The New Censorship Regime Frontier: Western Democracies

FP has a great piece on the increasing number of Westernized democracies joining the internet censorship game. I made some similar observations last week about Australia (available here). Internet censorship is a tricky business, and because anonymity by web users and censors is high, the potential for abuse is palpable.

Even if there are narrowly tailored and legitimate reasons to block content from the Internet (say child pornography), the framework under which actual censorship takes place ought to be very carefully designed.

To the degree I agree with any censorship regime, I like the compromise reached by Google and the German government. Google removes sites which do not comply with German laws (those banning Nazi propaganda, for example), but also makes you aware that they are doing so, with directions to ChillingEffects.org (for other background on German censorship, see here and here.) My search for “Mein Kampf” on Google.de yields several results, but two, likely white supremacist merchandise stores, are blocked:

Aus Rechtsgründen hat Google 2 Ergebnis(se) von dieser Seite entfernt. Weitere Informationen über diese Rechtsgründe finden Sie unter ChillingEffects.org.

For legal reasons, Google has 2 Result(s) from this page. For more information on these reasons, see ChillingEffects.org.

This anyway is somewhat more upfront than other censorship regimes (China, Thailand, Turkey), which alter the information universe of their users. Tiennamen or the recent Tibet police beating video simply do not exist for Chinese users. Perhaps this is one explanation for the polls which suggest the Chinese are supportive of benign internet censorship. They have been excluded from the necessary and demystifying power of internet muckracking. Internet censorship, including troubling new developments in Western democracies, cuts muckrackers off at the source.

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One Response to “The New Censorship Regime Frontier: Western Democracies”

  1. Internet & Democracy Blog » One Web To Rule Them All… Says:

    […] bureaucrats, can get it right, and the threat of creeping regulation. There seems to be a rash of Western democratic governments perfectly content to set up shoddy censorship regimes. Given the web’s international nature, […]