Censorship: Is The Internet To Blame?
While the United Nations stands up for freedom of expression and declared “that people have the same rights online as offline”, a few countries are experiencing the opposite.
While the Americans are debating on the issue of net neutrality, four other countries are on the path of Internet censorship.
Recently, the Russian legislative body passed on its first reading a bill that will ban the use of VPNs and any anonymizers, like the Tor browser, that allow people to appear anonymous online. The proposed law also plans to block websites that provide software or applications the can circumvent censorship. The move is an outright censorship but the Russian government says that the law is necessary because the existing censorship rules are not effective enough.
Meanwhile, China requires all VPN services to apply for a license. As part of the requirement, these VPNs are expected to block access to websites the Chinese government doesn’t approve of. Currently, three mobile companies were ordered to block the VPN apps on their networks. The Chinese had grown used to a censored version of the Internet. They use VPNs to bypass online censorship that blocks websites like Facebook, Twitter and many more. But it seems that the government is asserting its authority to impose its censorship by creating what they call the Great Firewall of China.
“people have the same rights online as offline”
Egypt has also started its wave of online censorship. It blocked news websites and shut down VPN services in order to limit its citizens’ access to information. Just like the Chinese, Egyptians turned to VPN services as a way to bypass censorship. However, ISPs in Egypt started blocking access to the websites of companies offering such services. There have been reports of website outages in Egypt but service providers claimed that these were the result of website failures rather than content blocking.
In Venezuela, President Nicolás Maduro has issued a degree that authorized content filtering and online surveillance. He said that the Internet is being used to promote hate speech and is damaging the economy. As anti-government protests rise, the Venezuelan government responds by trying to shut down the Internet.
With all the crimes, civil protests, and terror threats that are happening around the world, is it right to say that that Internet is to blame?
The Internet is a convenient scapegoat because of the freedom most of the users have. The freedom of expression that the UN has guaranteed should not be blamed nor is the root of society’s problems. In fact, the Internet has become the reflection of our existing society. And if we don’t like what we see on the mirror, the problem is not to fix the mirror but to fix the society.
However, some of the world leaders choose to control the spaces the Internet provide by deciding which spaces are allowed and which are not. That could be dangerous because it leads to authoritarianism. And obviously, would go against the formal UN policy of Internet freedom.