OECD Conducts Meeting to Discuss the Future of Internet

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The OECD is having a two day meeting during June 28th and 29th  dedicated to discuss the issues of Internet regulations and further tendencies of web development. The participants at the meeting are government ministers, industry experts and business leaders.

The main question that is to be discussed during the meeting is the implementation of Internet regulations that will facilitate the development of the web and at the same time will protect online privacy, web anonymity and intellectual property. Protecting Internet privacy and online security are of crucial importance and web censorship should not destroy them, but preserve and maintain them.

Among the other topics at the meeting are the increment of broadband access and competition, and the protection of Internet openness, especially in non-democratic countries where governments deprive users of Internet access or implement tough forms of censorship that prevent the dynamism and growth of the web.

While preparing the meeting, the OECD has released several documents, such as Communications Outlook 2011, National Broadband Plans, Next Generation Access Networks and Market Structures and Fibre Access – Network Developments in the OECD Area.

According to the OECD, “this high-level meeting builds upon the OECD Ministerial on The Future of the Internet Economy held in Seoul, Korea in June 2008. Drawing together leaders from all stakeholder communities, this new meeting aims to continue fostering the development of the Internet economy.”


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Australia Implements Internet Censorship

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Next month,  Australia is going to start censoring some websites. The two largest Internet providers, Telstra and Optus, assented to restricting access to more than 500 sites with child abuse content. It will be the beginning of the implementation of  a $9.8 million Federal Government scheme that aims to make Internet service providers to offer their customers an optional service  for  blocking sites containing Refused Classification material.

However, Internet experts claim that this kind of censorship has some drawbacks. First of all, it lacks efficiency. These restrictions won’t stop criminals from accessing the banned content because they will be able to circumvent the restrictions and unblock websites easily.

Donna Ashelford, board member of System Administrators Guild of Australia, asserts that “the effectiveness will be trivial because you're just blocking a single website address (and) a person can get around it by changing that address  by just one character. Child abuse material is more likely to be exchanged on peer-to-peer and private networks anyway, and it is a matter for law enforcement.”

Moreover, people worry that some websites can be unfairly blocked. It is not clear what criteria is taken into consideration to define the sites that should be banned. It is said that some URLs will be  unreasonably blocked and there is a need to make the process more transparent.

Colin Jacobs, member of the Electronic Frontiers Association, insists that his organization is “waiting to hear details on this from the Government. It they turn out to be zealous with the type of material that is on the list then we'd want to have a discussion about ways to introduce more transparency.”


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US Government Creating “Shadow Internet” to Bypass Web Censorship

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It has been reported that Obama's administration has started the creation of a duplicate Internet that would be able to help people from the countries with repressive regimes to bypass censorship. According to the New York Times, the US is going to develop a so-called "shadow" Internet and mobile phone systems in order to support web anonymity and facilitate putting an end to repressive regimes.

It is also said that the US government plans to create independent cellphone networks in non-democratic countries and launch "Internet in a suitcase" that could be available in every country and would provide Internet access globally. The US authorities are reported to have allocated $ 2 million for the development of this project.

The US is financing the launch of wireless networks in non-free countries in order to give dissidents an opportunity to communicate with each other in case the Internet is blocked. The New York Times said that the government had already spent at least $50 million developing such a network in Afghanistan.

Many people from countries as Iran, Syria, Libya, and Japan use the best VPN services to bypass limitations imposed by the authorities. It is a reliable way to stay connected and protected. But even a VPN connection is not helpful if the Internet. shuts down completely. After Hosni Mubarak turned off the Internet during the political uprisings in Egypt, it has become a common practice in countries with repressive regimes.


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Will the Freedom Box Project Help to Protect Online Privacy?

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Web anonymity and privacy are under threat in many countries of the modern world. To keep them safe, the new Freedom Box project was launched. The main goals of its creators are to protect freedom of expression and users’ private data on Internet. The members of the project are supporters of Free Society and world without censorship.

