Don’t Take Your Internet Freedom for Granted
If you live in the United States you are used to being able to do whatever you want without censorship. You take for granted the freedoms some countries do not allow their citizens to have. We can move from state to state without permission, access just about every site on the internet freely, and voice out opinions online , in print, and in person. But there are parts of the world where the citizens are not afforded such freedoms. People in these countries have no idea what it is like to move about freely, voice their opinions without threat, and have complete access to the internet. Their lives are regulated and monitored by their governments.
Most notably is the censorship put forth by the Chinese government. Not only do they prohibit access to certain websites, but the blogs of private citizens are monitored and if they are found to be detrimental to the state, taken down. Chinese bloggers have also found themselves detained and facing charges of publishing content that is offensive to the Chinese government. Vietnam is also guilty of this type of action, Oman, and other countries regularly monitor the blogs and restrict content. And the blogs taken down don’t have to be outright criticism of the state, even vague phrases and statements can be enough for a blogger to be arrested and their blog taken down.
It’s not just communist states or dictatorships that exercise censorship. South Korea, one of the few democracies in Asia, practices online censorship in the name of “national security”. (Seems we’ve heard that phrase before…) South Korea’s National Security Law allows the government to block websites that have affiliations with North Korea or any content the government feels encourages antistate groups or actions. Recently Park Jung-geun, a South Korean photographer, was detained and questioned by the South Korean government for posting content from a North Korean government site on his Twitter account.
In Vietnam Paulus Le Son, an activist blogger, was arrested and detained without a warrant recently for posting content on the site, Vietnam Redemptorist News, criticizing the communist government. He and other bloggers as of February 3rd were still being held for “subversion and activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration”. The Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) is working for their release. According to the BBC News, China’s State Internet Information Office is the new body of government to oversee internet censorship in that country. The new office will be responsible for keeping internet access limited in China. This means any news the government wants to keep from the people is blocked, as well as any sites it deems unacceptable to the state. Their reasoning is to prevent harmful effects to their citizens, state security, and children. In other words, it’s “for their own good”.
How can you be sure your internet remains free? The best way is to stay informed. Write your representatives and be a voice for internet freedom. Learn to think for yourselves, do you really want the government to tell you what you can and can’t access on the web? It is a scary thought that this type of government interference can happen here in the United States, but if the recent internet security legislation being presented is any indication, the time of a free internet in the US may be close to being history.