Almost every day, we see new examples of the power of connection technologies...The Arab spring brought home the power of the Internet to governments far beyond the Middle East, and the result has been more censorship, more surveillance and more restrictions...the Internet space – which has seemed so open and free – could become less so.
Chinese authorities have stepped up efforts in recent weeks to rein in the hugely popular microblogging sites that have become an alternative source of real-time news for millions while challenging the Communist Party’s traditional grip on information.
Some governments are using advanced technologies to chill free expression, to stifle dissent, to identify and arrest dissidents," Deputy Assistant Secretary Baer said. "Through our diplomacy and through direct support for embattled activists worldwide, we are helping people stay one step ahead of the censors, the hackers, and the brutes who beat them up or imprison them for what they say online.
When the Chinese government spends vast amounts in Africa to set up communications infrastructure for dictators to flood the populace with their messages, public diplomacy has a new dimension. China is also offering this same region a propaganda-free news service, at a vastly cheaper cost than traditional Western news services. This is a sign of soft power and strategic influence are now going online.
The U.S. State Department is set to announce $28 million in grants to help Internet activists, particularly in countries where the governments restrict e-mail and social networks such as those offered by Facebook Inc., Twitter Inc. and Google Inc.
In her time as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton has made supporting internet freedom a core tenet of U.S. foreign policy. Two major speeches, months of debate, and a wave of Middle East protests making use of online technologies later, it’s clear that discussion about internet freedom as a U.S. foreign policy priority is here to stay.
A congressional debate over how best to promote Internet freedom abroad is about to run into budget politics. A little-known provision in both Senate and House stopgap plans would strip the State Department of some of its funding for technology that breaks through Internet censors.
As protests and unrest continue to destabilize the Middle East and North Africa, the effects of these popular revolutions have predictably affected Internet access in these countries. Below is a list of recent filtering measures implemented by governments who continue to face opposition from their citizens.