Information Warfare: Internet Criminals

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November16, 2006: As liberating as the Internet has been, giving over a billion users access to information never before accessible, there is a downside. The Internet was to have brought the world together, and to a certain extent it did. But it also brought together groups that had never been able to unite before. This has been particularly true of political groups. We hear a lot about the terrorists getting together via the Internet, but there are also a lot of positive political groups now out there on the net. Advocates of democracy and honest government are showing up all over. And in some countries, this can get you killed. The French advocacy group, Reporters Without Borders, compiled a list of the nations they believe are most restrictive in how they allow their citizens access to the Internet. These include; Belarus, China, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

These nations contain about 12 percent of the world's Internet users. Some, like North Korea, have practically no Internet access (except for select government officials). But all of these 13 nations try to keep an eye on what their citizens are doing online. Most are using the same kind of software available to commercial and government organizations in the United States, to make sure employees don't do anything naughty with their Internet access. In each of these nations, the secret police are kept busy chasing down Internet users who try to get past the government controls.

These Internet censorship efforts have revealed two interesting things. First, most people are more interested in porn and gossip, than they are in politics online. Second, those that do use the Internet for their political activism, usually find ways around the government censorship. However, trying to play with the censors is not without risk, and hundreds of "Internet criminals" are dead, or in prison, as a result. Some got nailed, not for trying to get past the filters and other restrictions, but because they said something in a blog, or a chat room, that the government later decided was criminal.

 


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