The Internet has been key to providing a voice for those who have been ignored by the traditional media streams. While those groups have been able to enjoy free expression and an exchange of ideas. Yet around the world, governments are trying to limit individuals access to the web.
As part of the World Day Against Cyber-Censorship, the reminders are focused on how the web remains a battleground for free speech, as well as a way to rally users in fighting repression of online speech. Reporters Without Borders created this day to also celebrate the work of brave individuals who are promoting free speech and expression on the Internet.
While there are a variety of reasons offered for censorship, in Iran, the web has become a way to track potential opposition and those who are arguing for change. Bloggers have been imprisoned, websites are blocked and access to the global internet is limited to non-existent. The argument has been to block obscene content, since the Iranian government promotes Sharia law, which includes more intense controls over content.
But this work has also had a cooling effect on free speech, as social media sites are blocked or heavily monitored and individuals are arrested based on questionable charges of insulting government officials. State-mandated blocking and filtering programs have become a standard part of the web in Iran.
Iran’s nationwide Halal Internet is meant to cut off a majority of citizens from the global web and they are attempting to block all foreign sites. As part of this day, Reporters Without Borders updates its Enemies of the Internet and Countries Under Surveillance lists. Countries on the Enemies of the Internet list include “all of these countries mark themselves out not just for their capacity to censor news and information online, but also for their almost systematic repression of Internet users.” Iran has been on that list since 2006.
There has also been an increase in the number of countries that have used the Internet for surveillance, in addition to censorship. Iran has also employed programs to track the usage of their citizens. Censorship and monitoring programs are being sold to multiple dictatorships, including Syria and Iran, according to Electronic Frontier Foundation. Yet, these capabilities would not be possible without the help of American and EU companies that sell the state-of-the-art programs being used to spy on their citizens.