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"We're still in the first minutes of the first day of the Internet revolution." – Scott Cook

Archive for March, 2013

Internet Wars – Shut up and Trust Your Government

March 21st, 2013 by Erin McAfee

The internet wars are serious. In some countries, internet users are detained, beaten, tortured, and killed for simply posting their opinions online. Enemies of the internet have set up electronic fortresses that block incoming and outgoing information. This year, Reporters without Borders has designated Syria, China, Iran, Bahrain and Vietnam as the worst of the worst when it comes to internet censorship. They deploy electronic armies that monitor online behavior, block web sites and social media sites, hack into Twitter feeds, and infect outside communication networks with military grade viruses.

The internet is a full-blown battlefield in China. Arrests of internet users are greater in China than anywhere else in the world. Bloggers are jailed for vague offenses such as “subversion” and “splittism.”  The great Firewall of China blocks Flickr, YouTube, and Facebook. In 2010, Google disengaged from China after learning that Gmail was attacked by viruses coming out of China. After Google shut down its network in China, grieving citizens in Beijing and Shanghai laid wreaths of flowers outside Google’s closed offices.

In the big picture, it seems counter-intuitive to deprive a billion citizens from online activities — activities that are mostly fun and innocent. To my knowledge, not one of my friends uses YouTube as an anti-government propaganda tool. Most of my friends look at one or two viral videos a day.  If our government decided to block access to YouTube because it didn’t like politically sensitive material, I can guarantee that it would create a strong, political backlash even among the most apolitical netizens.  Fanny W.Y. Fung, an analyst from Hong Kong writes, “If you treat people who express different opinions as criminals, you will have a society full of criminals because everybody has an opinion.”  

Bahrain is mentioned in almost every report by watchdog groups for human rights abuses. Internet users can be jailed for any internet activity that hints at their disapproval of the government. They are sometimes tortured and jailed for years.  In 2011, the moderator for an online forum was arrested and killed in police custody. Here is a link to 42 videos that have been banned in Bahrain. Even more powerful is this video from Maryam Al-Khawaja, Head of foreign relations at the Bahrain Center for Human Rights.

For Vietnam, the unofficial censorship motto is, “Shut up and trust the government.”  Almost 1000 “internet polemicists” have been deployed by the Vietnamese government to monitor, infiltrate, and saturate the web with pro-government propaganda. Dozens of bloggers have been arrested, as well as political activists, and many say that it is simply impossible for the Vietnamese government to sway public opinion. Their efforts to manipulate public opinion have been transparent and ineffective.

The Syrian government has developed diabolical methods to censor the internet. They recently unblocked social networking websites for the sole purpose of hacking into them. They also create websites and Facebook pages that claim to be non-governmental organizations. Check out the (non-governmental, wink-wink) website for the Syrian Electronic Army. They also have their own  Facebook page. This independent group of activists label themselves as an NGO, but their websites can be traced to government networks.

And lastly, Iran: By 2011 Iran had blocked over five million websites. Enough said.



Amnesty International 2011 Annual Report – China

Bahrain Center for Human Rights

Enemies of the Internet

Reporters without Borders

Wired for Repression


(April 18, 2011 Monday ). Analyst warns internet censorship may “backfire” on China. BBC Monitoring World Media Supplied by BBC Worldwide Monitoring, Retrieved from www.lexisnexis.com/hottopics/lnacademic

(September 27, 2012 Thursday ). Freedom of online expression highest in Estonia. The International Herald Tribune, Retrieved from www.lexisnexis.com/hottopics/lnacademic

MacKinnon, K. ( 2012). Consent of the networked. New York : Basic Books.

SLAUGHTER, ANNE-MARIE. (August 25, 2012 Saturday ). The ‘new cold war’ is an information war; Some governments are trying to change global regulations to help them control the Internet. The Globe and Mail (Canada), Retrieved from www.lexisnexis.com/hottopics/lnacademic

(January 22, 2013 Tuesday ). Vietnam’s propaganda agents battle dissident bloggers online – Thai report. BBC Monitoring Asia Pacific – Political Supplied by BBC Worldwide Monitoring, Retrieved from www.lexisnexis.com/hottopics/lnacademic