Censorship 2.0

Networks, the Internet, and Cloud Computing, Internet and Media and Content

Article Snapshot


Robert Faris, John Palfrey and Stephanie Wang


Innovations: Technology | Governance | Globalization Spring 2008, Volume 3, Issue 2, pg. 165-187


This paper explores how nations attempt to control online content, and request firms cooperate with these efforts.

Policy Relevance

Attempts to control Internet content have been hard to address through law or regulation. Public-private dialogues are important.

Main Points

  • Worldwide, activists adopt technologies such as websites, weblogs, chat rooms, and text messaging  to evade state media controls and shift the balance of power to citizens.

  • Nations try to control Internet content through filtering: this entails compiling a blacklist of banned websites and blocking access to these sites. Firms can profit by cooperating with government ventures into censorship.

  • Google agreed to create a web search service that did not list sites considered controversial in China, arguing that overall, Chinese citizens would have more access to information than without it.

  • Transparency and judicial review of lists of blocked information is problematic; publishing the lists can make it easy to evade the censorship.

  • Some legislative proposals would regulate U.S. firms’ actions abroad when they cooperate with foreign governments.

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