[UPDATED] There has been a lot of strong analysis recently on digital repression, a result both of vocal cyber-pessimists like Evgeny Morozov who have drawn attention to the issue and increased instances of digital repression by governments who are getting savvy to digital activism and are figuring out ways to combat it.
We are learning about new repressive tactics, like Anas Qtiesh’s post on politically-motivated Twitter spam as a form of signal jamming in Syria, and there have been new reports released on the topic, such as Freedom House’s reports on censorship circumvention tools and internet freedom (more on the latter here). Though the State Department has been funding such programs since at least 2009, Bloomberg Businessweek also recently published an article on how the US government is funding Internet security trainings for activists under the title “Untangling Dictators’ Webs.”
Today the Committee to Protect Journalist published a long-form post on the 10 tools of online oppressors, by Danny O’Brien of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, with examples of how specific countries are using these tactics:
- Web Blocking (Iran): Using domestic Internet service providers and international Internet gateways to enforce website blacklists and to block citizens from using certain keywords
- Precision Censorship (Belarus): Attack websites only at strategically vital moments
- Denial of Access (Cuba): Government policies that leave domestic Internet infrastructure severely restricted.
- Infrastructure Control (Ethiopia): Telecommunications systems in many countries are closely tied to the government, providing a powerful way to control new media.
- Attacks on Exile-Run Sites (Burma): Exile-run news sites face censorship and obstruction, much of it perpetrated by home governments or their surrogates.
- Malware Attacks (China): The software will install itself on a personal computer and be used remotely to spy on communications, steal confidential documents, and even commandeer the computer for online attacks on other targets.
- State Cybercrime (Tunisia): A common tactic of criminal hackers, the use of fake Web pages to steal passwords is being adopted by agents and supporters of repressive regimes.
- Internet Kill Switches (Egypt): Severing a country’s links to the Internet
- Detention of Bloggers (Syria): Arbitrary detention remains the easiest way to disrupt new media.
- Violence Against Online Journalists (Russia): In countries with high rates of anti-press violence, online journalists have become the latest targets.
This increased attention to the “dark side” of digital politics serves to warn activists of changing threats and helps them as they develop more effective counter-tactics.