Out of control

John C. Tanner
15 Apr 2011

The power of social networks was a key catalyst in the decision by Egypt's Intelligence service to shut down the web. Here are other recent content-related issues that have governments concerned.


RIM's BlackBerry service has run into difficulties as it tries to branch out into new markets. The service has been blocked by governments concerned about RIM's email encryption, which prevents government surveillance agencies from monitoring email traffic. India is currently the most prominent example in Asia. As we went to press, RIM was tasked with implementing a surveillance mechanism to satisfy Indian authorities by March 31. RIM was also told by the Indonesian government to screen porn content if it wanted to offer services there.


After whistleblowing website WikiLeaks drew the wrath of several governments for releasing 250,000 secret diplomatic cables between the US and various countries last year, many of the companies it did business with turned on it. Amazon AWS dropped WikiLeaks from its cloud, claiming that it violated AWS' terms of service by posting material copyrighted by someone else.

Shortly afterward, PayPal, Visa and Mastercard also terminated their business with WikiLeaks. This raised concerns about the reliability of cloud-based services like Amazon AWS that may suddenly terminate an account at the slightest sign of trouble.


Recording and film industry groups have been lobbying governments to recruit ISPs into the fight against piracy by requiring them to disconnect suspected infringers or be held liable themselves. Attempts by the US to include the provision in last year's Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement treaty failed, but a new intellectual property treaty for the Pacific Rim - the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) - reportedly may bring it back to the table.

Meanwhile, in the US the Combating Online Infringements and Counterfeits Act (COICA) proposes to give the US government the power to shut down entire domain names if infringement is deemed to be 'central' to the purpose of the website registered under the domain name. Critics say it would undermine the global DNS hierarchy, drive up the cost of data traffic and potentially target commercial hosting sites like Dropbox and MediaFire, as well as sites like Frostwire and WikiLeaks.

How they did it
Switched off!

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