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Governments and the Internet: A Threat to Intellectual Freedom?. Presented by Judy Oberg and Sarah Chase-Kruszewski March 20, 2006 . Introduction. Fact: 84% of people around the world choose the Internet as their first source of information. (OCLC 2005)

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governments and the internet a threat to intellectual freedom
Governments and the Internet:A Threat to Intellectual Freedom?

Presented by Judy Oberg and Sarah Chase-Kruszewski

March 20, 2006

  • Fact: 84% of people around the world choose the Internet as their first source of information. (OCLC 2005)
  • Fact: 100% of Canadian public libraries offer access to the Internet. (CLA website)
  • The Internet is an important source of information.
ifla internet manifesto
IFLA Internet Manifesto
  • “. . . that unhindered access to information is essential to freedom, equality, global understanding and peace”
  • “Freedom of access to information, regardless of medium and frontiers, is a central responsibility of the library and information profession”
  • Core Documents and Legislation
  • Global examples of Internet censorship by governments
  • Surveillance Technology
  • Things that You Can Do
core documents and legislation

Core Documents and Legislation

Government surveillance and censorship on the Internet

privacy a difficult concept to define and legislate
Privacy: A Difficult Concept to Define and Legislate!

Privacy is often seen as a basic human right, but because no one person interprets this concept in exactly the same way, it is often difficult to define and legislate.

privacy not a new issue
Privacy: Not a new issue
  • Hippocratic Oath –Circa 400 BCE

“What I may see or hear in the course of the treatment or even outside of the treatment in regard to the life of men, which on no account one must spread abroad, I will keep to myself, holding such things shameful to be spoken about.”

  • Ancient Jewish law the “Mishnah” – Circa 50 to 220
  • The Qur’an – Circa 610
  • The Bible – Circa 800
  • Constitution of the Iroquois Nations - Circa 1500
privacy not a new issue continued
Privacy: Not a new issue (continued)
  • United Nations “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” -1948
  • Article 19
  • “Everyone has the right to freedom of expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
  • IFLA’s Internet Manifesto – 2002
  • IFLA’s mandate and consequently this Manifesto is drawn from Article 19 but asserts that it is the responsibility of libraries and informational professionals to uphold these principles of intellectual freedom.
privacy not a new issue continued9
Privacy: Not a new issue(continued)
  • European Convention for the protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (Council of Europe) – 1950 - Article 8
  • The Global Cybercrime Treaty (2001)
    • a controversial international treaty intended to facilitate cross-border computer crime probes. US and Canada are two of the 38 nations which have signed onto the Council of Europe's 'Convention on Cybercrime'.
the north american picture
The North American Picture
  • “Bill of Rights” US Constitution – 1791

1st Amendment

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or the press; or the right of people, peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

4th Amendment

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.”

the north american picture continued
The North American PictureContinued
  • ALA’s Library Bill of Rights – 1939
  • ALA – Privacy: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights (2002)

Article IV

“Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgement of free expression and free access to ideas”.

Article V

“A persons right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views”.

the north american picture continued12
The North American Picture(continued)
  • ALA Code of Ethics (1995)

“II. We uphold the principles of intellectual freedom and resist all efforts to censor library resources.

III. We protect each library user’s right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or received and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired or transmitted.”

the north american picture continued13
The North American Picture(continued)
  • ALA Policy on Confidentiality of Library Records – 1986
  • ALA Policy Concerning Confidentiality of Personally Identifiable Information about Library Users (1991, 2004).
  • ALA Resolutions on IF – 1) Aftermath of Terrorist Attacks & 2) Patriots Act
the usa patriot act 2001
The USA Patriot Act (2001)
  • Section 215 – of interest to libraries (2 sections)

501 (a) (1) [The FBI] may make an application for an order requiring the production of any tangible things (including books, records, papers, documents and other items) for an investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities, provided that such investigation of a United States person is not conducted solely upon the basis of activities protected by the first amendment to the Constitution.

501 (d) No person shall disclose to any other person (other than those persons necessary to produce the tangible things under this section) that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has sought or obtained tangible things under this section.

the canadian picture
The Canadian Picture
  • CLA ‘s Statement on Intellectual FreedomApproved by Executive Council ~ June 27, 1974; Amended November 17, 1983; and November 18, 1985
  • All persons in Canada have the fundamental right . . . to have access to all expressions of knowledge, creativity and intellectual activity . . .
  • Libraries have a basic responsibility for the development and maintenance of intellectual freedom.
  • It is the responsibility of libraries to guarantee and facilitate access to all expressions of knowledge and intellectual activity . . .
the canadian picture continued
The Canadian Picture(continued)
  • CLA’s Code of Ethics
  • Annual General Meeting ~ June, 1976Members of the Canadian Library Association have the individual and collective responsibility to:
  • support and implement the principles and practices embodied in the current Canadian Library Association Statement on Intellectual Freedom;
  • facilitate access to any or all sources of information which may be of assistance to library users;
  • protect the privacy and dignity of library users and staff.
the canadian picture continued17
The Canadian Picture(continued)
  • PIPEDA – Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act
  • Lawful Access proposals

which would grant police and national security agencies unprecedented surveillance powers over Internet and cell phone communications.

  • Provincial FOIP Acts

Protects the privacy of individuals and their information.

  • USA Patriot Act – Implications in Canada

Section 215 forces libraries with a connection to the US to turn over library records (including internet use) and not to tell anyone.

