16 Jan 2007

The Geopolitics of Asian Cyberspace

December 2006

by Ronald Deibert

Perhaps nowhere is the geopolitical dynamic playing itself out more forcefully than in the vast region of Asia. Home to one of the world’s cyber-superpowers, China, and dozens of newly emerging markets eager to capitalize on the benefits of new information and communication technology (ICT) while limiting negative side-effects for centralized political authority. Sophisticated ICT companies, many from the West, are following the lead of Asian governments, offering a wide range of appropriate products and services.

This exercise of political power in cyberspace by states in Asia, however, is not going uncontested. A swarming resistance movement of tech-savvy citizens is forming to protect the Web as an unfettered forum of freedom of speech and access to information. With the development of new software tools designed to circumvent censorship, they are taking the battle to the Internet’s inner core.

Perhaps the best window on the dark underbelly of the Internet comes from the research of a project I direct: the OpenNet Initiative (ONI)—a collaboration among the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto, the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School, the Cambridge Security Programme, the Oxford Internet Institute, and partner NGOs worldwide. The aim of the ONI is to document empirically patterns of Internet censorship and surveillance worldwide using sophisticated means of technically interrogating the Internet directly. The ONI’s tests are carried out both remotely from North America and the United Kingdom, and in the field by dozens of local researchers. Our reports over the last several years have documented a disturbing increase in the scale, scope and sophistication of Internet censorship practices worldwide, including in Asia.

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Related Information:
Internet Filtering in Singapore in 2004-2005: A Country Study

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