Google, Yahoo Criticized Over Foreign Censorship

In a report on Internet censorship, Reporters Without Borders scolds the tech giants — including Microsoft — for cooperating with repressive governmentsBig Internet companies that do business abroad often find themselves in a quandary. While at home they champion privacy and free speech rights, overseas they often have to play by rules that don’t reflect those same freedoms.Paris-based humanitarian group Reporters Without Borders underscored that tension in its annual report on the state of Internet censorship and repression around the world, released Mar. 12. The group pointed a finger at China, which it says engages in the most sophisticated online censorship in the world, and Egypt, which it says routinely jails activist bloggers. Reporters Without Borders also called out numerous other regimes it says engage in unfair treatment of Web users.But Reporters Without Borders also had a message for the U.S.-based technology companies growing their businesses in these countries: Stop cooperating with these “enemies” of the Internet. “They are aware of what’s going on,” says Clothilde Le Coz, who heads the Internet freedom desk for Reporters Without Borders, referring to Internet giants Google (GOOG), Yahoo! (YHOO), and Microsoft (MSFT). But in many parts of the world, Le Coz says, these companies are “not going far enough” to protect their users from what her group considers repressive governments.“Internet monitored and controlled, even in democracies”
After joint appeal with Amnesty International for an end to online censorship, Reporters Without Borders issues report on “Enemies of the Internet”Reporters Without Borders today issued a report entitled “Enemies of the Internet” in which it examines Internet censorship and other threats to online free expression in 22 countries.”The 12 ‘Enemies of the Internet’ – Burma, China, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam – have all transformed their Internet into an Intranet in order to prevent their population from accessing ‘undesirable’ online information,” Reporters Without Borders said.”All these countries distinguish themselves not only by their ability to censor online news and information but also by their virtually systematic persecution of troublesome Internet users,” the press freedom organisation said. Reporters Without Borders has placed 10 other governments “under surveillance” for adopting worrying measures that could open the way to abuses. The organisation draws particular attention to Australia and South Korea, where recent measures may endanger online free expression.”Not only is the Internet more and more controlled, but new forms of censorship are emerging based on the manipulation of information,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Orchestrating the posting of comments on popular websites or organising hacker attacks is also used by repressive regimes to scramble or jam online content.”A total of 70 cyber-dissidents are currently detained because of what they posted online. China is the world’s biggest prison for cyber-dissidents, followed by Vietnam and Iran.Download the Internet Enemies report – handed in to “Internet Enemy” embassies on eve of Online Free Expression Day
Reporters Without Borders yesterday handed in copies of its 2009 “Internet Enemies” report at the Paris embassies of the 22 countries identified as an “enemy” or source of concern in the report, issued to mark Online Free Expression Day today. The Tunisian and Burmese embassies refused to take its copy.”Online censorship today concerns every kind of user of the Internet, from the person who posts a comment on a website to journalists and other content producers,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Any attack on this space is an offence against free expression.”The report identifies 12 countries as “Enemies of the Internet.” They are Burma, China, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam. For the first time, the report also includes two democracies in the 10 other countries that are “under surveillance” for adopting or considering measures that could open the way to abuses of online freedom of information. (Download in PDF).To mark Online Free Expression Day, Reporters Without Borders today also released a film illustrating the situation that some users face when they connect to the Internet.One of the Internet’s founders, Google vice-president Vinton Cerf, also talks about the way the Internet is evolving in an interview during the LIFT 2009 Conference of new technology experts held in Geneva from 25 to 27 February.

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