Internet censorship is the control and suppression of what the public can access, view, or publish on the internet. It is enacted by states, individuals, or organizations. The degree of internet censorship varies from one country to another. Most democratic states have moderate censorship, but some countries enforce strict censorship. Countries censor the internet for various reasons such as to control the spread of propaganda and fake news online, prevent access to obscene materials, copyrights, harassment, and to promote the use of domestic products. The following are countries that enforce a high degree of internet censorship.
China enforces strict internet censorship known as "the Great Firewall of China." The country seeks to regulate domestic internet consumption, access to popular foreign websites, and reduce cross-border traffic. The Great Firewall limits access to popular sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google products such as YouTube, Search, and Gmail. The public initially opposed internet censorship but over time, the program influenced the development of the internal internet economy and promoted the development of domestic companies by reducing the effectiveness of foreign organizations.
9. Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia has an efficient and effective system of internet censorship that blocks material considered immoral under Islamic laws and political content that are against the royal family or national policies. Popular foreign websites are not blocked but are restricted. Services such as Telegram and Facebook are subjected to data throttling that prevents image and file sharing. Sites that publish illegal content and offensive anti-Islamic materials such as gambling, X-rated materials, and websites that publish pirated material are occasionally blocked. On the positive side, internet censorship has proved successful in preventing the spread of jihad and pro-terrorism content in the country.
Vietnam adopted the Chinese handbook of internet censorship and turned it into a political weapon. The communist regime in the country ensures that the citizenry does not view anti-government and anti-communist contents. Although much of censorship is political, the state bans bloggers and social media users from publishing or gathering information concerning government authorities. Constitutional Decree 72 established the provisions to filter internet content and allows the government to take down material it considers offensive and a threat to the traditions and national security of the country.
Internet freedom in Ethiopia continues to decline since the beginning of the decade as the government impose measures to curb the recurrent anti-government protests organized over digital platforms. In November 2015, protests against the marginalization of the Oromo people turned into demonstrations seeking regime change after students organized demonstrations in the capital Addis Ababa through social media. In October 2016, the government declared a state of emergency and the country experienced an internet blackout. Throttling and shutdown are a common practice in urban environments.
Cuba censors the internet by preventing access to specific sites and limiting infrastructure that to access the internet. In 2006, reporters without borders listed Cuba as an "internet enemy” because of internet filtering policies in the country. In 2007, the government relaxed the censorship policies, and the citizens were allowed to own computers and smartphones. The state has notoriously bad internet connectivity, and Cubans can only access the internet through their cell phones by signing up to one of the many public hotspots spread across urban areas.
Less than 2% of the population in Somalia have access to the internet. A large percentage of those who access the internet is in the northern region, which is relatively peaceful compared to the rest of the country. Despite the minuscule internet connectivity, internet censorship is heavily practiced. Censorship in the country is enforced by shutting down the internet or access to certain websites critical to the government.
Internet censorship in Syria peaked after the Arab Spring began in 2011. The censorship was meant to curb the anti-government movements that were sprouting up in social media advocating for a regime change. Although the internet is censored across the country, censorship is prevalent in government control regions. The government blocks access to particular websites especially those related to politics, human rights, minorities, and those that publish anti-government materials.
Iran enforces strict internet censorship where anti-government and X-rated materials are entirely banned while websites especially social media are heavily censored. About half of the 500 most popular sites in the world are blocked in the country. American and European organizations top the list of censored websites. The state has gone and extra length to ensure that VPNs and proxies are not used to circumvent the censorship. Internet speed in the country is capped at 128 kbps which is about half of the speed in the United States.
Censorship in Eritrea stretches from the internet, the media, advertising, and even to speech. Although the state has not employed the use of sophisticated internet filtering systems, the government does not hesitate to block sites critical of the regime. Access to x-rated services and some Google services such as YouTube are also blocked.
1. North Korea
North Korea censors every aspect of the citizenry ranging from television and radio content to the activities in school. The citizens of North Korea only use smartphones produced in the state. The internet as we know, does not exist in North Korea but instead the government has created clones of social sites such as Facebook. There are two versions of the World Wide Web in North Korea. High-ranking government officials and selected persons use a protected web site while the other is accessible to the public and consist of a few social sites and thousands of information promoting the regime. To make matters worse, the internet can only be accessed through a dial-up connection.