Free Speech

GW Paralegal Studies Infographic: Free Speech and Censorship in an Age of Social Media

Internet censorship in 2015 is a major political and social topic around the World, fueled by paranoid governments and the tremendous power anyone can posses through the Internet. What is Internet Censorship and how do the people of the World feel about it?

In a Global survey of 10,000 Internet users in 20 different countries, more than half of those surveyed see the Internet as a tool of free speech – and about three quarters of those surveyed see it as a tool for the free and open access of information. Half of those surveyed see Internet access as a basic human right, but half of them also agree that the Internet should be governed. About one in three participants think it should be up to individual countries to determine how the Internet is accessed within their borders.

With powerful organizations and governing bodies lobbying to gain more control over the Internet, what can Internet users expect in the future to protect their right to speak freely and openly? The infographic below, created by George Washington University’s Master’s in Paralegal Studies Online program, takes a closer look at the current state of Internet censorship around the world and offers solutions for Internet users to protect their right to free speech in 2015 and beyond.

Types of Internet Censorship

The Internet is censored in a number of ways. Some censoring methods are active, while others are passive. Each country on the list has its own particular way of censoring content. While the technical forms of censorship certainly vary by type and intensity, it is important to note that they all have the same end result – keeping information away from the people.

In Turkey, censorship is achieved by IP address blocking. Blocking an IP address prohibits a computer from accessing a specific website, handily censoring the site’s content. Turkey, as well as several other countries, do this largely in the name of censoring inappropriate content – but that content, as usual, is decided upon not by the people of the country by rather by the country’s government.

China has a few methods of blocking the Internet – DNS tampering, keyword blocking, and URL filtering. DNS tampering helps to make sure that users simply cannot access the websites they want to visit. The other forms of censorship – blocking and filtering – are quite a bit more direct. Behind the Great Firewall of China, there are certain words that cannot be researched or searched for – as well as certain websites that simply cannot be visited by the average person in the country.

A number of countries have disconnected their citizens from the Internet. When a country chooses to shut off all of its routers, it is quite easy for it to censor information online. Internet access was famously cut off in Libya, the Sudan, and Egypt during their revolutions.

Even the UK has used active censorship, in this case a DDoS attack. A DDoS (or Distributed Denial of Service) attack prevents website access – and the UK has used it against the hacker group Anonymous. This is the first case of a western government using such tactics for censorship purposes.

Other less active forms of censorship include takedown notices and delisting. These are very common forms of censorship in the US – rights holders use the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in the US to get certain items pulled from the web, while authorities can use delisting to remove a website from internet search engines – effectively rendering content invisible online.

Social Media Censorship

Social media, as you might expect, is a prime target for censorship. Information is easily shared over these networks, and some Nation’s want control over what is said, and by whom. Each social media network has faced its own trials of censorship.

It should come as no surprise that Facebook and censorship go hand in hand. Facebook heavily regulates what type of content can be viewed on the platform, and can share the IP addresses of its users with those in positions of authority. Indeed, Facebook has thousands of IP address requests each year.

Twitter has its own forms of internal censorship. Twitter reserves the right to ban users and remove content, which it has done to a significant extent with pro-jihadi messages and accounts. Over the course of the last year, hundreds of accounts have been suspended and thousands of posts have been removed by the company.

Even Google (and by extension, YouTube) have censored some information. Google terms of service state that they can – and will – remove some content. In fact, the content is not only removed – some of it can even be shared with the government.

Censorship is a growing issue across the world, both in corporate and governmental situations. It is important that private citizens have all the facts – and that they know what to do when they encounter censorship in their own lives.

Free Speech

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