The United States of America owns the internet. We built it. We maintain it. And we own ICANN. The internet is the single greatest gift the United States has given to the world, because it is the most effective weapon we have ever devised against the forces of tyranny.
If the United Nations were to ever gain control over it, as they so desire, then it is entirely likely that these despotic regimes would be able to hijack the internet and begin formally censoring content.
The latest evidence of these clampdowns comes in a report on the Middle East and north Africa by the OpenNet Initiative (ONI), a collaboration of researchers based in the UK and North America. Among the restrictions it reports are clampdowns on Facebook in Syria and the use of hidden cameras in Saudi Arabia’s internet cafes.
Most of these actions are aimed at stifling political debate. “Political filtering is the common denominator,” says Helmi Noman of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society in Boston, who compiled the report. “It’s the main target.”
Noman asked volunteers to check whether roughly 2000 sites covering a range of subjects, including gambling, political news and humour, are accessible in various countries. He also examined government eavesdropping schemes and the actions of local law enforcers.
The survey showed that governments in the Middle East and north Africa routinely block sites that host discussions critical of their policies or that cover human rights issues. Opposition parties’ sites are also censored.