Watchdog group says Internet censorship accelerating

OpenNet Initiative says Internet censorship is now practiced by about two dozen countries, and is rapidly spreading.

OpenNet is a project by Harvard Law School and the universities of Toronto, Cambridge and Oxford.

The warning comes a week after a Turkish court ordered the blocking of YouTube to silence comments about Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey. This was the most direct and visible attack on YouTube so far.

OpenNet conducted a six-month investigation into censorship, and found that many countries gain technological expertise by consulting with China, which has the most experience in censoring.

Techniques include the barring of complete applications, such as China’s block on Wikipedia, or Pakistan’s ban on Google’s blogging service.(I know Iran blocked Wikipedia. Is this a typo, or has China also blocked it? — AZ )

Censors also use more advanced technologies such as “keyword filtering,” which tracks material by identifying specific words.

OpenNet repeatedly tried to call up specific websites from 1,000 international news and other sites in the countries concerned. It noticed a dramatic trend toward closing web sites down.

Ronald Deibert, associate professor of political science at the University of Toronto, said 10 countries regularly prevent their citizens seeing a range of online material. These countries included China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Burma and Uzbekistan.