Internet censorship is the legal control or suppression of what can be accessed, published, or viewed on the Internet. Censorship is most often applied to specific internet domains (such as Wikipedia.org) but exceptionally may extend to all Internet resources located outside the jurisdiction of the censoring state. Internet censorship may also put restrictions on what information can be made internet accessible. Organizations providing internet access – such as schools and libraries – may choose to preclude access to material that they consider undesirable, offensive, age-inappropriate or even illegal, and regard this as ethical behaviour rather than censorship. Individuals and organizations may engage in self-censorship of material they publish, for moral, religious, or business reasons, to conform to societal norms, political views, due to intimidation, or out of fear of legal or other consequences.
The extent of Internet censorship varies on a country-to-country basis. While some countries have moderate Internet censorship, other countries go as far as to limit the access of information such as news and suppress and silence discussion among citizens. Internet censorship also occurs in response to or in anticipation of events such as elections, protests, and riots. An example is the increased censorship due to the events of the Arab Spring. Other types of censorship include the use of copyrights, defamation, harassment, and various obscene material claims as a way to deliberately suppress content.
Support for and opposition to Internet censorship also varies. In a 2012 Internet Society survey 71% of respondents agreed that "censorship should exist in some form on the Internet". In the same survey 83% agreed that "access to the Internet should be considered a basic human right" and 86% agreed that "freedom of expression should be guaranteed on the Internet". Perception of internet censorship in the US is largely based on the First Amendment and the right for expansive free speech and access to content without regard to the consequences. According to GlobalWebIndex, over 400 million people use virtual private networks to circumvent censorship or for increased user privacy. 
Many of the challenges associated with Internet censorship are similar to those for offline censorship of more traditional media such as newspapers, magazines, books, music, radio, television, and film. One difference is that national borders are more permeable online: residents of a country that bans certain information can find it on websites hosted outside the country. Thus censors must work to prevent access to information even though they lack physical or legal control over the websites themselves. This in turn requires the use of technical censorship methods that are unique to the Internet, such as site blocking and content filtering.
Views about the feasibility and effectiveness of Internet censorship have evolved in parallel with the development of the Internet and censorship technologies:
Blocking and filtering can be based on relatively static blacklists or be determined more dynamically based on a real-time examination of the information being exchanged. Blacklists may be produced manually or automatically and are often not available to non-customers of the blocking software. Blocking or filtering can be done at a centralized national level, at a decentralized sub-national level, or at an institutional level, for example in libraries, universities or Internet cafes. Blocking and filtering may also vary within a country across different ISPs. Countries may filter sensitive content on an ongoing basis and/or introduce temporary filtering during key time periods such as elections. In some cases the censoring authorities may surreptitiously block content to mislead the public into believing that censorship has not been applied. This is achieved by returning a fake "Not Found" error message when an attempt is made to access a blocked website.
Unless the censor has total control over all Internet-connected computers, such as in North Korea (who employs an intranet that only privileged citizens can access), or Cuba, total censorship of information is very difficult or impossible to achieve due to the underlying distributed technology of the Internet. Pseudonymity and data havens (such as Freenet) protect free speech using technologies that guarantee material cannot be removed and prevents the identification of authors. Technologically savvy users can often find ways to access blocked content. Nevertheless, blocking remains an effective means of limiting access to sensitive information for most users when censors, such as those in China, are able to devote significant resources to building and maintaining a comprehensive censorship system.
The term "splinternet" is sometimes used to describe the effects of national firewalls. The verb "rivercrab" colloquially refers to censorship of the Internet, particularly in Asia.
Various parties are using different technical methods of preventing public access to undesirable resources, with varying levels of effectiveness, costs and side effects.
Entities mandating and implementing the censorship usually identify them by one of the following items: keywords, domain names and IP addresses. Lists are populated from different sources, ranging from private supplier through courts to specialized government agencies (Ministry of Industry and Information Technology of China, Islamic Guidance in Iran).
