Survey: Online censorship growing worldwide

Internet censorship is growing worldwide, with 26 out of 40 countries blocking or filtering political or social content, a study, quoted by an AFP report, said.

The AFP report said the survey carried out by experts at four leading universities found that people in Asia, the Middle East and North Africa were often denied access to information about politics, sexuality, culture or religion.

The AFP report added that the experts at the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard and Toronto found that the approach varied according to the country.

For example, South Korea heavily censored only one topic, North Korea, while Iran, China and Saudi Arabia blocked both a wide range of topics and a great deal of content related to those topics, the AFP report said.

The AFP report further said experts with the OpenNet Initiative, who carried out their research last year, listed six countries as 'pervasive' filterers of political information: Myanmar, China, Iran, Syria, Tunisia and Vietnam.

They categorized seven countries, all of them Muslim, as 'pervasive' social filterers: Iran, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen, the AFP report said.

The report added that topics blocked are those considered antithetical to social norms, such as pornography, gay and lesbian content, and gambling.

Social filtering also was carried out by countries like France and Germany, where Web sites that deny the Holocaust or promote Nazism are blocked, it said.

The report further said the survey found that Myanmar, China, Iran, Pakistan and South Korea have the 'most encompassing national security filtering,' targeting the Web sites of insurgents, extremists, and terrorists.