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For 2008, Online Speech Looks to Get Less Free Overseas

It’s ironic. The more that new technology makes it possible for people to communicate, the more that free speech is threatened.

Internationally, the censorship trend is worrisome. First, there’s this Guardian article about how Russia wants to create an internationalized domain name for .ru that would allow Russian speakers to use Cyrillic characters for typing the country code. Sounds great, but there’s the fear that the government would create an Internet just for Russia, providing the government with greater control over what is accessed on the global Internet.

Then there’s Saudi Arabia. A New York Times article confirms that the government has detained a Saudi blogger “for purposes of interrogation” about his writings about political prisoners. Apparently writing about political prisoners will make you one.

No surprise that China is still an active censor, the latest news being that China will restrict where Internet videos can be broadcast. Only websites that have a permit can broadcast or allow users to upload video content. “The policy will ban providers from broadcasting video that involves national secrets, hurts the reputation of China, disrupts social stability or promotes pornography,” the AP reports. Though as Forbes reports, this may only be a scare tactic threat for self-policing by sites like YouTube, because China’s government lacks the ability to filter video like it does text. China also just announced it is cracking down on sex in all video and audio products.

What is a surprise is Australia’s ambitious net censorship proposal. According this Australian news article, the federal government would host a blacklist of sites that ISPs would be required to block. Communications Minister Stephen Conroy wants filters in place to shield children from online porn and violence.

Even in the digital age, government is “here to help” – only just may not “hear” (or read or see) anything.