An Evaluation of Internet Policies and Power

“In today’s world, information is power, and policies on the flow of information shape economic, developmental, and societal outcomes” (Group 1).


Group 1 made an excellent presentation of the immense amount of power in the hands of those that control the internet, as well as how that power shapes the rest of world.  Internet censorship is one of the ways governments are able to control the internet through available content in addition to laws that control individual speech and expression.

Russia is one government that chooses to enact censorship on a grandiose scale.  In 2012, the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media enacted the Blacklist Law which allowed the Russian government to censor websites that contain content deemed unsuitable for minors or containing extremist ideologies against the government.  Under these laws, if one page of a website is deemed unsuitable, the rest of the website is also eligible to be blacklisted.  If one blog post is deemed inappropriate, it’s likely the entire blog will be shutdown.  The websites that have been blacklisted are listed on the Roskomnadzor website.  According to Group 1’s presentation and RT, in 2014, “Facebook, Gmail and Twitter were warned by the Russian Government.”

Coincidentally, I recently attended a Freedom House forum on internet freedoms.  During that forum I heard two women – one from Azerbaijan and one from Pakistan – expel stories of their countries and their immense fear and lack of hope when it comes to freedom on the web.  The girl from Azerbaijan told a story of a prominent blogger that went to renew his identity card and was subsequently told he had been using a fake ID card, had his ID seized by the government, and now he is unable to leave the country.  This was all because of statements he made online.  The girl from Pakistan explained that four women had been stoned this year merely for owning cell phones.

Report: Internet Freedom Declines Worldwide

These stories are tragic and illuminating into the power of the internet, censorship and culture. “There is an inevitable conflict between two distinct social values. The question is how do societies value those competing rights. Technology didn’t create the tension but just revealed it in a dramatic way” (Elliot Schrage, Facebook Vice President of Communication and Public Policy).  Group 1 did a great job illuminating a number of areas where internet has the potential to empower or imprison.


3 thoughts on “An Evaluation of Internet Policies and Power

  1. I was intrigued by this group’s presentation as well. We have spoken in length throughout the semester about how information governance can either manifest as a state tool to empower to imprison. This case draws on the principle of communication as an arm of the state’s agenda, which in this case, is to manipulate. My concern, however: to what end will the Russian government continue its suppresive policies regarding the internet? I’m not all too familiar with the dynamics of Russian policies, but what is their primary motivation in having such strict regulations? If the RT is also engaged in public diplomacy, its veyr ironic and counterintuitive that they’re so hell-bent on blacklisting. Unless, that is, blacklisting is an integral part of their PD efforts– to maintain what is positive about the country’s image and hide what is negative.

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  2. I had no idea the Russian government maintains a blacklist of websites. I already knew that China is immensely strict in their internet censorship, but this information about Russia is completely new to me.
    When I think about censorship in places like China and Russia, I notice that they are both nations that we don’t exactly get along with. Countries like Pakistan may fall into the same category, but China and Russia are the big ones. My impression is that internet censorship happens for two reasons. One, to maintain absolute power over the people. Two, because it goes against the United States. I certainly think that the main reason for censorship has to do with power maintenance, but I get the sense that it also takes a stab at the US.
    I can see Russia’s face (if it had one) smirking at the US out of spite, just to say that it doesn’t want to be like the US. With the tendency to demonize the US, this action supports that idea. While the US is allowing freedoms over the web, Russia is demonizing that action by forcing the opposite upon their citizens. It seems to be saying “the US is allowing this, so it is inherently evil, and we must not allow it.” Granted, this is only an impression, but the US’s relationship with Russia has always been a little rocky.


  3. I agree that this group did a great job presenting some modern questions of internet censorship and privacy. When I looked at the video you posted in regard to Freedom House’s report, it noted that over half of the 65 nations studied for the report have strengthened their policies in regard to internet censorship, and 10 of those countries have gone so far as to arrest internet users. This is certainly step in the wrong direction as the internet is a medium that acts as the world’s coffee house and classroom- it enables people from different areas of the world meet, talk, and exchange ideas, and this is stifled when governments engage in censorship activities that scare people away from engaging.

    I think it is interesting that Russia is utilizing such aggressive censorship practices with the passage of its “blacklist law.” I can’t help but think back to the Egyptian revolution when the Mubarak regime completely blocked Facebook, which only frustrated the population further and pushed them to into the streets to figure out what was happening. This then supported the momentum of the revolution. Although this is not likely to happen in a similar way in Russia, cutting off major social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter are likely to frustrate the population, and perhaps fuel unrest and frustration towards the government rather than restraining it.


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