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George Orwell’s 1984 reborn in the Digital World

Censorship on the Internet is growing. That is official, state sponsored censorship. Here is an article in The Chronicle Review by Professor Harry Lewis, Harvard University, that examines the players, what is at stake and the implications for the free flow of information.


“Bits are already filtered and monitored as they cross national borders. In China, if you want to visit www.freetibet.org (the Web site of a Tibetan independence group) or falundafa.org (the site of the banned spiritual group Falun Gong), you will temporarily lose your Internet connection. The OpenNet Initiative, a partnership of Internet research centers at Harvard University and the Universities of Cambridge, Oxford, and Toronto, documents technology-enabled, fine-tuned censorship all over the world: no sex in Saudi Arabia, no Holocaust denials in Australia, no shocking images of war dead in Germany, no insults to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in Turkey. Some of those bans mimic pre-Internet censorship laws, but authorities install harsh new ones in response to internationally significant events, such as the monks' protests in Myanmar in 2007.


“American publishers can be affected by the censorship practices of foreign governments. Australia's highest court found the Web version of Barron's, the financial newspaper, guilty of libel in a case brought by an Australian businessman, Joseph Gutnick, even though the article would not have been considered defamatory under U.S. laws in New Jersey, where the Web servers were located. Web publishers, cowed by threats of legal action, may adapt to the restrictions of their major markets abroad. Happily, Congress has responded by prohibiting American courts from enforcing libel judgments in nations lacking U.S. free-speech standards. But that won't prevent journalists from being detained or publishers' property from being seized abroad to settle such claims.”

Link: http://chronicle.com/free/v55/i19/19b00901.htm

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