June 18, 2012

Drawing the line on government censorship

Ran Mosessco Principal Security Researcher

Governments all over the world attempt to restrict what their citizens can see and do online. French NGO Reporters Without Borders compiles annual lists of countries classified as "Enemies of the Internet" and "Under Surveillance". These classifications represent various means of restricting the free flow of information, ranging from blocking access to arresting dissident bloggers, and worse.

Google is often asked to censor search results or remove YouTube videos, and of course such requests can be perfectly legitimate in the case of defamation, hate speech, and pornography. Google lists removal requests from government agencies and courts in its Transparency Report, and indicates if the material was removed and why (for example, YouTube videos promoting terrorism violate the site's Community Guidelines). In other cases, access to material is restricted in certain countries to comply with local legislation.

Making such decisions is extremely difficult. As any traveler visiting other countries discovers, what is objectionable "around here" may be perfectly acceptable "over there," and vice-versa. 

Broad censorship of the Internet by governments and restriction of citizen access run counter to Websense Policy on Government-Imposed Censorship. Websense is a member of the Global Network Initiative, a consortium of information and communications technology companies, civil society organizations, and investors and academics whose goal it is to protect and advance the rights to privacy and freedom of expression. Executive Vice President and CFO Mike Newman recently participated in the inaugural Learning Forum in Washington, D.C., where he was a panelist for sessions on "Digital Freedoms in International Law: Practical Steps to Protect Human Rights Online" and "Policy Engagement on Business and Human Rights in the ICT Sector".

Websense, Inc. does not engage in any arrangement with foreign governments (or government-imposed arrangements) that could be viewed as oppressive of rights.


Ran Mosessco

Principal Security Researcher

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