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Free Speech on the Internet

Many people think of the Internet as an incredible system that let people of all nations communicate without a problem.

The fact is that governments are in control, as always.

The Internet was born in 1995 and, with it, cheap worldwide communications. The truth is that the Internet, very early, was used as much by programmers as it was by marketers and political minorities. This is where the problem started.

In 1997, France arrested 3 business men of a newly formed Internet company. The charges were: your website is displaying discriminatory information about Jews. They were detained, in jail, for about 3 months before being acquainted.

In 1998, China decided to block many alien (foreign) websites. They created what is now called the Great Firewall of China. This mainly prevents Chinese people from getting information from the outside. I do not know of specific websites, but more or less, the idea is simple: if you attempt to go to LinkedIn, Facebook or YouTube, it may not work from China. These websites can be very controversial and thus are blocked by government mandates. And of course, as a Chinese person, you may just not know that these sites exist since you cannot access them (unless you travel outside the country).

In 1999, France asked Yahoo! to remove some content from “France soil”. Yahoo! had (still has?) groups of anti-Semite writing discriminatory messages and French citizens had access to these boards. Such groups are forbidden in France.

In 2007, India asked all the Indian ISPs to block YouTube because one of the video on there was showing something that was contradictory to their culture. We know of this from the outside simply because one of the ISPs, in Hong Kong, made a mistake and most of the planet could not access YouTube for about 4h.

The US has also been contemplating ways to control the freedom. So far, it seems that it has not yet succeeded. However, in 2006 (2007?) the congress sign one regulation: Casinos that charge money are not authorized for any US citizen. And if you access a casino from another country, your credit card bank has to report you to the Federal Government. Whether it is really applied, I do not know, but that’s there and since then I do not see as many ads for Casinos online.

This where we stand with Free Speech on the Internet!

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