Category: Internet Censorship

Protecting the Rights of Christians and Religious Minorities in the Muslim World.

Remarks by the Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Mr. Rashad Hussain on November 30, 2012 at the Second National Baptist-Muslim Dialogue, Newton, MA.

Mr. Rashad Hussain expresses the debate between the United States’ position on Freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment and the international community’s approach of combatting hate speech, thus restricting “defamation of religions.”

To promote interfaith dialogue, should we restrict freedom of expression?

“After the release of an anti-Islamic film earlier this year, some have called for governments around the world to implement legal restrictions on speech. We disagree with this approach. In the United States, when something offensive is published, rather than asking the government to ban it and then considering their job done, religious communities – including Muslim communities – have instead decided to peacefully raise awareness about misrepresentations of their faith and educate society about their beliefs and to address the underlying cause of intolerance. That is why Muslim Americans have hosted dozens of forums on Islam and the life of the Prophet Muhammad, and why they have come together with people of all faiths to condemn the anti-Islamic sentiment.”

Which approach do you think is best?


China’s Great Firewall on Internet is one of the most frightening freedom of speech violation in the world. More than sixty Internet laws have been implemented by the People’s Republic of China to repress freedom of speech on the Internet thus restricting access to information, to education and freedom of thought.

China uses censorship to supress and silence dissent and any opposition to the regime. China is, according to Amnesty International, the world’s leading jailer of journalists, today 30 journalists and 50 internet users are know to be in jail in China.

If you look up “democracy movements” on Internet in China, the page will “not be found.”

But how does it work?

The Chinese government created sophisticated ways to allow a limited access to the Internet to Chinese users, it created bottlenecks (Internet traffic to China is channelled through computers centers), checks Internet traffic for subversive material (then uses censure), and even goes as far as to ask the Chinese population itself to “self-censure” (commercial websites are responsible for the content, if Chinese authorities do not like it, the company will be held accountable.)

Authorities created “cartoon cybercops” that pop up on controversial websites “to remind Internet users they’re being watched.”

Feels like Orwell’s 1989? Wait, it gets worse.

China is also getting outside help to censure its population. China is being assisted by American firms such as for example Cisco Systems to restrict internet freedom. Even google created a censored search engine for China. According to ABC news “Outside China, users who search Google Images for “Tiananmen Square” get pictures from the 1989 pro-democracy protests that ended in crackdown that left hundreds dead and included the iconic photograph of a lone man staring down a line of Chinese tanks. Inside China, users get only tourist images of Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City across the street.”

Check out this NGO website: Great Firewall of China which allows you to check which websites are blocked in China.

The NGO Freedom House published on September 24, 2012 a special report on Freedom on the Net. This report is the third part of a review of developments related to Internet Freedom, International Privacy and Censorship in 47 countries: Argentina, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belarus, Brazil, Burma, China, Cuba, Egypt, Estonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iran, Italy, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, Malaysia, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Syria, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe. It reviews the countries’ achievements from January 2011 to May 2012. The report praises the new methods to protect Internet Freedom developed by many countries, however it also highlights the still existent internet censorship and internet laws restricting freedom of speech.

The report is entitled Internet Freedom on the Net 2012: A Global Assessment of Internet and Digital Media. Please find attached the full report in PDF and a Summury of its Findings.

Freedom House Report on Internet Freedom


The U.S’s reaction to Wikileaks is interesting to look at regarding Internet freedom and Privacy. The United States’ argument to put Wikileaks and its founder, Julian Assange, on trial are the non-respect of governmental secrets and their publishing on the Internet. The legal implications of this case are related to freedom of speech on Internet. Did Assange violate Espionage Act? Is Wikileaks protected under the U.S’ First Amendment? Will Assange be indicted?

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” — The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. 

Read this article:

Over the last decade, states have enacted legislation purporting to regulate almost every conceivable form of Internet activity. However, questions have arisen regarding the legitimacy of jurisdiction on the Internet. Activities in cyberspace cannot be governed by territorially based sovereigns.

“The global reach of the Internet raises the possibility that online activities can subject businesses to the jurisdiction of courts in far-flung places. The rules for Internet-based jurisdiction are still being spelled out by U.S. courts. The general rule emerging is that operation of an active Web site, where one actually transacts business through the Web site, is sufficient to confer “general jurisdiction” over the site’s owner; that is, to subject the site’s owner to all lawsuits of any sort, whether or not related to the Web site’s activities. The theory of general jurisdiction is that the defendant is constructively present in the state by reason of doing business with that state’s citizens, albeit from a distant locale.

At the other end of the continuum are passive Web sites, which only advertise or provide information to online visitors. Most courts have held that passive Web sites do not provide a basis for jurisdiction. But what about Web sites that provide some limited level of interactivity, such as allowing email exchanges or allowing or requiring visitors to submit personal information?