As per Hoffmann, different methods are used to block certain websites or pages including DNS poisoning, blocking access to IPs, analyzing and filtering URLs, inspecting filter packets and resetting connections.
Enforcement of the censor-nominated technologies can be applied at various levels of countries and Internet infrastructure:
Internet content is subject to technical censorship methods, including:
Technical censorship techniques are subject to both over- and under-blocking since it is often impossible to always block exactly the targeted content without blocking other permissible material or allowing some access to targeted material and so providing more or less protection than desired. An example is blocking an IP-address of a server that hosts multiple websites, which prevents access to all of the websites rather than just those that contain content deemed offensive.
Main article: Content-control software
Writing in 2009 Ronald Deibert, professor of political science at the University of Toronto and co-founder and one of the principal investigators of the OpenNet Initiative, and, writing in 2011, Evgeny Morzov, a visiting scholar at Stanford University and an Op-Ed contributor to the New York Times, explain that companies in the United States, Finland, France, Germany, Britain, Canada, and South Africa are in part responsible for the increasing sophistication of online content filtering worldwide. While the off-the-shelf filtering software sold by Internet security companies are primarily marketed to businesses and individuals seeking to protect themselves and their employees and families, they are also used by governments to block what they consider sensitive content.
Among the most popular filtering software programs is SmartFilter by Secure Computing in California, which was bought by McAfee in 2008. SmartFilter has been used by Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Iran, and Oman, as well as the United States and the UK. Myanmar and Yemen have used filtering software from Websense. The Canadian-made commercial filter Netsweeper is used in Qatar, the UAE, and Yemen. The Canadian organization CitizenLab has reported that Sandvine and Procera products are used in Turkey and Egypt.
On 12 March 2013 in a Special report on Internet Surveillance, Reporters Without Borders named five "Corporate Enemies of the Internet": Amesys (France), Blue Coat Systems (U.S.), Gamma (UK and Germany), Hacking Team (Italy), and Trovicor (Germany). The companies sell products that are liable to be used by governments to violate human rights and freedom of information. RWB said that the list is not exhaustive and will be expanded in the coming months.
In a U.S. lawsuit filed in May 2011, Cisco Systems is accused of helping the Chinese Government build a firewall, known widely as the Golden Shield, to censor the Internet and keep tabs on dissidents. Cisco said it had made nothing special for China. Cisco is also accused of aiding the Chinese government in monitoring and apprehending members of the banned Falun Gong group.
Many filtering programs allow blocking to be configured based on dozens of categories and sub-categories such as these from Websense: "abortion" (pro-life, pro-choice), "adult material" (adult content, lingerie and swimsuit, nudity, sex, sex education), "advocacy groups" (sites that promote change or reform in public policy, public opinion, social practice, economic activities, and relationships), "drugs" (abused drugs, marijuana, prescribed medications, supplements and unregulated compounds), "religion" (non-traditional religions occult and folklore, traditional religions), .... The blocking categories used by the filtering programs may contain errors leading to the unintended blocking of websites. The blocking of Dailymotion in early 2007 by Tunisian authorities was, according to the OpenNet Initiative, due to Secure Computing wrongly categorizing Dailymotion as pornography for its SmartFilter filtering software. It was initially thought that Tunisia had blocked Dailymotion due to satirical videos about human rights violations in Tunisia, but after Secure Computing corrected the mistake access to Dailymotion was gradually restored in Tunisia.
Organizations such as the Global Network Initiative, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Amnesty International, and the American Civil Liberties Union have successfully lobbied some vendors such as Websense to make changes to their software, to refrain from doing business with repressive governments, and to educate schools who have inadvertently reconfigured their filtering software too strictly. Nevertheless, regulations and accountability related to the use of commercial filters and services are often non-existent, and there is relatively little oversight from civil society or other independent groups. Vendors often consider information about what sites and content is blocked valuable intellectual property that is not made available outside the company, sometimes not even to the organizations purchasing the filters. Thus by relying upon out-of-the-box filtering systems, the detailed task of deciding what is or is not acceptable speech may be outsourced to the commercial vendors.
