The thin line between monitoring and censorship

Pierluigi Paganini December 20, 2011

During the last year we have seen the consolidation of the tendency to use social media as a major vector for the exchange of information. The imperative is to be social, no matter if you need to share photos with friends or to express an opinion on a topic of social interest. Over the past year a large number of protests have been conducted through the major social networking platforms from Twitter to Tacebook, because they have an extraordinary power amplifiers media that is able to reach an audience of planetary with a simple click.

These considerations are, however, are well known to governments across the world in a more or less declared are confronting these new tools. The approach has been wrong, in my opinion, having raised the issue in too much control, monitoring, instead of listening connentrarsi global sentiment to guide their political choices.

Social media are designed as new fields of battle, you are thought of as a pawn in a chess board that must be constantly monitored and if necessary excluded from the mediatic circulation when they exceed the exposition of concepts unpopular to governments. Be committing a serious error if we considered only the problem of some realities such as China or Egypt. In various ways and in varying measure all states are equipped to carry out a more or less closely control of the media and of Internet in general. For goodness sake, do not call it censorship looking journalistic bombastic titles, but we must surely reflect on what happening. I will try soon to propose some objective data in order to allow the reader to understand in what direction we are moving forward.

Few days ago I have read a news regarding the Russia approach to the affair. They desire to improve a Chinese-style government regulation of the Internet, a top official said Wednesday, after election protesters organised nationwide rallies through social networking sites.
“Attempts to stop people communicating are in principle counterproductive and even immoral. But we cannot ignore the use of the Internet by criminals and terrorist groups,” Russia’s Security Council chief Nikolai Patrushev said in an interview with Argumenty i Fakty newspaper.
“Of course there should be reasonable regulation in Russia, just as it is done in the United States, China and many other countries.”

Translating Russia intent, they are planning to release a massive monitor system that will be used to control internet usage of a Nations that in September became the European country with the largest number of Internet users, according to Comscore ratings agency, and the use of blogs and social networking sites has boomed in recent years.  Do you not find the news disturbing? Is it correct to operate in this way to ensure national security?

China as a model to follow, in which the plenum of the Communist Party in October, decided to put under the protection the Republic from “immoral TV ‘network and from the mother of the disorders, internet.
In a previous post we discussed about the father of all the censorship project, “The Golden Shield“, a system used to
obscure sites with objectionable content, filtering every sort of network traffic and with whom he has had to confront even the giant “Sina Weibo”, the Chinese version of Twitter, banned in the country since August 2009. “Sina Weibo” is a colossus that can post 400 million of views, including those responsible for the boom of the Web in China: more than 500 million Internet users, Internet users the world record in the country that invests more nell’ocuramento the Net.  The “People’s Daily”, the official organ of the party has released a document in which the plenum concluded on October 18 launched a plan to control and management of social networks and instant messaging services requesting that all Chinese Internet users must be scheduled to internet access. It is in fact an offensive against the microblog, considered the weapon of the last Mediterranean and revolutions in China to escape state control.

Let give a look to what is happening in India where the Minister Kapil Sibal seeks to censor User-Generated Content Online using humans to screen content and not technology, he said after a meeting with officials from Facebook, Google, YouTube and Yahoo on Monday, 5 December 2011.
This is a dangerous scenarios, Internet in India is under threat of censorship and e-surveillance. The Government has increased e-surveillance activities to intolerable limits. In first time the Government proposed central monitoring system (CMS) project of India without any parliamentary oversight, after the development of an Internet kill switch also given by India without public consent.

Various official reasons, the same intent. The United States joined to the common direction proposing the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) that is seriously undermining the principle of freedom of expression. The SOPA is a bill introduced on October 26, 2011 to the U.S. House of Representatives. If approved as proposed, would allow copyright holders to the U.S. to take direct action to prevent the spread of protected content. Imagine the potential impact of the legislation? To this info add the certainty that Cia and FBI use to monitor social network for any kind of investigation.

This few examples are enough to cover over half the worldwide internet users and to show how tenuous is the line between control and monitoring for safety and the imposition of a brutal censorship.  Needless to illusions, each surfer is now controlled and we need to take in serious consideration also the actions made by large corporations which are building what I call the “private cansorship” asserved to government orders. You can access to social platform, share videos, publish comment on a forum … but be aware to not violate any rule of conduct otherwise you can have an hugly surprise … your account could be disabled in the same time on differen social media. Try to believe!

Obviously the speech deserves more spacious than a few lines in this blog. Personally, I feel obliged to some reflection. I agree on the need for a cyber strategy that will undoubtedlyalso provide mechanisms for monitoring social media, but this does not justify the actions of censorship that can not be tolerated by a civilized society based on freedom of expression.

Pierluigi Paganini

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