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Ask HN: is there still a country without web censorship?
35 points by caludio on Mar 31, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 37 comments
During my recent trip in Turkey, I've had the opportunity to first-hand experience what a "hard, in plain sight censorship" is. YouTube home page was showing a government's statement and Twitter was not even reachable. There are of course a lot of different kind of censorships (Italy is blocking thousands of websites for any reason a judge might think of, U.K. is censoring porn, and so on and so forth).

I'm not sure about the situation in the US (DMCA, COPPA, and the likes) but at this point I wonder: is there any place left on earth with no censorship and/or any filters at all? And if the answer is (most likely) "no", what can we deduce for the future to come on this matter?

Side note: I don't consider DMCA censorship - most of the time the content is available elsewhere, it's just that someone's nicked a copy from the original author (or whoever owns the rights).

If I send a takedown notice to someone who's ripped off an article from my blog, people can still read the article on my blog.

> most of the time the content is available elsewhere,

As is often the case with censorship, what happens "most of the time" is not the concern - it's the rest.

The DMCA isn't exclusively a tool of censorship, but no effective tool of censorship is. For it to survive as an effective tool, it has to provide some value in other ways.

> but no effective tool of censorship is. For it to survive as an effective tool, it has to provide some value in other ways.

There are laws and tools built exclusively to censor web content all around the world. That's what OP is referring to as "hard, plain sight censorship." How are tools & laws like the ones used by N. Korea, Iran, and a variety of other autocratic regimes[1] not "effective tools"? What value does something like China's "Great Firewall"[2] provide other than censorship?

Seems to be a big difference between those and the DMCA.

[1] http://www.freedomhouse.org/report/special-reports/what-next...

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Shield_Project

The US web is not really censored. DMCA is not censorship and COPPA is a violation of federal law for various reasons.

It is true that the US doesn't have a national framework for censoring the Internet. However, it does exist in patchwork form on an ISP level. Every major ISP censors and filters websites and IP's it deems to be harmful. A lot of times, there's confusion and a lot of innocent sites are caught up in the mix due to name based virtual hosting in webservers.

Some would argue that anti-spam blacklists and droplists are censorship, and pretty much every ISP uses those. I don't share that point of view, but there are those who would argue this.

I have not come across anything that was censored by my ISP in anyway. Only one such case was cited on Wikipedia, were Verizon blocked text messages due to a violation of ToS.

Could you provide any more information on ISPs blocking content?

Comcast has an abuse block list. Verizon has an abuse block list.

Between those two you've got > 50% of America covered.

Every ISP has a spam blocklist. Technically that's censorship, too.

As dvcc said, please substantiate your claims inre: "every major ISP censors and filters websites and IP's it deems to be harmful".

I don't have any love for North American ISPs, but I loathe FUD.

It's not FUD. I've had a few IP's end up on Comcast's nullroute list. It's pretty visible from their looking glass.

BTW, appreciate all the downvotes from the kiddies who have never heard of NANOG, let alone actually been to meeting.

Appreciate the lecture about FUD from a foreigner who knows nothing about our market.

Canada filters, too. Hello Rogers and Telus.

Until you can substantiate your claims inre: "every major ISP" censoring, it's FUD.

I don't have any evidence that my ISP (Shaw) or the other major Canadian ISPs don't censor. But you haven't presented any evidence that they do, nor have you presented any evidence to support your claim for just the major US ISPs.

And there's no need for the ad hominem, friendo. It just weakens your position.

We were talking initially about US ISP's, then you mentioned North America so I figured I'd throw in my experiences with Telus and Rogers. That wasn't an ad hominem attack. I was pointing out that you have no direct experience dealing with large US ISP's and their blocklists.

How am I supposed to substantiate my claims? What do you want as evidence? Do you want me to post email threads or something? No way.

Do you know how a looking glass works? It's pretty easy to find blocked IP's using Comcast's.

BTW, every ISP in Canada uses CleanFeed.


Technically that's censorship. Censorship I can live with, but it is censorship on a national scale. Every other Canadian ISP maintains a block list, but hey you won't believe me unless I produce a sworn affadvit from the security personnel of each ISP.

There are two ways to think of "web censorship":

The first is that web censorship (as opposed to just plain old regular censorship) requires filtering or interfering with the end-to-end principle. In this case, the U.S isn't really censored (although we had a close call with SOPA / PIPA). The DMCA and COPPA don't affect the end-to-end principle or block content -- they only threaten penalties on various people on the edges of the network.

The second way to think about this is to say that threatening penalties on people for what they say IS Internet Censorship. The question now isn't about "web censorship" per se, but really about whether said country has any restrictions on speech that can be applied to speech online. And if you take a very strict view of free speech rights, I'm pretty dubious you'll find any country that fits the bill (except perhaps some tiny nation with almost no laws to begin with).

