When one thinks about Internet censorship, one always tend to think about a few countries in the middle-east. However, Internet censorship and policing is not only restricted to Islamic and Communist States. There are several democracies that have banned websites or have very stringent online censorships in place.
Also, Internet censorship is not only about banning your favorite social network websites or services. It is used to control or stop a group of people from accessing, viewing or publishing online by organizations and governments. That's why you can't view pornographic websites or play games in your office.
There are a number of reasons for Internet censorship, which includes, but not limited to moral, religious, societal norms, business reasons, etc.
Now that we have made things clear, let us take a look at the top 5 countries who are considered to have strict Internet censorship laws.
Bahrain is one of the most wealthy States in the Middle-east, but their Internet censorship laws are pretty harsh. According to several articles in the Press and Publication Law of Bahrain, posting or promoting content on the Internet that criticizes Islam or the Head of the State, the King or incites violence could be punishable up to 5 years in prison. These laws are not only in paper, they are quite actively used to accuse and throw people in jail.
One such event that got international attention is the case of Hussain Hubail, a photographer, who was arrested in July 2013 for allegedly using the Internet to show hatred against the government.
Not so dear leader
It is a well-known fact that the outer world doesn't know much about what is happening in North Korea.
Although, the country is moderately developed, only 4% of the population use the Internet – and that too is heavily censored. It is not only the Internet, almost every form/medium of communication is controlled by the government and it is said that people are rather intimidated to use them to pass information beyond the iron curtains. The North Korean network is one of the heavily monitored networks in the world which could make the USA's NSA surveillance seem nothing. All media, and websites are under the State's control.
The great wall of Internet The Chinese government is known for blocking every type of website out there. From search engines, to social networking, blogs, news websites, discussion boards, etc. If you have a website about Tibetan independence, freedom of speech in the nation, police or military brutality, etc, your website will likely to banned by the Chinese government. And if you happen to live in China and didn't protect your identity and geo-location with a VPN service, the cops will trace you and throw you in prison. The government has blocked popular websites like Google Search, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. However, there are always alternatives to all the top services blocked by the government. For instance, the Facebook alternative Sina's Weibo has more than 200 million users in the nation and people use Baidu to search for websites and services instead of Google Search. According to a study conducted by Hardvard University, at least eighteen thousands sites are blocked in China, which includes a lot of top websites in the Internet.
Pakistan blocked Facebook back in 2010 along with several other websites for allegedly disrespecting the Prophet Mohammad. Internet filtering in Pakistan is not very consistent and bans on some of the top websites are lifted after a short period of time due to pressure from the general public. The Pakistan Government has established the Pakistan Internet Exchange, which is governed and operated by the State. More than 98% of all the Internet traffic to and from Pakistan are routed through the PIE. Thus, the government has the power to ban websites or block Internet traffic. However, since Internet is most widely used in urban areas and mostly by educated public, people usually care less if the government bans a website or online service. Most of them know how to gain access to these websites using VPN services.
So cold! We are sure you still remember the Crimean issue. In March 2014, when Ukraine was not able to stop the Russians from entering and taking over Crimea with the help of the Pro Russian Separatists -- as part of the Crimean secession referendum, Russian government blocked several websites like Grani.ru, Kasporav.ru, LiveJournal and many other websites which spread opposition news. Some bans were lifted in a few days and websites with strong opposing news were still kept banned for weeks.
According to the Bill 89415-6, websites which contained child pornography, drug-related content, extremism, and other illegal content in Russia can be banned. Although most of the countries have some sort of internet censorship in place to ban, child pornography and extremism, the Russian government is often accused of blocking websites that badmouthed them..
Did you know that Australia's government has once banned even site of a Queensland dentist?
This doesn't mean, all the countries where the internet is not censored a nice and secure place place to use the internet. If we were to list the top enemies of internet, we would have probably listed the United States and the U.K., for their mass surveillance programs.
Article written by Kerry Blake – MS Office expert, lecturer and trainer that writes articles from time to time.
Most of my articles are inspired by friends and people I meet in class. You wouldn't believe what kind of questions I heard in last seven years.