Main article: Censorship
Internet content is also subject to censorship methods similar to those used with more traditional media. For example:
Main article: Deplatforming
Deplatforming is a form of Internet censorship in which controversial speakers or speech are suspended, banned, or otherwise shut down by social media platforms and other service providers that generally provide a venue for free speech or expression. Banking and financial service providers, among other companies, have also denied services to controversial activists or organizations, a practice known as "financial deplatforming".
Law professor Glenn Reynolds dubbed 2018 the "Year of Deplatforming", in an August 2018 article in The Wall Street Journal. According to Reynolds, in 2018 "the internet giants decided to slam the gates on a number of people and ideas they don't like." On 6 August 2018, for example, several major platforms, including YouTube and Facebook, executed a coordinated, permanent ban on all accounts and media associated with conservative talk show host Alex Jones and his media platform InfoWars, citing "hate speech" and "glorifying violence."
Most major web service operators reserve to themselves broad rights to remove or pre-screen content, and to suspend or terminate user accounts, sometimes without giving a specific list or only a vague general list of the reasons allowing the removal. The phrases "at our sole discretion", "without prior notice", and "for other reasons" are common in Terms of Service agreements.
Main article: Internet censorship circumvention
Internet censorship circumvention is one of the processes used by technologically savvy Internet users to bypass the technical aspects of Internet filtering and gain access to the otherwise censored material. Circumvention is an inherent problem for those wishing to censor the Internet because filtering and blocking do not remove content from the Internet, but instead block access to it. Therefore, as long as there is at least one publicly accessible uncensored system, it will often be possible to gain access to the otherwise censored material. However circumvention may not be possible by non-tech-savvy users, so blocking and filtering remain effective means of censoring the Internet access of large numbers of users.
Different techniques and resources are used to bypass Internet censorship, including proxy websites, virtual private networks, sneakernets, the dark web and circumvention software tools. Solutions have differing ease of use, speed, security, and risks. Most, however, rely on gaining access to an Internet connection that is not subject to filtering, often in a different jurisdiction not subject to the same censorship laws. According to GlobalWebIndex, over 400 million people use virtual private networks to circumvent censorship or for an increased level of privacy. The majority of circumvention techniques are not suitable for day to day use.
There are risks to using circumvention software or other methods to bypass Internet censorship. In some countries, individuals that gain access to otherwise restricted content may be violating the law and if caught can be expelled, fired, jailed, or subject to other punishments and loss of access.
In June 2011 the New York Times reported that the U.S. is engaged in a "global effort to deploy 'shadow' Internet and mobile phone systems that dissidents can use to undermine repressive governments that seek to silence them by censoring or shutting down telecommunications networks."
Another way to circumvent Internet censorship is to physically go to an area where the Internet is not censored. In 2017 a so-called "Internet refugee camp" was established by IT workers in the village of Bonako, just outside an area of Cameroon where the Internet is regularly blocked.
The use of HTTPS versus what originally was HTTP in web searches created greater accessibility to most sites originally blocked or heavily monitored. Many social media sites including, Facebook, Google, and Twitter have added an automatic redirection to HTTPS as of 2017. With the added adoption of HTTPS use, "censors" are left with limited options of either completely blocking all content or none of it.
The use of HTTPS does not inherently prevent the censorship of an entire domain, as the domain name is left unencrypted in the ClientHello of the TLS handshake. The Encrypted Client Hello TLS extension expands on HTTPS and encrypts the entire ClientHello but this depends on both client and server support.
