Thursday, October 05, 2006

Political fall-in

Increasingly, states are adopting practices aimed at regulating and controlling the Internet as it passes through their borders. Seeking to assert information sovereignty over their cyber–territory, governments are implementing Internet content filtering (read: sniffing) technology at the national level.

The implementation of national filtering is most often conducted in secrecy and lacks openness, transparency, and accountability but policy–makers are seemingly (hmmm...) unaware of significant unintended consequences, such as the blocking of content that was never intended to be blocked.

But hey, guess what? Once a national filtering system is in place, governments may be tempted to use it as a tool of political censorship or as a technological 'quick fix' to problems that stem from larger social and political issues.

As non–transparent filtering practices meld into forms of censorship the effect on democratic practices and the open character of the Internet are discernible. States are increasingly using Internet filtering to control the environment of political speech in fundamental opposition to civil liberties, freedom of speech and free expression. The consequences of political filtering directly impact democratic practices and can be considered a violation of human rights.

Listen clearly now.

The most commonly used circumvention technology is a Web–based circumventor. Essentially, a Web–based circumventor is a Web site that has a standard Web form through which users can submit requests for filtered URLs. This Web site has a specially designed script that fetches the request page for the user and re–writes all the links in the page to point back through the Web–based circumventor. Using this technology a user (you) can seamlessly browse the Internet without being subjected to any kinds of filtering.

This type of circumvention technology is being used by Internet users in China to bypass the filtering restrictions in that country. The U.S. government has sponsored similar technology, albeit poorly designed, for use by Iranian Internet users. While many of you may be unwilling to use this technology for fear of ... reprisal - the determined users (you again) will always be able to use this type of technology to bypass filtering restrictions.

Although governments and commercial filtering manufacturers actively target public anonymity and circumvention sites, they are unable to effectively counter distributed, private circumvention strategy.

I can't list the sites here BUT google around - they're easy to find.

Oh, and btw, here is a new study about online social networks and user generated content to be released September 15th, 2006 by the Institute for Politics, Democracy & the Internet (IPDI) called, 'Person-to-Person-to-Person'.

Typically, it's a pay-2-read but the summary is here (pdf, 183 kb). I'll try to get this online for you soon but here's a primer for non-partisan website best practices until I do ... just do the opposite and you'll get a 'partisan' best practice ... get it?

Very american, I know, BUT these practices can be applied to most web sites. Basic but good.


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