Internet Censorship Index
23 Jul 2010

It is time we publish a country-by-country, network-by-network, censorship index to illustrate the level of internet filtering that goes on in different parts of the world. Without this, online censorship will continue to creep up unawares.

THE INTERNET IS THE MOST IMPORTANT DEFENSE we currently have against the abuses of government and big business. This is because it provides humanity with a forum that is largely open and free, beyond much of the control and censorship associated with more traditional media.

Had the internet been invented by the corporate sector or by governments, rather than the academic sector, it would never have been so open and free, and would never have developed into the most important tool against the abuses and erosion of democracy that is currently taking place in all Western societies. Fortunately for all of us, its academic birth in freedom of expression projected it skyward, although the increasing desire for corporations to control it is gravitationally pulling it back to Earth.

It is therefore vital that we start to monitor the actual filtering of websites that is underhandedly going on, giving some sort of Internet Censorship Index for each state of each country, state and network.

This can be achieved by having an equivalent of the FTSE 100 for the top 100 or maybe 1000 non-commercial human rights and freedom sites, which looks at their availability in different parts of the world and their download speeds relative to an equivalent number of leading commercial sites (to show up any network routing favoritism.

Another idea might be to set up test websites which include keywords and phrases deliberately chosen to be antagonistic to big business and government in order to see how much filtering actually goes on.

With enough controls and care in experimental set up and statistical interpretation of the results, it would be possible to draw up Online Censorship Indexes for every state in every country of the world, and for every phone/data network carrying internet traffic. This can also be displayed geographically — perhaps linked to Googlemaps.

The benefits of this system is that, with enough volunteers using screen-saver scanning software that collects the information from the test sites, the data can be displayed in real-time, giving a responsive system to show where freedom of expression is breaking down and what might be the cause. (The tests sites would have to be a very small and unknown subset of the sites scanned to prevent networks tweaking the results.)

Awareness of what is going on means public outcry against what is going on, which ideally means that governments will be forced to legislate to stop network organizations sacrificing freedom of speech for profit.

I hope someone takes this idea and creates this sorely needed system if it is not already out there somewhere.