When it comes to Internet censorship there are generally two contrasting opinions: some believe that it is necessary in order to protect nations and stop individuals posting harmful material online, while others believe that the Internet should be open and that there should be little or no restrictions.
Governments in particular often have the first opinion when it comes to Internet censorship, especially those that are concerned that by publishing information online individuals may damage their reputation. This is why numerous governments around the world have implemented online censorship laws, and here Fluidata looks at some of the most controversial:
Russia and Online Blogging
Earlier this month the Russian government implemented new restrictions for online bloggers in order to ensure that their content is in-line with their regulations. Under new laws, bloggers with over three thousand daily readers must now register themselves with the media regulator Roskomnadzor and adhere to their restrictions. Bloggers will not be allowed to remain anonymous, must keep all their data on servers based in Russia’s territories and will have their information provided to the Russian government at their request.
Naturally, there have been criticisms over this new law, particularly during a time where Russia is involved in political issues such as the war in Ukraine. The laws have been described as ‘draconian’ by some, with Hugh Williamson from the New York-based Human Rights Watch saying it is “another milestone in Russia's relentless crackdown on free expression". He added: "The Internet is the last island of free expression in Russia and these draconian regulations are clearly aimed at putting it under government control.”
China and Media Coverage
Along with Russia, China is known for its strict Internet censorship laws, so much so that some claim that it is extremely difficult to find out what is truly happening in the country. Last week there was a terrorist attack in a small county in the west of China, however the government prevented media outlets from reporting on it both online and by other means. There are concerns that China is trying to paint a picture of normality in the country when the reality is that violence and military control is rife.
Bob Dietz, Asia co-ordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, said: “With no independent media coverage, it is easier for the state to demonize its enemies, but the fact that it doesn't allow the rest of the world, foreign and Chinese journalists, to report independently throws the official version of events into disrepute." Raffaello Pantucci, a terrorism expert from the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies, added: "It is very frustrating because you never totally know what the story is. Every time one tries to look into specific incidents, you get this reporting which has discrepancies within it, so you never really know, if you're writing or researching about this, whether you're getting things right."
The UK and Internet Censorship
It may be strange to think that even in the UK we are affected by Internet censorship laws, however the government has spent a considerable amount of time recently pushing through new legislation that will give them more control over the Internet. Just last month the government implemented an emergency law called the Data Retention and Investigation Powers (DRIP) Act which requires Internet Service Providers to store their customers’ information and provide it to the government during investigations.
MPs claim that the Act is necessary as it will enable them to protect the country from illegal activity and terrorist attacks, however some have claimed that it is a breach of their rights. Civil rights campaigners Liberty are even attempting to legally challenge the new Act on behalf of MPs David Davis and Tom Watson. Mr Davis said: “You cannot make good laws behind closed doors. The new Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act does not answer the concerns of many that the blanket retention of personal data is a breach of fundamental rights to privacy."
Even though most businesses implement strategies in order to protect themselves and their data (such as installing firewall and anti-virus software), with certain laws in place it is impossible to keep information completely private. In the next few months we will likely see more news stories concerning Russia, China, and the UK’s Internet censorship laws, and Fluidata will be here to report on them all.