Thursday, November 13, 2008

What Makes Censorship Succeed?

A recent article about Argentina's attempt to block Internet users from searching for information about some of the country's most notable individuals that showed up in Slashdot has made me ponder. How do you run a successful censorship campaign in the Internet? As explained in the post, it is trivial to make such attempts a complete failure [1].

What most people forget or do not want to acknowledge is in order for it to succeed a coercive element has to be present, and that is the lack of basic human rights. Let us for instance take my home country, Turkey. Access to YouTube is blocked (I am using a proxy, kind of slow but it works), whole is unreachable (I am not using ISP's DNS and can run my own if necessary, I have bind installed, so the miserable attempt fails).

Now, think again. Why does it fail? It fails because no one is knocking down my door in the middle of the night and take me and my computer with a lame excuse that I am using a proxy or VPN, or running my own domain name server. The said actions are recorded by my ISP. They know that I am using a proxy, etc; they simply do not know the final destination and the law enforcement authorities do not act on the assumption that I am indulging in a criminal activity because I use such services. My privacy is respected (almost).

OK, think once more. Why does it succeed in [insert a country here]? These are the ones that are run by rogue people and pathetic ideologies or belief systems. Sadly, their biggest allies happen to be the allegedly most democratic nations of the world.

[1] In the article, search results for Diego Maradona (famous soccer player)were given. You can try them, too: Yahoo! Argentina and Yahoo! Mexico search.


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