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Study Finds 25 Countries Block Web Sites

The OpenNet Initiative, a collaboration between researchers at Cambridge, the University of Oxford, Harvard University and the University of Toronto, had the time and capabilities to study only 40 countries and the Palestinian territories. The group found that at least 25 countries around the world block Web sites for political, social or other reasons. Researchers said they found more censorship than they had initially expected, a sign that the Internet has matured to the point that governments are taking notice. China, Iran, Myanmar, Syria, Tunisia and Vietnam had the most extensive filters for political sites. Iran, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen had the strictest social-filtering practices, blocking pornography, gambling and gay and lesbian sites.

In some countries, censorship was narrow. South Korea, for instance, tends to block only information about its neighbouring rival, North Korea. Yet researchers found no filtering at all in Russia, Israel or the Palestinian territories despite political conflicts there. Governments generally had no mechanism for citizens to complain about any erroneous blocking, with Saudi Arabia, Oman and the United Arab Emirates being among the exceptions.

The organization said the regions chosen for review should not be considered comprehensive as it didn't include any countries in North America or Western Europe on grounds that filtering practices there have been better known than elsewhere. It also excluded North Korea and Cuba for fear of risks to collaborators it would need in those countries. The group supplied software to volunteers in each of the countries tested. Web sites checked include those for gambling, pornography and human-rights abuses. Jonathan Zittrain, professor of Internet governance and regulation at Oxford, said filtering appeared to occur most widely in countries where Internet penetration is higher, possibly explaining the lack of any censorship efforts in Russia and Egypt.

News source: Physorg

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