Even the most open, democratic governments have sought laws and new forms of surveillance that many see as a new wave of censorship -- and that includes the United States.
The U.S. government asked Google for data on its users more than 31,000 times in 2012 alone, for example. And the government rarely obtained a search warrant first, Google recently revealed; in nearly all cases, the company ended up turning over at least some data.
Some argue that heightened surveillance, restrictions on Internet freedom and even censorship are necessary to protect intellectual property rights, prevent cyberespionage, fight child pornography, and protect national interests such as nuclear power plants from hackers. And here the U.S. is far from alone.
"A number of democratic states have considered or implemented various restrictions in response to the potential legal, economic, and security challenges raised by new media," notes the Freedom House report "Freedom on the Net 2012."
When the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) met in Dubai in December, some 89 member countries including Russia, China, Cuba and Iran, supported a treaty that would give individual governments more control over the Internet's infrastructure.
Sensing a thinly veiled attempt to suppress dissent, 55 countries -- including Canada and the U.S. -- said no.
The U.S. government continues to conduct warrantless online searches. Thanks to outdated laws such as the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 and other regulations protecting copyrighted materials, U.S. authorities are increasingly looking at private online communications, often without any oversight by a judge.
Google says it has seen a 70 percent increase in requests from authorities for information about its users, information which includes private emails and search data. The biggest requester? The U.S. government, which sought information 8,438 times in the last six months of 2012. Google complied with those requests in roughly 88 percent of the cases.more