Home ‘Enemies of the Internet’: Not Just For Dictators Anymore

‘Enemies of the Internet’: Not Just For Dictators Anymore

Reporters Without Borders released its annual report [PDF] on online access today. They call it Enemies of the Internet, and it shows a world where online censorship, intimidation and worse is increasing.

It’s not surprising that as access to the Internet expands, more and more dictators and tyrants will try to suppress it. But what’s troubling about this year’s report is the inclusion of two democratic countries: Australia and South Korea.

Both countries were included in the report’s Under Surveillance list – a sub group of the main Enemies list.

Australia’s proposed online filtering system is something RWB says it has “never before seen in a democracy.” Additionally, in the state of South Australia it’s now against the law to be anonymous online if it’s in the context of an election.

In South Korea, a new censorship law allows for five-year prison sentences for anyone found using the Internet “to disseminate false news intended to damage the public interest.” The same law requires online visitors to register their real name and national ID card number when visiting sites with more than 100,000 members.

Here are a handful of the worst violators of online freedom of expression on the Enemies of the Internet list:


Two high-ranking government officials have been sentenced to death for having e-mailed documents abroad. Net censorship is a serious matter in Burma. Massive filtering of websites and extensive slowdowns during times of unrest are daily occurrences for the country’s Internet users. The legislation governing Internet use – the Electronic Act – is one of the most liberticidal laws in the world.


As its polemic with Google and the United States on the Internet’s future unfolds, China continues to intensify Web censorship, faced with an increasingly forceful online community.The much-vaunted promises made by organizers at the open ceremonies of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games have proven to be mere illusions for the world’s biggest netizen prison. Expanded dissemination of propaganda, generalized surveillance and crackdowns on Charter 08 signatories are commonplace on what has become the Chinese Intranet – with significant consequences for trade.


More than a mere virtual communications tool, the Egyptian Internet has become a mobilization and dissension platform. Although website blocking remains limited, authorities are striving to regain control over bloggers who are more and more organized, despite all the harassment and arrests.


Iran, one of cyber-censorship’s record-holding countries, has stepped up its crackdown and online surveillance since the protests over the disputed presidential reelection of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on June 12, 2009. The regime is demonizing the new media, which it is accusing of serving foreign interest.While a dozen netizens are serving out their terms in Evin Prison, bold Internet users are continuing to mobilize.

Saudi Arabia



An emerging bloggers’ community is up against harsh censorship. These bloggers are confronting the traditional forces of Saudi society, which are attempting to prevent the Internet from becoming a forum for free discussions. Saudi Arabia is one of the first countries to have been authorized to write Internet domain names in Arabic.The Internet penetration rate, currently estimated at about 38% of the population, is rising. How- ever, it is still one of the most repressive countries with regard to the Internet.

Syria is reinforcing its censorship of troublesome topics on the Web and tracking netizens who dare to express themselves freely on it. As a result, social networks have been particularly targeted by omnipresent surveillance. The promised technological improvements are slow to materialize. The authorities’ distrust of the potential for dissident online mobilization may be playing a role in this delay.

The progress made by Vietnam in the domain of human rights, which allowed the country to become a member of the World Trade Organization in 2007, is nothing but a distant memory. As the 2011 Communist Party Congress draws nearer, the regime is muffling dissident views on the Internet, and its first target is critics of the country’s policy toward China.

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