Enemies of the internet

Wired looks at recent reports on government restrictions on the internet around the world including Enemies of the Internet Report 2012 from Reporters without Borders (RWB), which has raised Bahrain from the category “under surveillance” to “enemy”.

The report states: “Bahrain offers an example of an effective news blackout based on a remarkable array of repressive measures: keeping the international media away, harassing human rights activists, arresting bloggers and netizens (one of whom died in detention), smearing and prosecuting free speech activists, and disrupting communications, especially during the major demonstrations.”

As Computer World reported, internet traffic to and from the country dropped as much as 20 percent after 14th February 2011 — the day that the “rebellion” in the country started. High-speed web access was slowed down; access to YouTube and Facebook references to protests were blocked; and, a year later, says the RWB report, the live973.info website, which was streaming footage of a demonstration by the government opposition party, was blocked. However, most worrying are the arrests, which the RWB report says have “soared”.

In August 2011, Bloomberg published an article stating that the spy gear had been sold to the Bahrain government by Siemens AG and that this was being used to monitor phone calls and text messages. RWB adds: “Companies specialising in online surveillance are becoming the new mercenaries in an online arms race. Hacktivists are providing technical expertise to netizens trapped by a repressive regime’s apparatus. Diplomats are getting involved. More than ever before, online freedom of expression is now a major foreign and domestic policy issue.”

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