Despite the fact that I volunteered to be the first class blogger, Professor Palfrey began the class by maligning for my NY Giants shirt. Evidently reluctant to linger on a sore subject, he was eager to move on to Internet filtering.
A. Palfrey began the Internet filtering discussion with a chalkboard exercise using Professor Benklerâs layers of the Internet as a frame. The layers include:
1. Content (e.g. this blog post) 2. Applications (e.g. Microsoft Word) 3. Logic Layer (e.g. TCP/IP and other standards) 4. Infrastructure (hardware)
B. For more on Benklerâs layers, see Yochai Benkler, From Consumers to Users: Shifting the Structures of Regulation Toward Sustainable Commons and User Access, 52 FED. COMM. L.J. 561 (2000), available at http://www.law.indiana.edu/fclj/pubs/v52/no3/benkler1.pdf.
C. Palfrey then moved on to explain the inspiration for the Access Denied project. A number of scholars, Palfrey, Zittrain, and Business School Professor Ben Edeleman among them, set out to determine whether Internet users could access the same Internet from anywhere in the world. They tested the notion through a number of case studies, most notably Saudi Arabia and China:
1. Saudi Arabia â the Saudi authorities were reluctant to bring the Internet to their populace. They maintain a website (http://www.isu.net.sa/index.htm) that contains information regarding the stateâs filtering program. It includes a mechanism by which Saudi citizens may request that a blocked site be made available. The Saudis were initially cooperative with the Access Denied project and blocked primarily pornography.
2. China â much less forthcoming. There is no analogous site that explains the stateâs filtering policies or any process for requesting that a given site has been blocked unnecessarily.
3. With a smooth segue back to the Internet layers, Palfrey explained that the while both the Saudis and the Chinese filtered at low down levels of the Infrastructure and Logic layers, the Chinese also engage in higher level filtering at the Application and Content layers. They enlisted the assistance of the ISPs, OSPs, and search engines to engage in filtering.
a) Palfrey then brought up the Open Net Initiative Google China Search Comparison site and ran a number of search comparisons, including âhuman rightsâ and âTiananmen Square.â Google.cnâs search results page states that âall results are not here.â The URL for the ONI Google Search is http://opennet.net/google_china/.
B. Turkey: A New Case Study?
1. Professor Palfrey is on his way to Turkey this evening to attend a number of meetings on Internet filtering. When Palfrey asked the members of the class who they expected to be involved in the discussions, people suggested not only major ISPs and application providers from both Turkey and the U.S., but also religious leaders and academics.
2. As Palfrey explains, in many countries, there are disputes between the Minister of Economic Development, who is generally in favor of an open Internet, and the Minister of Telecommunications, who is generally in favor of filtering on the basis of protectionism.
C. Timed Censorship Strategies - Recently, Palfrey and others have observed strategically timed censorship efforts in the context of elections. The preferred method of timed censorship strategies is overloading. Overloading the censored sites is an ingenious methods of censorship because it is difficult to distinguish from high Internet traffic.
D. Wikipedia in China - Why might Wikipedia be blocked and unblocked three times? Itâs clear why it got blocked initially. Wikipedia is potentially dangerous for the Chinese government. But why would they unblock it? They probably realized the beauty of Wikipedia â that anyone can edit it at any time. As a result, the Chinese government may have figured they could win the propaganda war against Wikipedia users. Why block it again? Other countries (ex. Japan) may be dedicating the same resources to the editing war. And so the cycle continues.
E. Internet and Gender â In the last few minutes, Professor Palfrey turned to the question of gender differences on the web, in the context of the Pew survey. Understandably, many students had issues with the survey methodology, most notably the potential inaccuracy of a self-reporting survey method.