks very likely that legislation will be passed in the near future.
Censorship in Turkey
In February of 2014, Turkey’s Parliament approved legislation allowing the blockage of websites without consultation from the court system. However, political motivations for control over the internet do not end with censorship alone. Clearly the driving factor is control, and thus power, which is why Turkish politicians also included in recent legislation the provision that communications providers must keep records of users’ internet activity for up to two years. Authorities can use this information to charge users with crimes. The biggest goal is to silence dissent amongst citizens, as the Prime Minister has called social media “the worst menace to society”. This is a reaction to recent anti-government protests, which politicians in Turkey seek to end.
The response from citizens of Turkey, particularly in Istanbul, has been dramatic. Protests have broken out, so large that riot police were called in to rush the crowd, throw tear gas and use water cannons. The citizens of Turkey are willing to risk their safety, and certainly imprisonment, for the cause of freedom of speech. This urge did not crop up overnight; in fact, assaults against freedom of speech in the country have been going on for a while, such as the arrest of journalists. In the last year alone Google requests for website blockages have risen 1000%, with 110,000 sites blocked in the last year alone.
Censorship in Russia
Russia has recently begun censoring websites which oppose the political status quo. Through attrition it is attempting to influence future websites which post material it deems “extremist”. Those in power furthermore block websites in different ways; some they allow back up, some they keep blocked, and some the block only in limited ways, such as not targeting proxies. Others they block fully, targeting all proxies as well. It does not matter whether the servers of websites flagged for blocking are located within Russia or outside of the county. Recently flagged for removal were websites based in such locales as Connecticut and Amsterdam.
Another big focus for Russian leaders is LiveJournal, because most important Russian bloggers now post there, but blocking the site is difficult. It has been blocked twice in the past, but serious pursuit of blocking the site — say, permanently — is difficult because the servers are based in the United States. Ultimately it is theorized that Russia is saving its ability to completely shut down LiveJournal until something truly bad enough happens, because otherwise President Barack Obama would remove their ability to do so.