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Governments Censoring the Internet

January 4, 2015
Plain English Version

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Free speech is a threat to some governments. The Internet is about freedom of speech.

Turkey is an example. Last March documents about government corruption were leaked to Turkish citizens. They used Twitter to send their posts. The government asked Twitter to block the posts. The company refused to do so. Authorities ordered the shutdown of Twitter.

Turkish users found ways around the ban. They taught each other how to access Twitter. They even spray painted instructions on the walls of buildings. A man said, “We all became hackers. And we all got on Twitter.”

However, Internet censorship is just beginning in many countries.

A few weeks ago Russia told Facebook to remove a page promoting an anti-government rally. Copycat pages popped up. The promoters of the rally got more publicity than they would have otherwise.

The big companies are Facebook, Twitter, Google and YouTube. They all have legal teams to protect them. The teams review requests from governments when they are asked to take down pages or block access.

Google owns YouTube. It did not want its content to be censored by Chinese authorities. After a struggle, the company pulled out of China rather than be censored.

China and Russia are the big problems. Russia said that any site with 3,000 daily visitors must face restrictions on content. Twitter and Facebook passed the requests along to users. They are not doing anything else.

Russia wants to know more. The data storage has to be in Russia. The big companies said they would not do that.

One expert warned that if Russian President Putin wants to shut down the Internet, he will be able to so “within minutes.”

The year 2015 may be an important year in the story of the Internet.

Source: The New York Times January 1, 2015

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