There are several motives or rationales for Internet filtering: politics and power, social norms and morals, and security concerns. Protecting existing economic interests is an additional emergent motive for Internet filtering. In addition, networking tools and applications that allow the sharing of information related to these motives are themselves subjected to filtering and blocking. And while there is considerable variation from country to country, the blocking of web sites in a local language is roughly twice that of web sites available only in English or other international languages.
Censorship directed at political opposition to the ruling government is common in authoritarian and repressive regimes. Some countries block web sites related to religion and minority groups, often when these movements represent a threat to the ruling regimes.
Social filtering is censorship of topics that are held to be antithetical to accepted societal norms. In particular censorship of child pornography and content deemed inappropriate for children enjoys very widespread public support and such content is subject to censorship and other restrictions in most countries.
Many organizations implement filtering as part of a defense in depth strategy to protect their environments from malware, and to protect their reputations in the event of their networks being used, for example, to carry out sexual harassment.
Internet filtering related to threats to national security that targets the Web sites of insurgents, extremists, and terrorists often enjoys wide public support.
The protection of existing economic interests is sometimes the motivation for blocking new Internet services such as low-cost telephone services that use Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). These services can reduce the customer base of telecommunications companies, many of which enjoy entrenched monopoly positions and some of which are government sponsored or controlled.
Anti-copyright activists Christian Engström, Rick Falkvinge and Oscar Swartz have alleged that censorship of child pornography is being used as a pretext by copyright lobby organizations to get politicians to implement similar site blocking legislation against copyright-related piracy.
Blocking the intermediate tools and applications of the Internet that can be used to assist users in accessing and sharing sensitive material is common in many countries.
Main article: Right to be forgotten
The right to be forgotten is a concept that has been discussed and put into practice in the European Union. In May 2014, the European Court of Justice ruled against Google in Costeja, a case brought by a Spanish man who requested the removal of a link to a digitized 1998 article in La Vanguardia newspaper about an auction for his foreclosed home, for a debt that he had subsequently paid. He initially attempted to have the article removed by complaining to Spain's data protection agency—Agencia Española de Protección de Datos—which rejected the claim on the grounds that it was lawful and accurate, but accepted a complaint against Google and asked Google to remove the results. Google sued in Spain and the lawsuit was transferred to the European Court of Justice. The court ruled in Costeja that search engines are responsible for the content they point to and thus, Google was required to comply with EU data privacy laws. It began compliance on 30 May 2014 during which it received 12,000 requests to have personal details removed from its search engine.
Index on Censorship claimed that "Costeja ruling ... allows individuals to complain to search engines about information they do not like with no legal oversight. This is akin to marching into a library and forcing it to pulp books. Although the ruling is intended for private individuals it opens the door to anyone who wants to whitewash their personal history....The Court's decision is a retrograde move that misunderstands the role and responsibility of search engines and the wider internet. It should send chills down the spine of everyone in the European Union who believes in the crucial importance of free expression and freedom of information."
Various contexts influence whether or not an internet user will be resilient to censorship attempts. Users are more resilient to censorship if they are aware that information is being manipulated. This awareness of censorship leads to users finding ways to circumvent it. Awareness of censorship also allows users to factor this manipulation into their belief systems. Knowledge of censorship also offers some citizens incentive to try to discover information that is being concealed. In contrast, those that lack awareness of censorship cannot easily compensate for information manipulation.
Other important factors for censorship resiliency are the demand for the information being concealed, and the ability to pay the costs to circumvent censorship. Entertainment content is more resilient to online censorship than political content, and users with more education, technology access, and wider, more diverse social networks are more resilient to censorship attempts.
As more people in more places begin using the Internet for important activities, there is an increase in online censorship, using increasingly sophisticated techniques. The motives, scope, and effectiveness of Internet censorship vary widely from country to country. The countries engaged in state-mandated filtering are clustered in three main regions of the world: east Asia, central Asia, and the Middle East/North Africa.
