Less bizarre than it is is alarming – international internet freedoms have been under attack for over two decades. Some of the nations considered “enemies of the internet” may surprise you.
Reporters Without Borders is an international non profit organization that protects journalists and their mission to provide news to the people. Over the years their scope has expanded to index and rank basic and simple freedoms for people in each country on the internet along with special reports of certain regimes suppressing certain new evidence as it happens I.E. Iran suppressing information about it’s COVID-19 numbers earlier this year (2020).
RWG is just one of the three major contributors to another non profit, OpenNet Initiative (ONI) who provides detailed report cards that separates nations internet freedoms into four categories: Pervasive Censorship or Surveillance, Substantial censorship surveillance, Selective censorship and surveillance and Little or no censorship or surveillance.
Countries deemed PERVASIVE is “….is engaged in mass surveillance of the Internet, and retaliates against citizens who circumvent censorship or surveillance with imprisonment or other sanctions.”
Countries included in the SUBSTANTIAL subcategory are “.. countries where a number of categories are subject to a medium level of filtering or many categories are subject to a low level of filtering.
SELECTIVE includes countries where a small number of specific sites are blocked or censorship targets a small number of categories or issues and LITTLE OR NO CENSORSHIP is pretty self explanatory.
In this first blog entry we will be only focusing on the nations deemed PERVASIVE. Sorting these countries by continent by their designated category: In part two we will be discussing Asian nations.
PERVASIVE CENSORSHIP AND SURVEILLANCE
In January of 2009 Bahrain’s Ministry of Culture and Information enforced an order for all Bahrain ISP’s to have an installed state compliant software to control what sites on the web are blocked.
Bahrain also enforces a complete media/news blackout by not allowing international media inside the country, harassing local journalists and bloggers and disrupting communications during any large demonstration.
Listed as an “enemy of the internet” by RWB in 2012 and “State enemy of the internet” in 2013.
China is one of the strictest nations on its citizen’s access to the internet and what they are allowed to view. Almost every single foreign website is blocked. The government blocks Web sites that discuss Tibetan independence and the Dalai Lama, Taiwan independence, police brutality, the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, freedom of speech, pornography, some international news sources and propaganda outlets (such as the VOA), certain religious movements (such as Falun Gong), and many blogging websites.
Chinese internet censors use some of the most advanced and sophisticated tactics in the world. Not only does China block most websites from their citizens but the government also actively monitors all internet access points regularly.
China was designated an enemy of the internet and State enemy of the internet by RWB in 2008 and 2013 respectively.
Iran has an extensive internet filtering system that often filters out all sites that are critical of the government, religion, pornographic websites, political blogs, and women’s rights websites, weblogs, and online magazines. Bloggers in Iran have been imprisoned for their Internet activities. The Iranian government temporarily blocked access, between 12 May 2006 and January 2009, to video-upload sites such as YouTube.com
Listed as an enemy of the internet in 2011 and State enemy of the internet in 2013.
The primary target of Kuwait’s internet filtering is pornography as well as gay and lesbian content. The state regulates all ISPs making them block all anti religious, anti tradition and anti security material.
Not much is known about North Korea’s internet habits because North Korea as a whole is generally cut off from the internet entirely. It’s estimated that up to 4% of the entire country is allowed access and even then the internet is heavily censored. The Government controls every aspect of media and communications making it basically a fucking nightmare.
North Korea has been considered an enemy of just about everything humane for decades now.
Similar to Kuwait, Oman engages in extensive filtering out of pornographic web sites, gay and lesbian content, anything critical of Islam and drug use. Their is no evidence of political censorship but due to strict laws and regulations of free speech and express self censorship is highly encouraged and practiced.
Although the people of Pakistan are allowed free access to a wide range of the web including most political, religious and sexual sites intermittent filtering still occurs. Most notably blocking western websites they may deem anti Islamic for periods at a time (see first entry: Pakistan’s War On YouTube)
Pakistan was listed as an enemy of the internet by RWB in 2014
Although Qatar is the second most connected country in the Arab region it is also hits very strict filters on the usual subjects (porn, homosexuality) but also escort services, critics of gulf countries and sexual health resources.
The Saudi government filters by two categories: immoral content and security content. Typically the most aggressive censorship is on immoral content (porn, gambling, drugs, Muslim conversion and filtering circumvention tools). Additionally citizens are encouraged to report immoral sites using web forms.
During the Syrian civil war the internet was shut down completely. It is not uncommon for Syrians to be arrested for expressing themselves online or accessing political websites. The Syrian government monitors internet use heavily which creates an atmosphere of intense self censorship from its users.
Syria has been listed as enemy of the internet in 2011.
The only way to access any news is through the heavily censored Turkmenistan internet with all television satellites being decommissioned. Internet use is monitored thoroughly and attempts to get around the censorship’s carry grave circumstances.
United Arab Emirates
All Israeli domains are blocked by the UAE as well as a total ban on pornography and anything else deemed immoral. Even it’s own Emirates Discussion Forum or uaehewar.com has been subject to forced censorship on posts.
Uzbekistan has been listed as an enemy of the internet since the list was invented in 2006. Outside Internet cafes warnings plaster the walls and doors that users will be fined or arrested for viewing pornographic or political sites. Uzbekistan maintains the most extensive and pervasive filtering system among all post soviet republics. Banning everything from foreign news, human rights websites, banned Islamic movements, NGOS and other events occurring in different countries such as Bahrain, Tunisia and Egypt.
Vietnamese Online Police monitor cyber cafes and users have been detained and arrested for discussing democracy on the web. Among any sites critical of the Vietnamese government or democratic leaning websites, international human rights websites are illegal as well.
Vietnamese has been considered an enemy of the internet by RWB since 2011 and a State enemy of the internet since 2013.
Phew. That was a lot of oppression. I need to go take a break. Part three will be enemies of the internet: The Americas. Thanks for reading. – DC