Here’s some recent example of governments’ attempts to block out the Internet – particularly in those countries where, to some extent, the proverbial cat is already out of the bag. (Once people have access to the Internet and some modicum of wealth, getting them to give it up is a lot harder – another reason North Korea and Eritrea present something of a perfect scenario to many dictatorial regimes).
Although these are disturbing cases of government repression in action, I also find these cases rather heartening – mainly because government attempts to prevent Internet access rarely last very long, or work particularly well. It’s also worth pointing out that stagnant development and heavy censorship have a nasty habit of going hand-in-hand.
4. To no one’s surprise, Iran is intent on censoring the Internet and restricting access to its citizens – both to prevent dissent and to promote religious “purity.” While the Iranian government dreams of creating a fully enclosed “halal” Iranian Internet (or Intranet), right now it makes do with banning and closely monitoring Facebook, mounting surveillance cameras in Internet cafes, and creating ever-more advanced surveillance and blocking software. Iran’s remarkably creepy Internet spies closely monitor supposedly secure emails – and have even figured out ways to obtain fake digital identity documents, allowing them to covertly “pose” as Google without attracting the attention of usually-suspicious journalists and activists. Fake Facebook friends, employed by the government, have landed more than a few Iranians in prison. Although Twitter was a major change-agent during 2009 protests, Iran has quickly learned from that mistake, further restricting access to the microblogging site and improving its monitoring techniques.