Issue 102, Summer 2006
- Microsoft has submitted a patent application for a “censoring filter,” which would alter digital speech recordings "so that undesired words or phrases are either unintelligible or inaudible."
- Google lived up to its "Don’t be evil" motto by resisting Justice Department demands for access to vast records of Americans’ search requests. Founder Sergey Brin said Google has also refused to participate in any programs conducted by the National Security Agency to collect internet communications without warrants. Even so, he admitted that Google may have been "a little evil" by complying with Chinese authorities in creating Google.cn, which filters politically sensitive terms. Chinese users have grown accustomed to seeing this at the bottom of their browsers: "According to local laws and policies, some search results are not showing."
- Meanwhile, Yahoo’s compliance with Chinese authorities is more than "a little" evil. On several occasions, the company has handed over dissidents’ private data, which was then used to prosecute them. In a report on global Internet freedom, Reporters Sans Frontières (www.rsf.org) declared Yahoo the strictest enforcer of censorship in China. According to Julien Pain, RSF Internet Freedom desk chief, "Yahoo has absolutely no respect for freedom of information."
- Two cyber-dissidents serving jail terms for unspecified charges – filmmaker Wu Hao of China and Egyptian democracy activist Alaa Abdel Fatah – have been released after 140 and 45 days in prison, respectively, thanks in part to online campaigns to free them.
- Amnesty International commemorates its 45th anniversary with Irrepressible.info, a campaign to disseminate “badges” with suppressed information in order to raise awareness of Internet censorship.
- On June 21, Kentucky state employees discovered that they could no longer access a popular political site that has been a thorn in the side of recently-indicted Governor Ernie Fletcher. State officials claim they were blocking all blogs, regardless of viewpoint, but Mark Nickolas of BluegrassReport.org is skeptical. He has filed suit against Fletcher on First Amendment grounds; meanwhile, state Rep. Kathy Stein has introduced a bill to prevent further cases of "politically-motivated censorship."
- A new edition of Internet Filters: A Public Policy Report has just been released at www.fepproject.org. Filtering has become practically ubiquitous in schools and libraries thanks to the Children’s Internet Protection Act. The updated report finds that filtering software remains imprecise and inefficient, often blocking legitimate sites. OpenNet.net recently published a report on the use of filtering worldwide.