Internet censorship accomplishes little

It can be said that 2011 is a year of revolutions, change, and controversial political games. Not to mention high gas and food prices, irrational budget plans, and economical calamities. We aren't even half way through the year, yet the world is dancing to a different rhythm. The rhythm of freedom? Uprising? Redemption? Whatever it is, the world is changing before our eyes and we can either dance along to the rhythm or stand to the side and attempt to find ways to suppress it.

Ever since the recent Egyptian revolution broke out and the Middle East was plunged into turmoil, Internet censorship has become more mandatory than ever in countries where freedom of speech is more a myth than reality. China, India, and Russia are only some of the countries taking reign of Internet freedom by placing authoritarian censorship over their citizens. Is it fear of an uprising that causes these countries to take drastic measures in censoring the Internet? What is baffling about Internet censorship is that the countries that rigorously mandate it, are so obsessed and obvious about it that it portrays them negatively to the rest of the world. Still, they continue to overpower their people with Internet censorship laws.

In late January of this year, Hosni Mubarak shut down Egypt's Internet access with hopes that it would end the incumbent social uprising. But the world was already tuned in and rooting for the Egyptian people to win the battle against Mubarak's regime.

            Shutting down access to the country's Internet didn't stop the revolution, but rather intensified the support of the protestors, with many more Americans taking notice of the revolution after hearing about the Internet shutdown.  It empowered the Egyptians to take the social uprising even further, with people around the world expressing their support through the Internet.

The world watched Egypt's government change in a matter of weeks. Western countries, especially the U.S., pulled for a democratic change, but countries like China, Russia, India, and other Middle Eastern dictatorial countries were concerned that the uprising would reach the minds of their citizens. What could they do to repel their citizens from social unrest? Internet censorship, of course. What better way for a repressed country to keep its people in check then to monitor their Internet usage and censor the content they watch, read, and write on the Internet.

According to the New York Times, India has set "regulations restricting Web content that, among other things, can be considered ‘disparaging,' ‘harassing,' ‘blasphemous' or ‘hateful.'" This rule has been quietly set into motion by the Department of Information Technology since the beginning of April.

"The list of objectionable content is sweeping and includes anything that ‘threatens the unity, integrity, defense, security or sovereignty of India, friendly relations with foreign states or public order'," states the New York Times, regarding the new Indian Internet censorship rule.

It seems that India is worried that their citizens will be inspired by Egypt's events and other Middle Eastern revolutionary unrests, which goes to show how far they will go to censor the Internet and keep their citizens in place. Imagine if India, with a population of nearly 1.2billion people, were to protest their government? Now, that would make one heck of a statement.

According to the Wall Street Journal, "China announced a potentially powerful new agency to supervise the Internet, underscoring the evolving regulatory environment in the country." It isn't confirmed which agency will get to censor the Internet in China on top of pre-existing censorship, but whoever it is, they will have a difficult time censoring over 1.3 billion people.

Russia managed to create an alternative for Facebook in their country called Vkontakte. It has become the main social networking website for the citizens of Russia.

"An online group calling for the overthrow of the Russian government wouldn't survive for long on Vkontakte," said Mr. Morozov, a visiting scholar at Stanford University, writing for the Wall Street Journal.

Unfortunately both China and Russia have taken social networking into their own hands, and keep Facebook as far away as possible from their citizens. Poland has recently created a new censorship law as well, which may soon be put into effect. "Thousands of Polish Internet users have joined an online campaign against the government's plan, saying the media council may use the law to censor the Web," according to the Wall Street Journal.

No matter how desperately governments try to censor the Internet, people will still find loopholes and continue to make their voices heard to millions worldwide. Whether it's Facebook, Twitter, or any other form of social networking, the world is connected, one way or another. Censoring the Internet isn't going to stop people from voicing their beliefs. We will see what the other half of 2011 will bring, and how much social networking will liberate the world.