[Update: Reporters without Borders released an updated version of “Enemies of the Internet” in 2014]
The Reporters without Borders organisation has released its “Enemies of the Internet” list. The list names countries that try to limit free speech online or monitor their citizens’ Internet activities. China, Vietnam, Iran, Cuba, and North Korea all make the list. The efforts of Belarus’ government to block web pages and arrest bloggers have also earned it a place.
It’s interesting that Australia is on the list because it wants to implement an Internet filter to block child abuse images. In the 2012 list neither the US nor the UK featured, although both countries already (quite rightly) do filter this type of content. However, after the Snowden revelations the 2014 Enemies of the Internet list included both countries, thanks to the actions of the NSA and GCHQ. Both countries also want to extend surveillance capabilities to combat illegal downloaders.
The list is a useful resource for ITGS students and teachers because it can help remove preconceptions about Internet filtering. It can be easy to assume that content filtering is only performed in “less developed” countries, and that “Western” countries have free access to content. However, as this report makes clear, this is not always the case. Another common assumption is that all Internet content filtering is bad. However, this is not necessarily the case – and is a good opportunity for class discussion about types of Internet content which might legitimately be blocked.