Countries in other regions also practice certain forms of filtering. In the United States state-mandated Internet filtering occurs on some computers in libraries and K-12 schools. Content related to Nazism or Holocaust denial is blocked in France and Germany. Child pornography and hate speech are blocked in many countries throughout the world. In fact, many countries throughout the world, including some democracies with long traditions of strong support for freedom of expression and freedom of the press, are engaged in some amount of online censorship, often with substantial public support.
Internet censorship in China is among the most stringent in the world. The government blocks Web sites that discuss the Dalai Lama, the 1989 crackdown on Tiananmen Square protesters, the banned spiritual practice Falun Gong, as well as many general Internet sites. The government requires Internet search firms and state media to censor issues deemed officially "sensitive," and blocks access to foreign websites including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. According to a study in 2014, censorship in China is used to muzzle those outside government who attempt to spur the creation of crowds for any reason—in opposition to, in support of, or unrelated to the government.
There are international bodies that oppose internet censorship, for example "Internet censorship is open to challenge at the World Trade Organization (WTO) as it can restrict trade in online services, a forthcoming study argues".
Generally, national laws affecting content within a country only apply to services that operate within that country and do not affect international services, but this has not been established clearly by international case law. There are concerns that due to the vast differences in freedom of speech between countries, that the ability for one country to affect speech across the global Internet could have chilling effects.
For example, Google had won a case at the European Court of Justice in September 2019 that ruled that the EU's right to be forgotten only applied to services within the EU, and not globally. But in a contrary decision in October 2019, the same court ruled that Facebook was required to globally comply with a takedown request made in relationship to defamatory material that was posted to Facebook by an Austrian that was libelous of another, which had been determined to be illegal under Austrian laws. The case created a problematic precedent that the Internet may become subject to regulation under the strictest national defamation laws, and would limit free speech that may be acceptable in other countries.
See also: Internet outage
Several governments have resorted to shutting down most or all Internet connections in the country.
This appears to have been the case on 27 and 28 January 2011 during the 2011 Egyptian protests, in what has been widely described as an "unprecedented" internet block. About 3500 Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) routes to Egyptian networks were shut down from about 22:10 to 22:35 UTC 27 January. This full block was implemented without cutting off major intercontinental fibre-optic links, with Renesys stating on 27 January, "Critical European-Asian fiber-optic routes through Egypt appear to be unaffected for now." Full blocks also occurred in Myanmar/Burma in 2007, Libya in 2011, Iran in 2019, and Syria during the Syrian civil war.
Almost all Internet connections in Sudan were disconnected from 3 June to 9 July 2019, in response to a political opposition sit-in seeking civilian rule. A near-complete shutdown in Ethiopia lasted for a week after the Amhara Region coup d'état attempt. A week-long shutdown in Mauritania followed disputes over the 2019 Mauritanian presidential election. Other country-wide shutdowns in 2019 include Zimbabwe after a gasoline price protests triggered police violence, Gabon during the 2019 Gabonese coup d'état attempt, and during or after elections in Democratic Republic of the Congo, Benin, Malawi, and Kazakhstan.
Local shutdowns are frequently ordered in India during times of unrest and security concerns. Some countries have used localized Internet shutdowns to combat cheating during exams, including Iraq, Ethiopia, India, Algeria, and Uzbekistan.
The Iranian government imposed a total internet shutdown from 16 to 23 November 2019, in response to the fuel protests. Doug Madory, the director of Internet analysis at Oracle, has described the operation as "unusual in its scale" and way more advanced. Beginning Saturday afternoon on 16 November 2019, the government of Iran ordered the disconnection of much of the country's internet connectivity as a response to widespread protests against the government's decision to raise gas prices. While Iran is no stranger to government-directed interference in its citizens’ access to the internet, this outage is notable in how it differs from past events. Unlike previous efforts at censorship and bandwidth throttling, the internet of Iran is presently experiencing a multi-day wholesale disconnection for much of its population – arguably the largest such event ever for Iran.
