Table of Contents

Comment Icon0 China accounts for almost 20% percent of the world’s population, while India comes in next with around 17%  (U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs Population Division, 2009). With over one billion citizens, India is the world’s second most populated nation. Rivaling China in terms of potential Internet user population, India’s Internet community is considered the fifth largest in the world with 60 million users, who actually account for only 5.2% of the country’s population (International Telecommunication Union, 2008). More recently, about 3.13 million users have broadband Internet connections (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, 2008). About 71% of the population live in the rural area, where it is difficult to get Internet access, prompting a stark case of digital divide in India (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, October 2006). The Internet is popularly accessed at cybercafés, followed by homes, workplaces and schools (Internet and Mobile Association of India, 2006). On peer production in India, about 14% of Internet users are bloggers, with the majority consisting of men under 35 years old (The Press Trust of India, 2006a). Supporting civil liberties, article 19 of India’s 93rd Constitution Act (2006) guarantees freedom of speech and expression, but reserves the rights of the authority to impose reasonable restrictions in the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, state security, foreign relations, public order, decency or morality; or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence. As a national safeguard, the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-IN) was set up by the Department of Information Technology under the IT Act to implement India’s filtering regime. Originally intended to prohibit the publication of obscene content, CERT-IN expanded its role to include the filtering of websites. In 2003, CERT-IN was empowered to review complaints and act as the sole authority for issuing blocking instructions to the Department of Telecommunications (DOT) (Keating, 2009). Where there was socially questionable content, the website would be banned on a temporary basis, as seen in the case where popular social networking website, Orkut, hosted a “We Hate India” community (The Press Trust of India, 2006b), an “anti-Shivaji” community (India Daily, 2006), as well as obscene material about Hindu girls (Kanate, 2006).

Comment Icon0 The United States is the third most populous nation with about 304 million citizens (U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs Population Division, 2009). Of this figure, around 238 million are Internet users, who account for a high Internet penetration of 71.1% (Internet World Stats, 2009). As highlighted previously, the Western media have consistently criticized communist China for its oppressive forms of technical Internet filtering at the state level. Ironically, Internet usage in the United States’ has not been entirely unregulated as well (Goldsmith & Wu, 2006). Majority of the Internet content restrictions takes the form of extensive legal and technical regulation of content in targeted contexts, such as schools and libraries in the United States. While free speech is engraved in the First Amendment rights of every citizen, the U.S. government recognizes the need to challenge these rights in lieu of basic measures to regulate specific online content related to four key problems: child-protection and morality; national security; intellectual property; and computer security (Palfrey & Rogoyski, 2006). Compared to its northern neighbor, Canada, the United States takes a more compelling approach towards regulatory Internet-filtering efforts.

Comment Icon0 First, there is the Communications Decency Act (CDA) as part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, signed into effect by President Clinton. The CDA criminalized the transmission of “indecent” material to persons under 18 and the display to minors of “patently offensive or indecent” content and communications. Legal benefit would be given if content providers imposed technical barriers to minors’ access, which is difficult in practice since age checking was traditionally reliant on credit card verification. However, since the terms “indecent” and “patently offensive” were vague, the CDA was overturned in the landmark case of Reno vs ACLU (Fraleigh, 2003). This brought about the second attempt at Internet regulation, where U.S. lawmakers enacted the Child Online Protection Act (COPA) aimed at commercial content distributors. Considered the “Son of CDA”, it faced the same Constitutional problem as CDA and was later voided by the district court as well. In both cases, the task of identifying “indecent” material and blocking it was seen as impossibly arbitrary. Essentially, the court held that these Acts were not the “least restrictive means” to accomplish the government’s purpose because the private use of filtering technologies could more effectively keep harmful material from children. Instead, parent-imposed filtering could effectively block children’s access to indecent material without preventing adults from speaking and receiving this lawful speech (Fraleigh, 2003). Since the U.S. lawmakers could not prevent the publication of “indecent” material online, they switched focus towards the recipients of such digital communication. The third attempt came in the form of the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) of 2000, which forced public schools and libraries to use Internet-filtering technology as a condition for receiving federal E-Rate funding. Overseen by the Federal Communications Council (FCC), this time the Supreme Court ruled that speakers had no right of access to libraries, while patrons could request unblocking (FCC, 2008). As a result, some libraries rejected the E-Rate funding, while others felt financially compelled to install the filters.

Comment Icon0 The two other major motivations for Internet regulation in the United States, whether technical or legal, stemmed from issues of copyright and national security. The “Online Copyright Limitations of Liability Act”, part of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998, gives service providers a “safe harbor” from liability for their users’ copyright infringements, provided they implement copyright policies and a notice-and-takedown regime. Regarding national security, the Bush Administration had been pushing to expand the Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) to force providers to give law enforcement wiretap access to electronic communications networks. The intention was to make provision for data retention laws to force ISPs to keep and potentially produce data that could link Internet subscribers to their otherwise anonymous communications (McCullagh, May 2006). In this respect, even though content restrictions have often succumbed under legislative debate, the United States can still be observed to be actively deploying surveillance in online communication.

Chapter 2.4.2 – Countries with the Highest Population


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