“If large numbers of people believe in freedom of speech, there will be freedom of speech, even if the law forbids it. But if public opinion is sluggish, inconvenient minorities will be persecuted, even if laws exist to protect them.”

George Orwell, c. 1945

After Google announced a sharp increase in the amount of government surveillance of the information flowing over the web, one thing has become clear: “big brother” is watching, yes, but he’s not content to just sit on the sidelines. Last spring, Google said sharp the increase in requests to censor online content by the government were, “alarming”.

According to Google, “The number of government requests to remove content from our services was largely flat from 2009 to 2011. But it’s spiked in this reporting period. In the first half of 2012, there were 1,791 requests from government officials around the world to remove 17,746 pieces of content.”

But that’s just the beginning. China is in the headlines again for blocking Google services in that country, and in August, Australia passed laws that significantly increased its abilities to track and keep its citizens private emails, web browsing history, social media and other internet usage. And, according to its Freedom on the Net 2012 report by Freedom House, “Governments Grow Increasingly Repressive Online, Activists Fight Back”. Indeed, China is becoming a national role model for countries interested in censorship, since, it takes punitive action against its citizens who take to the web to share views.

“China is home to the world’s largest population of internet users, but also the most advanced system of controls—one that has become even more restrictive. In 2011, the authorities abducted dozens of activists and bloggers, holding them incommunicado for weeks and sentencing several to prison. The government also tightened controls over popular domestic microblogging platforms, pressuring key firms to more stringently censor political content and to register their users’ real names. Meanwhile, China’s influence as an incubator for sophisticated restrictions was felt across the globe, with governments such as Belarus, Uzbekistan, and Iran using China as a model for their own new internet controls,” the report said.

Meanwhile, in the “land of the free and home of the brave”, from January to June of 2012, U.S government authorities made nearly 8,000 requests to Google for data about some 16,281 users, making it the nation with the most requests of that nature, since the second highest info-requesting nation was India, with 2, 319. None of the remaining 30 nations reached more than 1,600 requests.

Interestingly, November 9, the U.S. just sanctioned Iran for its punishment of online bloggers and journalists, and the Washington Post reported that U.S. funded technology to assist web users in freeing themselves of  internet scrutiny by governments has been overwhelmed by the demand, with over one million users each day. Two new bills on the web and technology were introduced to congress by Rep. Zoe Lofgren last month, but the aim of those bills are to restrain the government’s ability to acquire user data, leaning heavily on warrants, court orders and subpoenas prior to collection.

Individuals or companies interested in learning about online restrictions by governments or corporations may visit Global Internet Freedom, or learn about the basics of U.S. censorship policy it here.

[author] [author_image timthumb='on']http://pageonepower.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/430031_3485059449445_1841286648_n.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]As editor and social media manager, oversees online content development, social media, marketing, branding, public relations, and serves as a writer and editor for various company and client publications. She welcomes comments and questions, life advice and cookies. Connect with Clark via email at kclark.pageonepower@gmail dot com, Twitter or Google+. [/author_info] [/author]