Detailed country by country information on Internet censorship is provided by the OpenNet Initiative, Reporters Without Borders, Freedom House, V-Dem Institute, Access Now and in the U.S. State Department Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor's Human Rights Reports. The ratings produced by several of these organizations are summarized in the Internet censorship by country and the Censorship by country articles.
Through 2010 the OpenNet Initiative had documented Internet filtering by governments in over forty countries worldwide. The level of filtering in 26 countries in 2007 and in 25 countries in 2009 was classified in the political, social, and security areas. Of the 41 separate countries classified, seven were found to show no evidence of filtering in all three areas (Egypt, France, Germany, India, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and United States), while one was found to engage in pervasive filtering in all three areas (China), 13 were found to engage in pervasive filtering in one or more areas, and 34 were found to engage in some level of filtering in one or more areas. Of the 10 countries classified in both 2007 and 2009, one reduced its level of filtering (Pakistan), five increased their level of filtering (Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, South Korea, and Uzbekistan), and four maintained the same level of filtering (China, Iran, Myanmar, and Tajikistan).
The Freedom on the Net reports from Freedom House provide analytical reports and numerical ratings regarding the state of Internet freedom for countries worldwide. The countries surveyed represent a sample with a broad range of geographical diversity and levels of economic development, as well as varying levels of political and media freedom. The surveys ask a set of questions designed to measure each country's level of Internet and digital media freedom, as well as the access and openness of other digital means of transmitting information, particularly mobile phones and text messaging services. Results are presented for three areas: Obstacles to Access, Limits on Content, and Violations of User Rights. The results from the three areas are combined into a total score for a country (from 0 for best to 100 for worst) and countries are rated as "Free" (0 to 30), "Partly Free" (31 to 60), or "Not Free" (61 to 100) based on the totals.
Starting in 2009 Freedom House has produced nine editions of the report. There was no report in 2010. The reports generally cover the period from June through May.
|Free||4 (27%)||8 (22%)||14 (30%)||17 (29%)||19 (29%)||18 (28%)||17 (26%)||16 (25%)||15 (23%)|
|Partly free||7 (47%)||18 (49%)||20 (43%)||29 (48%)||31 (48%)||28 (43%)||28 (43%)||28 (43%)||30 (46%)|
|Not free||4 (27%)||11 (30%)||13 (28%)||14 (23%)||15 (23%)||19 (29%)||20 (31%)||21 (32%)||20 (31%)|
|Improved||n/a||5 (33%)||11 (31%)||12 (26%)||12 (18%)||15 (23%)||34 (52%)||32 (49%)||19 (29%)|
|Declined||n/a||9 (60%)||17 (47%)||28 (60%)||36 (55%)||32 (49%)||14 (22%)||13 (20%)||26 (40%)|
|No change||n/a||1 (7%)||8 (22%)||7 (15%)||17 (26%)||18 (28%)||17 (26%)||20 (31%)||20 (31%)|
The 2014 report assessed 65 countries and reported that 36 countries experienced a negative trajectory in Internet freedom since the previous year, with the most significant declines in Russia, Turkey and Ukraine. According to the report, few countries demonstrated any gains in Internet freedom, and the improvements that were recorded reflected less vigorous application of existing controls rather than new steps taken by governments to actively increase Internet freedom. The year's largest improvement was recorded in India, where restrictions to content and access were relaxed from what had been imposed in 2013 to stifle rioting in the northeastern states. Notable improvement was also recorded in Brazil, where lawmakers approved the bill Marco Civil da Internet, which contains significant provisions governing net neutrality and safeguarding privacy protection.