The Freedom Box project was developed by the Freedom Box Foundation under the direction of Eben Moglen, professor at Columbia Law School and founder of the Software Freedom Law Center. He claims that there are four forces that, when trying to achieve their own goals, are depriving users of online privacy . These forces are governments, content owners, data miners and network operators. Moglen is concerned that the government can start using social networking sites to track people.

And there is evidence that his words may become true. Recently, Facebook launched facial recognition in users’ accounts without prior notification. This fact just confirms that Facebook is likely to be an “automated gathering intelligence agency” as Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, called it. There are also many examples of tough internet censorship in non-democratic countries.

That’s why it is high time to take care of protecting internet privacy. One of the most reliable ways to be protected is to use a VPN connection that can help us maintain privacy and anonymity when surfing the net.


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Circumvention of Online Censorship

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As we have already informed, in countries with non-democratic regimes, internet censorship has become the main means for the governments to control society and prevent social unrest. Nevertheless, there are many ways for users to bypass internet restrictions, and everyone chooses the most suitable for him/her. The selected tool will depend on what you’re doing on the internet: uploading, downloading or just surfing. More and more often, overviews of such tools are published on any kind of websites.

TMCnet.com recently published an article called “11 Ways to Circumvent Internet Blockades.” The author insists that “no censorship circumvention tool is 100 percent safe“, and adds: “Rule number 1: you’re clever, but the authorities are cleverer.”

There is always the risk of being detected. Internet cafes do not offer full anonymity, your activities can be reported to the authorities.

The majority of users all over the world consider VPN to be the best way to circumvent online censorship. The best VPN services provide high level of security and don’t slow down the user’s connection. Besides VPN, there are other circumvention tools that are widely used to evade limitations. Their effectiveness depends a lot on the users’ activity on the internet: uploading, downloading or just browsing.

Every tool has its own advantages and disadvantages. Some of them, like JAP, YourFreedom, Tor or Psiphon provide their users with good technical support, portability and easiness of usage, but they are not always reliable and often make the Internet work  very slow.

Circumvention tools are developed both by non-governmental organizations and by commercial companies that promote availability of Internet, support freedom of expression and consider online censorship to be a violation of users’ rights.


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Internet Censorship Spreads all over the World

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The Internet has already become the most popular tool for mass communication. Every year the number of people using Internet grows, but at the same time more and more governments implement online censorship in their countries. Nowadays there are about 40 countries that have web censorship; compared to 2002, when there were only four.

Protecting internet privacy is of crucial importance for users from different places. That’s why some people consider any form of government intrusion to be a violation of their rights. But others think that every freedom should have its limits and admit that some restrictions are reasonable, for example the prohibition of child pornography.

However, the toughest censorship usually is used in countries with repressive regimes such as China, Vietnam, Ethiopia and Iran. The repressive governments use censorship to achieve their own latent goals, to prevent protests and to find people that disagree with their policies. Usually, web sites that can jeopardize the current regime are banned in these states.

There are a lot of countries where only a limited number of users have Internet access. We have already reported about the situation in Syria, Cuba, North Korea, Yemen and many other countries where people are not allowed to visit the majority of sites. Many users in these countries have to bypass restrictions with the help of the best VPN services available, that provide them with secure browsing and the guarantee of high-end web anonymity.


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UN Considers Internet Access to be a Human Right

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The United Nations (UN) assume that Internet access is an inalienable human right and consider  that to be disconnected from the web is a violation of human rights and international laws. A report of the UN Human Rights Council’s 17th session says that Internet gives people an opportunity to exploit a lot of human rights and that it favors the progress of humankind.

La Rue, a Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, claimed that “the Internet enables individuals to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds instantaneously and inexpensively across national borders”. That’s why he considers an Internet cutoff to be unacceptable. 

Internet restrictions are necessary and justifiable in such areas as child pornography, but in many cases governments use blocking or filtering mechanisms to achieve their own hidden agenda. According to the report , it  should be an independent judicial authority or body who defines the scope of Internet censorship.

La Rue is deeply concerned that Internet users have only relative web anonymity, because governments can monitor and collect private information about them. This intervention violates people’s right to online privacy and smashes Internet security.

