Sunday, April 20, 2008
The book is certainly biased toward the freedom of information that American and many other Western countries experience on the Internet. Researchers come from the OpenNet Initiative, the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, Oxford, University of Toronto, and Stanford.
The first half of the book consists of essays about global Internet filtering. One provides an excellent explanation of the measurements the collaborators used to study filtering methods, motives, targets, and techniques. Another essay addresses the “why” of Internet filtering. Different countries censor different information and for different reasons, political, social, and moral. One essay explains the technical details of controlling the Internet, a system that tends to automatically route around attempts at censorship. International policy towards the internet differ, and corporate interests and private citizens’ legitimate privacy concerns only complicate the attempts to document regulation of the IT systems, equipment, and individual Internet users. Standardization seems a distant dream.
The second half of the book begins with regional overviews, or Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, the United States and Canada, and so forth. What follow are four or five page summaries of forty countries, including Afghanistan, China, Myanmar, and Zimbabwe, are dense with information and thorough endnotes, while beginning with an easy to read summary abstract. A graph for each country presents information “at a glance” about the nature and type of filtering. Another graph presents key data like PDP and the number of Internet users, while a background section provides a brief history of the country and overview of the current political and social climate. The rest of each regional overview describes the presence of the Internet in the respective county, the legal and regulatory frameworks, and the results of the OpenNet Initiative’s testing.