“There is no freedom without freedom of information. There is no freedom of information without Internet freedom.”
That saying comes from the website of the Global Internet Freedom Consortium, whose ambition is one we can only praise: helping those living in closed societies take down the Internet firewalls that separate them from the rest of the world.
The group was among those represented at VOA headquarters here in Washington DC today at a workshop organized by the Broadcasting Board of Governors on “New Media vs. New Censorship: The Authoritarian Assault on Information.”
China’s government is perhaps the best known and certainly the largest of the Internet censors. Its efforts to control access to the web are well known and received considerable publicity during the recent Olympics.
But the workshop heard that China is now exporting its censorship technology to countries like Iran and Cuba, two other governments who, along with Burma, are responsible for what the Consortium terms “the Dark Ages in cyberspace.”
There is more to fear, though. Today’s meeting also heard that China is working on a new kind of filter that will enable censors to do more sophisticated work than simply block a single page or site. The new filter will target specific content on the Internet. For example, any material that might describe the late Chinese leader Mao Zedong in positive terms would remain open to readers in China. But any derogatory information about Mao would lead to that particular page or site being blocked.
It’s tough work, trying to stay ahead of the Internet censors. But VOA will keep working with its partners to thwart those who would suppress or manipulate information online.