A court recently answered this question and held that such limited interactivity is not sufficient to confer jurisdiction. In Hurley v. Cancun Playa Oasis International Hotels, No. Civ.A. 99-574, 1999 WL 718556 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 31, 1999), the plaintiff, a Pennsylvania resident, was injured while staying at a hotel in Cancun, Mexico. He sued the U.S. agent for the hotel, a Georgia corporation, in the plaintiff’s home state of Pennsylvania.

The defendant moved to dismiss based on lack of personal jurisdiction. In the ruling on the motion to dismiss, the court said that Web sites fall under three categories: (1) those that actually conduct business over the Internet, (2) those that allow exchange of information with the Web site, and (3) those that merely post information or advertisements. The court held that jurisdiction generally exists in the first category and does not exist in the third. However, in the second category, whether jurisdiction exists “is determined by examining the level of interactivity and commercial nature of the exchange of information that occurs on the Web site.”

The court examined the particular site’s level of interactivity and the extent of its contacts with Pennsylvania residents and held that these contacts were not sufficient to confer general jurisdiction. The site accepted and confirmed reservations online, advertised a toll-free number for telephone reservations, and allowed email exchanges with the site’s owner. The court found no evidence in the record that these interactive contacts with Pennsylvania residents were sufficiently “continuous, systematic, and substantial” to support general jurisdiction.

Note that this case might have come out differently had the plaintiff’s claim arisen out of his contacts with the Web site, but the court was not called upon to reach this issue, because the plaintiff had never visited the defendant’s site. What if the plaintiff had booked his reservation on the site? What if he had read the on-site ads and then called the toll-free number to book his room? Answers to questions such as these will have to await future cases.

For two other cases involving limited-interactivity Web sites, see Molnlycke Health Care AB v. Dumex Medical Surgical Products Ltd., 64 F. Supp. 2d 448 (E.D. Pa. 1999) (no jurisdiction in patent infringement case where defendant advertised his products on site and allowed purchases directly from site, but no evidence of significant sales in Pennsylvania), and Mink v. AAAA Development LLC, 190 F.3d 333 (5th Cir. 1999) (no jurisdiction over copyright infringement case where defendant’s site advertised allegedly infringing software code but had made no sales into Texas).

The application of Internet jurisdictional rules to defamation cases is equally interesting and equally controversial. In Alternate Energy Corp. v. Redstone, 328 F. Supp. 1379 (S.D. Fla. 2004), the court held that the sale of online subscriptions was not a sufficient basis to create personal jurisdiction in online libel cases.

The court applied the Internet jurisdiction test set forth in Zippo Manufacturing Co. v. Zippo Dot Com, Inc., 952 F. Supp. 1119, 1124 (W.D. Pa. 1997), which held that engaging in commercial activity over the Internet constitutes sufficient minimum contacts to satisfy due-process requirements, but that posting information on the Internet does not. In Alternate Energy, the court noted that “the Fifth Circuit has held that selling subscriptions to view an informational website does not constitute sufficient commercial activity to invoke jurisdiction under Zippo for a defamation action, when the cause of action arises out of the information posted on the site. Revell v. Lidov, 317 F.3d 467 (5th Cir. 2002).

The court held that because the cause of action did not arise out of the solicitation of subscriptions, the defendant’s solicitation activity could not give rise to jurisdiction.” 328 F. Supp. 2d at 1382. The court held that “selling subscriptions to an internet site to an unknown, relatively small number of Florida residents, without more, does not constitute carrying on a business in Florida. . .and does not constitute the commission of a tortious act in Florida . . . .”

The case law is split on the proper test for jurisdiction in Internet-based defamation cases. This issue is of considerable importance, because if simply publishing on the Internet triggers jurisdiction in any country where content is read, Web site owners and Internet publishers will need to “dumb down” their content in order to satisfy the laws of the most stringent jurisdictions or else face lawsuits that could lead to judgments that would put them out of business. For now, the lesson is this: If you operate an interactive Web site, you are submitting yourself to the possibility of having to defend lawsuits in distant jurisdictions, both in the United States and abroad.”

Source Article “Doing Business on the Web: Jurisdiction Over Interactive Websites by Jere M. Webb.

In China, media outlets and the Internet are censored. “Human rights should be available to all people, including ethnic and religious minorities, whether they are in the United States, China or any nation.”

Mr Obama said that freedom of information, including open access to the internet, was important. In a speech and open question session with Chinese students, President Obama explained his concerns.

“That makes our democracy stronger because it forces me to hear opinions that I don’t want to hear – it forces me to examine what I’m doing,” he said.

He said “the internet was a powerful tool to mobilise people and had helped him win the presidency last year.”

This visit had however only small coverage in Chinese media.

This video portrays the importance of internet censorship in the world today. I found this interesting as it gives an overview of Internet censorship all around the world.