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Be Afraid - Sort Of

The strength of web activism is apparent from the extent to which authoritarian governments are going to block web and social network access and to censor social and political web content. 

Although I'm dubious about the neutrality of the source, the Bureau of International Information Programs (U.S. State Department) funded Freedom House has released a study that warns:

According to the findings, threats to Internet freedom are growing and diversifying both in the array of countries that impose restrictions and in the range of methods employed.

Among the countries called out are the obvious candidates -- Cuba, China and Iran. Then the less obvious but maybe not so surprising "restrictive" regimes are fingered -- Egypt, Malaysia, and Russia. Even the United Kingdom, Brazil, and Turkey are taken to task for the fact that "censorship decisions are made with a serious lack of transparency, even if the information targeted is primarily small amounts of well-defined content, such as child pornography."

What I like, though, is the description of how people are finding work-arounds:

Despite the growing range of threats and controls, citizens operating even in highly Internet-restricted environments are findings (sic) creative ways to produce and spread information. In Cuba, with its tight controls on access, citizens share downloaded Internet content offline, often through USB devices, a phenomenon termed "sneakernets." In China, persecuted Tibetans, Uighur Muslims and Falun Gong practitioners have used digital media to send abroad documentation of torture, while domestically challenging Communist Party propaganda via blogs and underground DVDs. In Tunisia, the blog NormalLand discusses Tunisian politics by using a virtual country with a virtual leader, and with various government positions being assigned to other local bloggers.

It may be naive, and somewhat geeky, but it gives me confidence to know talented and democratic activists and hackers in authoritarian regimes and even democracies like the U.K. and the U.S. (of which no mention is made at all, of course) are busy finding by-passes to political 'blue pencils'. 

People Familiar with the Investigations

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