Right to share information over the Internet without censorship

China, Cuba, Vietnam, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia and Egypt are some of the countries who have been applying restrictive policies on the use of the Web for years according to a report published in 2009 by Reporters Without Borders. In the same manner, the control and surveillance of the use of the Internet is becoming more sophisticated which could bother their governments thanks to the collaboration of western countries, just as OpenNet, an organisation made up by the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard and Toronto, reported in 2007.

Given that more and more people all over the world obtain information and share data on the Web, Internet control is already a struggle of global dimensions and complexity which has great economic and political interests and cuts off human rights (also in countries which are supposedly democratic) as basic as the freedom of expression and opinion, free access to information, the right to privacy and rights of assembly.

Freedom of the press is a right which is theoretically guaranteed in democratic countries, while on the Internet there is still no recognised right. It is the setting itself which marks the deliberately ambiguous and undefined or incomplete strategies to report the absence of regulation and demand the recognition of the internet user's rights. Within the short history of Internet lies Wikileaks, which has had an international impact. An organisation which says it is non-profit, filters anonymous secret state information, mainly the United States'. Leak and wiki, a trickle of information which leaks from the secret channel and is made public thanks to many people.

In 2010 Wikileaks filtered Pentagon reports which demonstrated how the United States eluded investigation for abuses, tortures, rapes and murders perpetrated by the Iraqi Army and Police, these were handed over to prestigious media like The Guardian, The New York Times, Le Monde, Der Spiegel, El País, al Jazeera... Over 251,187 communications were filtered in this operation. The successive attacks to eliminate its web page from the digital map and the attacks to its leader were softened by the support for the freedom of press and thanks to support networks, from activism on the Web itself to different diplomatic asylum channels.

The ingenuity of internet users to avoid controls imposed on the Web and make their voices be heard by millions all over the globe is remarkable. On the other hand democracies seem to yield to the voices that scream "security" on the Internet and surveillance at any cost, as demonstrated by the increase of projects and proposals for laws which allow for the installation of general surveillance. Examples are the FISAA and CISPA, in the United States, the British Communication Data Bill, in the United Kingdom, the Wetgeving Bestrijding Cybercrime, in the Netherlands, and many texts which sacrifice the freedom of expression on the Internet claiming to fight against computer crimes. The fact that countries which were traditionally advocates of human rights are now adopting these types of legislations provides a rationalisation for leaders of repressive countries to equip themselves with a legislative arsenal to silence dissidence. The Internet model as it was conceived by its founders (a space to exchange and where freedoms transcend borders) is constantly questioned by the speed at which the Internet is censured and the development of surveillance on the web.

Since 2009 the media has spread the massive use of social networks like Twitter and Facebook to share opinions and information which would influence the Iran elections. Similar events have occurred all over the globe where the use of the Internet and mobiles has been linked to popular demonstrations: the Arab Spring, the 2011 Spanish Protests and the Occupy Wall Street are a few. An undeniable example that the Internet represents a battle field where the emergence of critical voices is still possible, of energies of transformation and a space of action for social movements.

Internet is also a common and global space in which the common laws have yet to be established, and it very difficult for the countries of the world to agree on its regulation because there are too many interests at play. The latest intent took place in December of 2012 at the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT), convened by a UN agency, where blocks of allied countries were formed to dispute the control of the Internet. After two weeks of proposals, workshops and debates behind closed doors, the conference left an unsigned treaty: the new International Telecommunications Regulations has been signed by 89 countries and publicly rejected by no less than 51 countries. The apparent reason for this rejection was in defence of "Net Neutrality".

"Net Neutrality", demanded by organizations of activists in defence of citizen rights and freedoms on the Internet guarantees that all data that travels the Net be treated equally and without restrictions, despite its origin, content or destination. Under this principle, telecommunication providers would not be able to filter, block, redirect, or favour access to some services or information in detriment of others by petition of companies, governments and/or administrations.

Holland was the first European country to approve the first "Neutral Net" law in 2013, the second country in the world after Chile.

Film: Forbidden Voices

2018 © copyright
  • San Sebastián Donostia 2016
  • Construyendo San Sebastián
  • Donostiako Udala. Ayuntamiento de San Sebastián
  • donostiakultura.com. San Sebastián: ciudad de la cultura
  • AIETE: Casa de la Paz y los Derechos Humanos