Governments that seek to restrict the free flow of information in their societies are logging on and cracking down, exhibiting heightened control and new strategies for censorship of the Internet.
Fifty-one cyber dissidents and Internet users remain imprisoned in China, according to the U.S. State Department’s most recent Human Rights Report. In Iran, four prominent women’s rights activists have received six-month prison sentences for contributing to banned websites. The detainment of bloggers continues to be common in many countries, however, arrests are a very small part of the campaign against Internet freedom.
Under Secretary of State Paula Dobriansky commented on this issue at a recent media censorship workshop in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the U.S. government's Broadcasting Board of Governors:
“Most recently we have seen instances of alleged government attacks on Internet capabilities of other governments. . . .The tactics of those who seek to obstruct internet freedom changes rapidly as internet technology itself.”
Ms. Dobriansky said the U.S. government has a three-part approach to opening up the internet, including funding projects to expand Web access in the developing world, monitoring restrictions imposed by governments, and combating those restrictions through targeted diplomacy and other means:
“We strive to support journalists and press freedom organizations under threat through various grants and funding for initiatives such as providing secure Web sites for journalists under pressure from restrictive regimes.”
President George Bush said, “[Historians] will point to the role of technology in frustrating censorship and central control – and marvel at the power of instant communications to spread the truth, the news and courage across borders.”