In 2006, Reporters without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF), a Paris-based international non-governmental organization that advocates freedom of the press, started publishing a list of "Enemies of the Internet". The organization classifies a country as an enemy of the internet because "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." In 2007 a second list of countries "Under Surveillance" (originally "Under Watch") was added.
|Enemies of the Internet:
||Current Countries Under Surveillance:[failed verification]
Past Countries Under Surveillance:
When the "Enemies of the Internet" list was introduced in 2006, it listed 13 countries. From 2006 to 2012 the number of countries listed fell to 10 and then rose to 12. The list was not updated in 2013. In 2014 the list grew to 19 with an increased emphasis on surveillance in addition to censorship. The list has not been updated since 2014.
When the "Countries under surveillance" list was introduced in 2008, it listed 10 countries. Between 2008 and 2012 the number of countries listed grew to 16 and then fell to 11. The number grew to 12 with the addition of Norway in 2020. The list was last updated in 2020.
On 12 March 2013, Reporters Without Borders published a Special report on Internet Surveillance. The report includes two new lists:
The five "State Enemies of the Internet" named in March 2013 are: Bahrain, China, Iran, Syria, and Vietnam.
The five "Corporate Enemies of the Internet" named in March 2013 are: Amesys (France), Blue Coat Systems (U.S.), Gamma International (UK and Germany), Hacking Team (Italy), and Trovicor (Germany).
The V-Dem Digital Societies Project measures a range of questions related to internet censorship, misinformation online, and internet shutdowns. This annual report includes 35 indicators assessing five areas: disinformation, digital media freedom, state regulation of digital media, polarization of online media, and online social cleavages. The data set uses V-Dem's methodology of aggregating surveys of experts from around the world. It has been updated each year starting in 2019, with data covering from 2000-2021. These ratings are more similar to other expert analyses like Freedom House than remotely sensed data from Access Now.
Access Now maintains an annual list of internet shutdowns, throttling, and blockages as part of the #KeepItOn project. These data track several features of shutdowns including their location, their duration, the particular services impacted, the government's justification for the shutdown, and actual reasons for the shutdown as reported by independent media. Unlike Freedom House or V-Dem, Access Now detects shutdowns using remote sensing and then confirms these instances with reports from civil society, government, in-country volunteers, or ISPs. These methods have been found to be less prone to false positives.
A poll of 27,973 adults in 26 countries, including 14,306 Internet users, was conducted for the BBC World Service by the international polling firm GlobeScan using telephone and in-person interviews between 30 November 2009 and 7 February 2010. GlobeScan Chairman Doug Miller felt, overall, that the poll showed that:
Findings from the poll include:
In July and August 2012 the Internet Society conducted online interviews of more than 10,000 Internet users in 20 countries. Some of the results relevant to Internet censorship are summarized below.
|Question||No. of Responses||Responses|
|Access to the Internet should be considered a basic human right.||10,789||83% somewhat or strongly agree,|
14% somewhat or strongly disagree,
3% don't know
|Freedom of expression should be guaranteed on the Internet.||10,789||86% somewhat or strongly agree,|
11% somewhat or strongly disagree,
2% don't know
|The Internet should be governed in some form to protect the community from harm.||10,789||82% somewhat or strongly agree,|
15% somewhat or strongly disagree,
3% don't know / not applicable
|Censorship should exist in some form on the Internet.||10,789||71% somewhat or strongly agree,|
24% somewhat or strongly disagree,
5% don't know / not applicable
|Each individual country has the right to govern the Internet the way they see fit.||10,789||67% somewhat or strongly agree,|
29% somewhat or strongly disagree,
4% don't know / not applicable
|The Internet does more to help society than it does to hurt it.||10,789||83% somewhat or strongly agree,|
13% somewhat or strongly disagree,
4% don't know / not applicable
|How often do you read the privacy policies of websites or services that you share personal information with?||10,789||16% all the time,|
31% most of the time,
|When you are logged in to a service or application do you use privacy protections?||10,789||27% all the time,|
36% most of the time,
|Do you use "anonymization" services, for example, the "anonymize" feature in your web browser, specialized software like Tor, third - party redirection services like duckduckgo.com?||10,789||16% yes,|
