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Internet Becoming Center of Human Rights Battle

March 12, 2010

The Internet is quickly becoming the primary battleground for civil rights, claims a U.S. State Department report released on Thursday.

The report, a 2009 analysis of global human rights abuses, called last year “a year in which more people gained greater access than ever before to more information about human rights through the Internet, cell phones, and other forms of connective technologies.”

Yet, 2009 also was “a year in which governments spent more time, money, and attention finding regulatory and technical means to curtail freedom of expression on the Internet and the flow of critical information,” claims the State Department study.

Cited among the biggest offenders were China, South Korea and Cuba.

The Chinese government hired thousands of individuals to monitor online communication as the country “increased its efforts to monitor Internet use, control content, restrict information, block access to foreign and domestic Web sites”¦ and punish those who violated regulations.”

Likewise, South Korea and Cuba were found to control virtually all information obtained via the World Wide Web. Only select individuals were allowed to even have Internet access in South Korea, the report states, while Cuban officials were allowed to review and censor e-mail and block access to unapproved Web sites.

Discussions of the arrest and harassment of online activists by Egyptian police was also covered in the report. Meanwhile in Iran, State Department officials observed a “major drop in bandwidth” following the country’s June elections, and noted that the country has blocked several popular social networking sites, including Twitter and Facebook.

The report comes at a time when China and the popular Google online search engine are locked in a battle over content censorship. Google officials are threatening to shut down their Internet presence in the country unless they are allowed to offer unfiltered search results. On Friday, Chinese Minister of Industry and Information Technology Li Yizhong threatened that Google would have to “face the consequences” if they attempted to provide uncensored content.

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