Governments worldwide censor Web content: study

Dec 01, 2010

Where you live in the world largely determines how freely you can access the internet. The level of cyber censorship in different countries around the world is directly related to how authoritarian the governing regime is, according to Barney Warf from University of Kansas. His comprehensive analysis of the geographical nature of Internet censorship is published online in Springer's GeoJournal.

By mid-2010, more than 1.9 billion people used the Internet, making it a tool of communications, entertainment, and other applications accessed by approximately 28 percent of the world's population; yet the distribution of these netizens is highly uneven. For many, access to the internet is no longer a luxury, but a necessity. In spite of this, many governments across the world aggressively limit access to the internet and shape the contents of what their citizens can view online.

Warf's paper clarifies the reasons, types, extent of, and opposition to, government limitations of internet access, functionality and contents. It also maps the severity of censorship worldwide and assesses the number of people affected. This analysis shows that the degree and type of censorship reflects how democratic and open to criticism different political systems are.

Countries in northern Europe, the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan have minimal or no censorship. At the other end of the spectrum, China, Vietnam, Burma/Myanmar, Iran, and Turkmenistan exhibit the most severe and extensive restrictions. In between these extremes lies a range of states with modest to moderate forms of that reflect their diverse systems of governance, the presence or absence of , and the ability of various groups to defend their ability or right to use the internet in whatever manner they choose.

"The global diffusion of the internet has created a growing challenge for many authoritarian re-gimes and greatly enabled the growth and effectiveness of global civil society. Government censorship, ranging from relatively mild steps such as anti-pornography measures to the arrest and execution of cyber dissidents, has become an inescapable dimension of the geographies of cyberspace," says Barney Warf. He warns: "In attempting to manage internet access and content, states must take care not to alienate investors, tourists, entrepreneurs, and software developers, as routes to economic growth and improved productivity."

Explore further: Facebook's Zuckerberg wants to figure out social equation

More information: Warf B (2010). Geographies of global internet censorship. GeoJournal; DOI:10.1007/s10708-010-9393-3

Related Stories

US lawmakers seek action on Internet freedom

Mar 09, 2010

US lawmakers from the two major parties on Tuesday issued a joint call for government action to ensure Internet freedom overseas amid alarm at China's cyber-censorship.

Recommended for you

Former federal agent pleads guilty to stealing bitcoins

5 hours ago

A former undercover federal agent pleaded guilty to extortion and related charges after acknowledging he channeled more than $700,000 in digital currency from the Silk Road online drug bazaar he was investigating.

New approach to online compatibility

Jun 30, 2015

Many of the online social networks match users with each other based on common keywords and assumed shared interests based on their activity. A new approach that could help users find new friends and contacts with a greater ...

Most internet anonymity software leaks users' details

Jun 29, 2015

Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are legal and increasingly popular for individuals wanting to circumvent censorship, avoid mass surveillance or access geographically limited services like Netflix and BBC ...

WikiLeaks says NSA spied on French business

Jun 29, 2015

WikiLeaks has released documents that it says show that the U.S. National Security Agency eavesdropped on France's top finance officials and high-stakes French export bids over a decade in what the group called targeted economic ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.