A Censored Network: Iran

Richard Rogers’ Govcom.org foundation has been doing cutting edge research on online networks for years, producing visually rich outputs that show connections among major nodes, typically using their issue crawler tool.

We at the OpenNet Initaitive have entered into a collaboration with Rogers and his team at Govcom.org to produce a series of issue-crawler maps of Internet censorship. The first of these is called A Censored Network (PDF), showing censored sites in Iran. Rogers and his team ran one of our high impact lists from our Iran Report through their issue-crawler. The discovered sites linking to those high impact sites were then fed through the ONI’s testing system to discover 30 additional blocked sites.

Stay tuned for more outputs from this collaboration.

Amnesty International Irrepressible.info and ONI flash map

Amnesty International and the Observer have jointly launched a major global campaign on Internet censorship called Irrepressible.info to commemorate Amnesty’s 45th anniversary.

The objective of the campaign is to show that online or offline the human voice and human rights are impossible to repress. You can sign their pledge and post fragments of irrepressible information on your website.

The OpenNet Initiative is one of the project’s partners. We produced a Global flash map of Internet filtering, and the fragments of banned information for the mirroring campaign.

You can read more about the campaign in the Observer, BBC, and CBC.

ONI Releases Belarus Internet Watch Report

The OpenNet Initiative today released “The Internet and Elections: the 2006 Presidential Election in Belarus.” The report presents the findings of ONI’s effort to monitor the Internet during Belarus’ recent presidential elections.

Amidst fears that the authoritarian regime of President Aleksander Lukashenka was going to close down Belarus political cyberspace during the elections, ONI testing found little evidence of systematic and comprehensive filtering, despite earlier ONI investigations that established the regime’s capability to do so. ONI monitoring during the elections showed that, on average, opposition and independent media websites remained accessible throughout the monitoring period. ONI testing revealed a number of serious irregularities that disrupted access to certain opposition and independent media websites at strategic moments during and after the vote.

To read the report, click HERE

NY Times OpEd on OpenNet Initiative

There is a very interesting article by Xeni Jardin in today’s NY Times that references some of the recent findings of the OpenNet Initiative. Xeni points out that the issue of commercial filtering technologies goes far beyond China, and notes our findings concerning those technologies being used in several other countries, like Yemen, Iran, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and others. Xeni argues that censorship technologies like these should be added to the US export munitions control list — an interesting argument. Let’s wait and see if the momentum continues to build…

Internet Filtering in Yemen. Yet Another Western Filtering Story

We (the OpenNet Initiative) have just released our new report on Internet filtering in Yemen.

Two things to note about this report. First, the Yemen report is the first that we are releasing in simultaneous English and Arabic translations. It is important to us to have an impact among the constituencies that matter most to the topics we are investigating, so look for future reports to have similar simultaneous translations.

The second issue concerns the findings of the report itself. Our investigations confirmed that Yemen is using a western filtering product, Websense, to filter access to information on the Internet. Although Yemen filters mostly pornography, the Yemen case offers yet another troubling example of a commercial company aiding a regime that violates human rights (in this case freedom of speech and access to information). Below is my quotation from the press release:

As a developing Middle East country on the frontline of the “War on Terror,” Yemen faces numerous difficult and unique security and policy challenges. The pressures (both domestic and international) to compromise human rights and political liberties in favor of order and security are enormous and likely difficult to resist. In light of these pressures, it is remarkable that Yemen does not presently extensively filter political opposition, dissident, and human rights websites, focusing its attention primarily on pornographic and other sexual-related material. However, the largely secretive nature of its filtering regime, combined with the use of yet another US commercial filtering product, raises serious questions about accountability and respect for basic human rights for both Yemen itself and the company providing the filtering technology, Websense.

Des fissures dans la Web muraille de Chine (Le Monde)

Une technologie développée conjointement par plusieurs laboratoires de prestigieuses universités canadienne, américaine et anglaise pourrait arriver à détourner la censure numérique qui sévit dans plusieurs pays du monde, et notamment en Chine. Ce système est en phase d’achèvement au Canada, et pourrait rendre rapidement un peu d’ ” e-liberté ” aux quelque cent dix millions d’internautes chinois.

More here

China Web Registration Regulation OpenNet Initiative Bulletin 11

The OpenNet Initiative has just released a new bulletin on China’s Web registration regulations. These new regulations add yet additional threads to the country’s web of constraints on freedom of speech. By requiring citizens to register their blogs and websites, and shutting down the sites of those who do not comply, the Chinese authorities are effectively augmenting the already stifling climate of self-censorship and suspicion that exists for online communications in that country. By requiring website operators to register their personal information with the Ministry of Information Industry, these controls intimidate users of the Internet and allow the state to more effectively keep tabs on online content

USA Today and Radio Canada International

The debates over corporate responsibility when it comes to Internet filtering and surveillance are growing in leaps and bounds, thanks in part to the work of the OpenNet Initiative. Kevin Maney’s column in USA Today points out that the recent debates over Google and Yahoo in China are only the tip of the iceberg, with references to our recent research.

Meanwhile, I did a radio interview with Radio Canada International’s Valerie Morand on the Citizen Lab’s research and development of the Psiphon circumvention tool. You can access the piece here, for the European version and here, for the African version.

HERE is a locally archived version. My piece begins at about the 20 minute mark.