Varying levels of "speech" you'd need to permit to be completely "censorship" free:

* Spammy advertisements

* Infringement of any and all IP rights

* Hate speech

* Threats

* Cyberbullying and other intentional inflictions of emotional distress

* Publication of private data

* (Re)-distribution of child porn

All of the things you mention can be illegal without imposing pre-publication censorship as has been the case with printed material for centuries.

I don't know if there's any place without de jure Internet censorship, but there are several places where there is de facto no Internet censorship.

Most of the Balkans fall under that.

I think that here in Uruguay, we don't have any kind of internet censorship, but we have a monopolic ISP owned by the state, so... At any moment they could turn on the censorship switch and there is almost nothing you could do about it.

I feel like this is the general situation on countries where you "don't" have internet censorsihip, you don't, today.

Most parts of the European Union? Obviously there are some exceptions like the UK but overall there are few countries that have either the technical infrastructure or the legal framework required to perform large-scale Internet censorship (please correct me if I'm wrong). Of course it's difficult to draw the line between politically motivated censorship (which most people are concerned about) and legitimate, small-scale censorship of websites that contain illegal content. I don't consider content removal due to copyright issues (e.g. on Youtube) censorship, for example, but I'm of course aware that governments often justify the censoring of content through its alleged illegality. Before talking about the extent of censorship on the Internet it would be necessary to have a good definition of the term first, I think.

I think it's important to be clear about what you mean by the word "censorship."

Generally it's considered to be a restriction on freedom of expression by a system of legal authority. Generally it is not thought to include matters of private choice and contracts, even if the sanctity of those contracts are enforced by the system of authority.

The U.S. has a system of law that permits people to control the distribution of their expressions. Tool can decide they don't want their music distributed by iTunes, and the government will enforce that decision. But it's not censorship because iTunes is not expressing any original thought by selling digital copies of Tool's albums. And Tool themselves are free to post their own music online with no restriction.

Iceland is relatively free of censorship. There are a couple of IP numbers filtered by way of court order (hosted images of minors in compromising positions), but sadly those filters have collateral damage (shared hosting sites on same IPs). Interior Ministry is in awe of the results in the UK and wants to do the same. Resistance to the ideas is pretty high since the general population has a pretty good idea of the entailments. (side note: a popular Icelandic blog and news aggregator, eyjan.is is blocked by the UK porn filters, bit of an irony really).

I'm pretty sure there is no censorship in Croatia. Not because of the general philosophy, but simply because I am convinced everyone who works in the government's tech department still thinks FORTRAN is the latest shit in computer science.

The amount of expertise in this country is shamefully low[1].

[1]: Citation needed, but my experience with "technical high ups" would indicate so.

Poland censors nothing. So far. There have been efforts to introduce censorship, so far effectively countered.

No event so far, but the law is in place, meaning there is no clear definition if someone publishes on the internet is he/she a journalist. Some may use bullets that you offend head of the state, president or "blasphemy". Better off in a country which doesn't have any tools at all.

Over the years there was this notion that US is a role model of democracy and freedom which is a joke especially in a context of recent news.

The question was clearly about censorship. There is nothing of the kind. You can access anything you want and publish anything you want. Certain things you publish might offend people and potentially get you in trouble, but the government doesn't censor the internet.

That said, it is not a battle that is completely over.

You can turn it off in the UK; right?

There is a system you can't turn off, although you're unlikely to run into it from day to day usage: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cleanfeed_(content_blocking_sys...

Unlikely, but possible. Large web hosts end up on the list from time to time, and a lot of innocent sites are blocked in the process. It's an incredibly difficult process to find out what site triggered the initial block and to get your IP's removed from the list.

Yes, they use IP's. They don't do URL-level filtering. They use IP's.

That system has blocked wikipedia before. Fortunately people made a fuss and that block was quickly removed, but accidental or deliberate censorship of a less well known site could easily go unnoticed for months or years.

Not all ISPs implement this.

None of the filtering in the UK is legally mandated, and only the major ISPs implement it. Smaller ISPs still offer a completely unfiltered service.

Monaco? Small islands like Jersey (UK)?

Maybe Bhutan.

It is not possible to censor what does not exist, right?

I don't know, but I'd assume Bhutanese monks probably excel at similar types of deep philosphical inquiry. Perhaps they even have cats, and the internet has nothing to offer them?

I believe the Moon has no censorship that is readily observable. Then again the Moon is not a country. The real question is is there a country with a provable lack of web censorship? Assuming of course you can define that well enough.


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