43% don't know / not aware of these types of services,
3% would like to use them but I am not able to
|Increased government control of the Internet would put limits on the content I can access.||9,717||77% somewhat or strongly agree,|
18% somewhat or strongly disagree,
4% don't know / not applicable
|Increased government control of the Internet would limit my freedom of expression.||9,717||74% somewhat or strongly agree,|
23% somewhat or strongly disagree,
4% don't know / not applicable
|Increased government control of the Internet would improve the content on the Internet.||9,717||49% somewhat or strongly agree,|
44% somewhat or strongly disagree,
7% don't know / not applicable
|Increased government control of the Internet would make the Internet safe for everyone to use.||9,717||58% somewhat or strongly agree,|
35% somewhat or strongly disagree,
7% don't know / not applicable
|Increased government control of the Internet would have no effect.||9,717||31% somewhat or strongly agree,|
56% somewhat or strongly disagree,
14% don't know / not applicable
|To what degree would you accept increased control or monitoring of the Internet if you gained increased safety?||10,789||61% a lot or somewhat,|
23% not very much or not at all
Among the countries that filter or block online content, few openly admit to or fully disclose their filtering and blocking activities. States are frequently opaque and/or deceptive about the blocking of access to political information. For example:
During the Arab Spring of 2011, media jihad (media struggle) was extensive. Internet and mobile technologies, particularly social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, played and are playing important new and unique roles in organizing and spreading the protests and making them visible to the rest of the world. An activist in Egypt tweeted, "we use Facebook to schedule the protests, Twitter to coordinate, and YouTube to tell the world".
This successful use of digital media in turn led to increased censorship including the complete loss of Internet access for periods of time in Egypt and Libya in 2011. In Syria, the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA), an organization that operates with at least tacit support of the government, claims responsibility for defacing or otherwise compromising scores of websites that it contends spread news hostile to the Syrian government. SEA disseminates denial of service (DoS) software designed to target media websites including those of Al Jazeera, BBC News, Syrian satellite broadcaster Orient TV, and Dubai-based Al Arabiya TV.
In response to the greater freedom of expression brought about by the Arab Spring revolutions in countries that were previously subject to very strict censorship, in March 2011, Reporters Without Borders moved Tunisia and Egypt from its "Internet enemies" list to its list of countries "under surveillance" and in 2012 dropped Libya from the list entirely. At the same time, there were warnings that Internet censorship might increase in other countries following the events of the Arab Spring. However, in 2013, Libyan communication company LTT blocked the pornographic websites. It even blocked the family-filtered videos of ordinary websites like Dailymotion.
During the Russo-Ukrainian War in 2022, Russia was reported to have blocked the internet websites Twitter and Facebook. Facebook was noted as being suspended due to an objection to its policy of reviewing news stories for authenticity where they were produced by Russian state-backed media before allowing them to be published on its platform. It was subject to a total ban whereas Twitter was suspended regionally. Reports have identified that VPN use has enabled people to circumvent the restrictions by installing software.
It been reported that the European Union would seek to censor Russian media outlets regarded as producing propaganda.
Cop27 climate meeting in Egypt blocked access to a number of key websites such as Human Rights Watch. The information was shared by the attendees who complained of the conference internet connection blocking access to key websites that were significant for gathering data for talks during the event. According to the HRW environment director, Richard Pearshouse the Egyptian authorities blocked approximately 700 websites’ access, which included independent news media and civil society groups.
Organizations and projects:
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((cite web)): CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link), Jonathan Zittrain and John Palfrey, in Access Denied: The Practice and Policy of Global Internet Filtering Archived 26 February 2009 at the Wayback Machine, Ronald Deibert, John Palfrey, Rafal Rohozinski, and Jonathan Zittrain, eds., MIT Press (Cambridge), 2008
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