World Day Against Cyber-Censorship takes place annually on March 12. It aims to rally computer users in fighting repression of online speech. Reporters Without Borders was also created this day to celebrate the work of brave individuals who have promoted free expression on the Internet. The annual Netizen Prize is awarded to bloggers, online journalists, and cyber-dissidents, who have demonstrated exceptional dedication to this cause. It was first observed on March 12, 2008 at the request of Reporters Without Borders and Amnesty International. A letter written by Jean-Francois Julliard, Secretary-General of Reporters Without Borders, and Larry Cox, Executive Director of Amnesty International, was sent to the Chief Executive Officers of Google, Yahoo! & Microsoft Corporation to request observation of the day.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation remains dedicated to reporting cases of online censorship from all regions of the world, and emphasize the importance of online anonymity in preserving individuals’ right to free speech, with an ongoing feature, This Week in Censorship, which covers global stories of imprisoned bloggers, filtered content, blocked websites, and instances of Internet disconnection. A broad array of reasons are offered as justification for censorship. Bloggers in Thailand face imprisonment for criticizing the monarch. In Pakistan, the Telecommunications Authority has blocked websites, banned words from SMS texts, and most recently, has released a request for proposals to build a national blocking and filtering system: All in the name of fighting “obscene content.” The Turkish government has implemented a so-called “democratic” opt-in filtering mechanism for content that is deemed unsuitable for children and families.
Another common trend is censorship enabled in the name of battling copyright violations. Through our Global Chokepoints project, we are monitoring instances of pro-copyright laws that justify filtering of content, websites blockages, or Internet disconnection to fight infringement. Censorship remains rampant in the Middle Eastern region. In Syria, Iran, and elsewhere, bloggers continue to face imprisonment, and common users have limited access to content online due to state-mandated blocking and filtering programs. Another ongoing issue being covered are authoritarian states using Western-based surveillance technologies to monitor and spy on their citizens. State authorities can use the collected data to arrest, harass, or torture individuals accused of participating in political dissent.