So you think the Internet is open and free? Think again. Evidence is mounting that virtually all governments and many ISPs are blocking content, restricting access and generally trying to slow and control the evolution of The Net. A bad thing. A very bad thing for democracy, for citizen oversight and journalism, and for freedom of research and speech.
So just how pervasive is this trend? Well, we all know about the dictatorships around the world that are so frightened by free expression they've clamped down on Net access. China, N. Korea and a variety of conservative Muslim countries all block many sites and significant portions of Net content. Read the Economist article on the subject here. And then there's US Cable provider Comcast, blocking streaming video sites at peak hours in the name of preserving bandwidth. Enhancing profit and annoying supposedly valuable customers is more like it. Read about recent Comcast hearings at this site.
And for really cool, interactive maps highlighting countries that block various kinds of content including social network sites, check out Open Net's fine mapping page. You'll be blown away by the data. And check out the organization's blog here. I'm adding this important site to my blogroll.
The news that Japan is planning to control all non-corporate news sites is particularly unwelcome and distrubing. After all, the rest of the free world just doesn't expect this kind of behavior from a country with such sterling high-tech roots. But then again, Japan also has the most robots on the planet - which some citizens and politicians seem to prefer to resident immigrants according to news reports.
The Wikileaks shutdown and US Air Force block (source) on any sites with the word "blog" in their title brings this trend home, to the "...land of the free and home of the brave." Well, not free enough to provide open access and not brave enough to embrace blogs it seems. Now that's a disappointment.
Wikileaks, a website that allows whistleblowers to post government and corporate documents anonymously, was shut down recently after a concerned Swiss bank got a dummie federal judge to abandon the constitution. Their principal concern? The site was uncensorable. In other words, out of their control. So much for promoting transparency in our workplace, government and society at large. The ACLU & EFF have come to the rescue with a number of other concerned parties (source). In an even more stupid and insidious move, the US Air Force has determined that blogs represent a threat to the readiness of our servicemen. Uh huh. Like I'm buying that. Read the WIRED report about it here.