Internet controls in other countries: China’s model for controlling the internet is being adopted elsewhere

At a United Nations conference on telecommunications governance in Dubai last December representatives of most of the world’s countries argued furiously over the way the internet should be managed. The debate established a clear divide over how much control a country should have over its own internet. On one side were America, the European Union and other developed countries that broadly back internet freedom; on the other were China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and a number of other authoritarian states. A significant majority of these seem to favour China’s approach to control (or a Russian variant), which involves allowing more access to the internet and reaping the economic benefits, but at the same time monitoring, filtering, censoring and criminalising free speech online.Many Asian and African countries are using Chinese technology both to deliver access to the internet and to control its use, and some Central Asian republics are believed to use Russian surveillance technology as well. A very few, such as Turkmenistan, prefer the North Korean model, in which hardly anybody is allowed to go online, and a few others, including Azerbaijan, do little to encourage use of the internet. Katy Pearce, of the University of Washington, explains that Azerbaijan has run an effective campaign against the evils of the web, linking it to mental illness, divorce, sex-trafficking and paedophilia. She says that only a quarter of Azerbaijan’s population has ever been online, which puts it behind poorer neighbours; and only 7% are on Facebook.

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