The report also incites governments to include trainings on Internet literacy in school curricula, because it can “help individuals learn how to protect themselves against harmful content, and explain the potential consequences of revealing private information on the Internet”.


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How to Unblock VoIP

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VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol and is used for communication worlwide. With the help of VoIP you can stay in touch with your business partners, as well as with your family and friends. VoIP services are extremely popular among people from different countries, because their users can save money. It is cheaper to make calls using VoIP than through a mobile phone.

Nevertheless, there are countries where VoIP services are banned. Among them are United Arab Emirates, Oman, Lebanon, Kuwait, and Belize. And there is a valid reason for it. In many countries, governments run telecommunication companies, and it is obvious that they don’t want to lose the income that they make from international and domestic calls.

In India, it is legal to use VoIP, but it is illegal to have VoIP gateways inside India. In the UAE and Oman, it is illegal to use any form of VoIP, to the extent that  Skype and Gizmo5 websites are blocked. Providing or using VoIP services is illegal in Oman. In the Republic of Korea, only providers registered with the government are authorized to offer VoIP services.

Many people ask on forums how to unblock VoIP calls in their countries.

A lot of users from the countries listed above consider that using VPN services is be the best way to bypass restrictions. Internet restrictions are usually based on the IP address. A VPN connection gives you an opportunity to surf  the Internet anonymously and hides your real IP, so you can browse blocked websites and use banned services including VoIP. A fast VPN is the most suitable if you want to make VoIP calls, because it provides better communication quality.


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India’s Internet Restrictions

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The Indian government has recently toughened the Internet censorship in the country. The new rules are an update of the IT Act 2000. It regulates the content of online posts. Indian officials claim that the new measures are in tune with international laws and do not violate users’ rights

According to the regulations, Indian users are not allowed to post information which is "grossly harmful, harassing, blasphemous,  defamatory, obscene, pornographic, paedophilic, libellous, invasive of another's privacy, hateful, racially or ethnically objectionable, disparaging, relating or encouraging money laundering or gambling, or otherwise unlawful in any manner whatsoever".

The Department of Information Technology can block websites that display content of the type mentioned above. Any citizen can demand the blocking of content that they consider to be objectionable. The task of doing the "dirty job" will lie with the Internet service providers and websites that publish user-generated content.

Even though the Indian government is attempting to regulate the published content, it does not agree with web anonymity. The rules require that cyber cafes store data about their customers including their name, address, photo and browsing history, making it possible to find a person who has placed prohibited data on the Internet with the help of a public computer. The cyber cafe owners are obliged to keep a one-year log of all sites accessed by their users. The rules insist that "all the computers in the cyber cafe shall be equipped with safety/filtering software, in order to avoid access to websites that contain pornography, obscenity, terrorism and other objectionable material."

The government says that these measures are essential for preventing crimes. But a lot of users consider many points to be vague and don’t agree with the new rules, because they can violate their right to free speech. They are afraid that any thoughtless comment can be a reason for arrest. But it seems that VPN service providers can gain from these type of rules.

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Innovations of the PROTECT IP Act

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The new US Internet censorship bill will soon be released. It’s called the PROTECT IP Act, that stands for "Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property". The new bill gives a more accurate definition of sites “dedicated to unlawful activities” and gives more ways of restricting access to them.

COICA suggested using a  DNS blocking system to limit access to foreign "rogue sites". It also asked that credit card companies and advertising networks stop working with such sites. Also, according to the PROTECT IP Act, search engines will not be allowed to show search results from seized domain names. The bill reads that this decision "responds to the concerns raised that search engines are part of the ecosystem that directs Internet user traffic and, therefore, should be part of the solution."

But search engines, credit card companies and advertising networks will be protected by the law if they “voluntarily cease doing business with infringing websites, outside of any court ordered actions.” If a search engine considers a web site to be a law infringer, not only it will be able to disable their advertising, but it will have a legal right to do so.

The PROTECT IP Act also gives the right to trademark and copyright holders to go to court and target foreign domains directly,  without government mediation. However, they won’t be able to sue search engines and internet providers, only payment processors and advertising networks.

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