New research from the OpenNet Initiative reveals accelerating restrictions on Internet content as Asian governments shift to next generation controls. These new techniques go beyond blocking access to websites and are more informal and fluid, implemented at edges of the network, and are often backed up by increasingly restrictive and broadly interpreted laws.
The reports also point to an emerging inclination for states to actively engage in cyberspace as a way to achieve the same effects of information controls:
“Since 2006, many Asian governments have quickly realized the potential benefits of exploiting opportunities for conducting propaganda or public relations strategies over the Internet, even while cracking down on independent and critical voices thriving in these online spaces– an example of the evolution towards next generation controls,” said Ron Deibert, director of the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto and one of four principal investigators at the ONI.
China continues to stand out amongst its neighbors due to its devotion of significant resources to consistently pursue both aggressive technical measures to pervasively filter information, as well as a regulatory regime aimed at perfecting these next-generation controls against private companies and other non-state actors.
These controls were evidenced recently in ONI’s analysis of China’s latest attempt at controlling the flow of information, Green Dam Youth Escort filtering software mandated for pre-installation on PCs sold in China starting July 1. “However, even China’s example demonstrates that restrictions on information are far from uniformly effective, and will meet resistance and be contested by the very groups they are intended to silence,” said Rafal Rohozinski, CEO of the SecDev Group and co-founder and principal investigator of ONI and ONI Asia.
“The Internet has been shown to be an especially effective tool for journalists, civil society activists and opposition leaders in Asia during elections or other national political crises,” said Al Alegre, regional coordinator for ONI Asia, which has developed into a regionally focused ONI network.
The reports for Asia, as well as Burma, China, Pakistan, and South Korea will be featured in a forthcoming MIT Press volume, Access Controlled: The Shaping of Rights, Rule, and Power in Cyberspace, to be published by MIT Press (2010). Access Controlled will include a series of analytical chapters and regional overviews that contribute to the developing discourse around global Internet regulation and censorship raised in the first ONI volume Access Denied: The Practice and Policy of Global Internet Filtering, (Cambridge: MIT Press) 2008.
The OpenNet Initiative is the global leader in the study of Internet censorship and a collaborative partnership of three leading academic institutions: the Citizen Lab at the Munk Centre for International Studies, University of Toronto; the SecDev Group (formerly the Advanced Network Research Group at the Cambridge Security Programme, Cambridge University); and the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, Harvard University. The ONI’s principal investigators are Ronald J. Deibert Director, The Citizen Lab, Munk Centre for International Studies, University of Toronto; Rafal Rohozinski, Former Director, Advanced Network Research Group, Cambridge Security Programme, University of Cambridge; and John Palfrey and Jonathan Zittrain of Harvard University.
ONI Asia is a collaborative research, advocacy, and networking project whose aim is to foster the respect for human rights online, and inform local, regional and global public policy. ONI Asia is funded by the International Development Research Council (IDRC), Canada.
ONI’s reports on China and Asia, as well as its recent bulletin on China’s Green Dam filtering software are available on ONI’s Web site, http://opennet.net.