Thursday, March 11, 2010

Report: Internet Controls Violate Human Rights

The U.S. Department of State's 2009 Human Rights Report highlights Internet censorship as a major human rights concern. The report's introduction included cyber monitoring and controls resulting in privacy violations and censorship:
"2009 also was a year in which more people gained greater access than ever before to more information about human rights through the Internet, cell phones, and other forms of connective technologies. Yet at the same time it was a year in which governments spent more time, money, and attention finding regulatory and technical means to curtail freedom of expression on the Internet and the flow of critical information and to infringe on the personal privacy rights of those who used these rapidly evolving technologies."
Most notable in the report were China and Iran:
"The government of China increased its efforts to monitor Internet use, control content, restrict information, block access to foreign and domestic Web sites, encourage self-censorship, and punish those who violated regulations. The government employed thousands of persons at the national, provincial, and local levels to monitor electronic communication ... The government at times blocked access to selected sites operated by major foreign news outlets, health organizations, foreign governments, educational institutions, and social networking sites, as well as search engines, that allow rapid communication or organization of users... The government also automatically censored e-mail and Web chats based on an ever-changing list of sensitive key words."
The report also notes that government interference is not always effective:
"Despite official monitoring and censorship, dissidents and political activists continued to use the Internet to advocate and call attention to political causes such as prisoner advocacy, political reform, ethnic discrimination, corruption, and foreign policy concerns."
The report cites Iran for cracking down on Internet access in the run-up to the June presidential election:
"...the government blocked access to Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites. After the June election, there was a major drop in bandwidth, which experts posited the government caused to prevent activists involved in the protests from accessing the Internet and uploading large video files."
Receiving honorable mentions were North Korea because:
"Internet access was limited to high-ranking officials and other elites..."
and Vietnam where:
"Bloggers were detained and arrested under vague national security provisions for criticizing the government and were prohibited from posting material the government saw as sensitive or critical. The government also monitored e-mail and regulated or suppressed Internet content, such as Facebook and other Web sites operated by overseas Vietnamese political groups."

2009 Human Rights Report: Introduction

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