“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.
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.