Many computer systems used in Canadian libraries are sold and maintained by US companies.

global concerns global solution
Global Concerns, Global Solution?
  • What’s legal in one country is not in another (e.g. Yahoo and the French Gov’t)
  • World Summit of the Information Society (WSIS)
  • Internet Governance Project (IGP)
  • Items for discussion …
censorship controlling the infrastructure
Censorship: Controlling the Infrastructure

To the Internet

International Gateway




censorship controlling the infrastructure21
Censorship: Controlling the Infrastructure
  • Governments can and do act as gatekeepers.
  • They install filtering software on these “gates” to block out “offensive” material. e.g. Saudi Arabia, UAE
  • Or, they cut off access entirely e.g. Nepal and North Korea


censorship controlling the infrastructure22
Censorship: Controlling the Infrastructure
  • Governments can limit your access to an ISP through restrictive policies as to who can get accounts
  • The ISP can control, what portion of the Internet you can “see”.
  • Examples: Cuba, Syria, Burma, UAE

“. . . that unhindered access to information is essential to freedom, equality, global understanding and peace”

IFLA Internet Manifesto


censorship controlling the infrastructure23
Censorship: Controlling the Infrastructure
  • Government can also control the phone lines e.g. Cuba
  • Or just ban outright the ownership of computers (Cuba, North Korea)


censorship blocking sites
Censorship: Blocking sites
  • This is by far the most common method used by non-democratic governments.
  • Typical targets include: dissenting voices, human rights organizations, religious web sites (except the religion of the country), news sites, sites promoting the rights of women, gay & lesbian sites
  • Belarus, Burma, China, Cuba, Iran, Libya, Maldives, Nepal, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Vietnam – to name a few.

“. . . access should neither be subject to any form of ideological, political or religious censorship . . .”

IFLA Internet Manifesto

censorship cost
Censorship: Cost
  • Make an ISP or e-mail account or computer too costly for the average citizen
  • e.g. Cuba - $240 e-mail registration tax

Average income in Cuba: $1700 (2003 figures)

“. . . access should neither be subject to any form of ideological, political or religious censorship, nor to economic barriers . . .”

IFLA Internet Manifesto

censorship limit access
Censorship: Limit access
  • Only allow Internet access for a few hours a day (Cuba)
  • Restrict the number of Internet-connected computers in the library- which in turn has limited opening hours (Cuba)

“All information resources . . . should bereadily, equally, and equitably accessible to all library users”

ALA Policy Manual 53.1.14 (Free Access to Information)

censorship control the search engines
Censorship: Control the Search Engines
  • Force search engines to filter out search results – e.g. China and the Google case
  • This prevents people from even knowing a site exists.

“We uphold the principles of intellectual freedom and

resist all efforts to censor library resources”

ALA Policy Manual, 54.16 (Intellectual Freedom)

censorship invasion of privacy
Censorship: Invasion of Privacy
  • Require detailed personal information in order to obtain an account. This information is then forwarded to the government for approval. (e.g. Syria, Tunisia)
  • Monitor all e-mail. (e.g. Cuba, Laos, China, Syria)
  • Laotians must give government their e-mail password

“No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence…”

Excerpt from Article 12, U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights

censorship democratic examples
Censorship: “Democratic” examples
  • To publish anything on your web site, you must first receive approval from either your ISP or government. (e.g. Spain, France)
  • Filtering in the U.S. is required if libraries want access to e-rate funding.
  • Removal of information deemed helpful to terrorists
  • Political pressure to not accept certain customers

“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression;

this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference

. . . regardless of frontiers.”

Article 19, UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights

censorship summary
Non-democratic Governments:

Economic barriers

Use of filters

E-mail monitoring

Limit access

Suppress dissident voices

Democratic Governments:

Pre-approval of content

Link funding to filtering (US)

Removal of “sensitive” information

Censorship Summary
  • Technology being used to monitor Internet communications
  • Done under the pretext of national and international security
  • “… acts as a brake on user’s freedom of expression …” Stuart Hamilton, IFLA contributor

First Amendment – US Constitution

  • Corporations seizing the opportunity to provide the technology that will make us all “safer”
  • By watching the Internet, terrorists can be found and stopped.
  • Direct impact on library patrons who use the Internet inside the library.
surveillance current software
Surveillance – Current Software
  • Echelon
  • “Secret” surveillance system that listens to communications, including the Internet
  • Australia, Canada, New Zealand, UK and the US
surveillance current software35
Surveillance – Current Software
  • Carnivore
  • FBI program
  • Monitors e-mail headers for keywords
  • E-mails with keywords marked for further investigation
  • No data available on how Carnivore is used
surveillance data mining
Surveillance - Data Mining
  • Technique used by companies for years
  • Examines customer information to establish behaviour patterns
  • Target marketing material to appropriate market segment
surveillance data mining37
Surveillance – Data Mining
  • Total “Terrorism” Information Awareness (TIA)
  • Combine electronic data – including library borrowing records - about all people and find patterns that identify terrorists
  • Data from commercial, private, and government databases
surveillance tia
Surveillance - TIA
  • ISPs keep logs of all Internet traffic using their servers
  • e.g. sites/pages requested, search terms used, IP addresses serviced, e-mails, referrer sites, errors generated
  • TIA can use these logs to get information
  • Any Internet user, including library patrons, are contributing to these logs each time they use the Internet