There’s lots of countries where the Internet is free and then there’s the list of usual suspects that practice some kind of Internet filtering or censorship. Some of the names on the list are countries that we already know since they’re not advocates of free speech anyway; still others are more minor players you might not have suspected but are nevertheless not surprised to find labeled as censors.
Algeria is a good example of one of these countries. When this country suffered through some protests last year, their reaction was to block Facebook intermittently. Reports from the time say that rioting was the reason for the government crackdown and the explanation as to why people had taken to the streets was rising food prices.
Soon after the collapse of autocratic rule in Egypt, Libya was quick to start banning both Facebook and Twitter. As early as August of last year, there were published reports that the country was coming back online after a six month blackout.
Of course there are other countries guilty of Internet filtering and some of the catch phrases that are used to cover up this kind of control include “securing intellectual property rights, protecting national security” and “shielding children from pornography and exploitation.”
Regardless of the phrasing that’s used, there’s always the argument that the restrictions are enacted to curb what’s called the lawlessness of the medium.
There are generally several different ways this form of censorship is enacted and they include technical blocking, search results removal, take down and induced self censorship. While the latest blocking news comes from a country that has never really been an advocate of free speech, the length to which Pakistan is going to block websites puts it at the top of the list for now.
A recent report states that country is adverting for Internet blocking software to block up to fifty million web addresses that it considers undesirable. While the case can be made to block pornographic sites, there’s really no precedent for the way that Pakistan is going about shopping for a censor. And there’s plenty of criticism.
Comments from Shahzad Ahmad, the director of Bytes for All Pakistan sound a lot like the ones that might be made in any of the other countries where the Arab Spring has taken place, or even here in the West.
“The government has nothing to do with what I choose to look at,” he recently told the dailyherald.com. Of course these are the voices that need to be heard as loudly and as often as the government perspective.