While we’ve usually got our collective eyes focused on the latest widget, apps, smartphone or tablet, there are people working on ways to restrict and or watch us. That’s not news in itself, but it’s a good idea to review who makes the best and worst on this list. Leading the charge for freedom of speech and access on the Internet is The OpenNet Initiative (ONI). This cross border collaboration between Canada and the United States uses four filtering criteria that includes material deemed offensive due to its political and/or social nature.

Iran is the worst offender when it comes to censorship. Now while that might not surprise everyone reading this, it is interesting to censornote that when Tehran was tested in 2011, the results found even the president wasn’t immune to being watched by Big Brother. Iran’s president at the time, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, had several of his followers’ websites blocked during his run for re-election.

CNN and 1984

If you’ve ever read 1984, you’ll be frightened by this next bit. CNN recently reported China employs two million people to police the Internet, but of course they call those workers “public opinion analysts.” Their job is to take specific keywords and search the web looking for references that use them. These then get reported to the authorities.

There’s always more. The above mentioned ONI reports that Saudi Arabia is looking at putting restrictions on content that includes YouTube. Citizens who want to post video content originating from that country will need to get a license from the government that explains the conditions.

Interesting findings

There are some interesting findings when it comes to the United States and Canada as well according to recent reports from ONI. They tell us that in The United States, the many government-mandated attempts to control the type of content allowed have been restricted on First Amendment Grounds. The notable exception in both countries is child pornography. Still, the emphasis on both sides of the border concentrates more on removal than blocking the offending content. It would seem Big Brother is watching us here too, but not taking as much of a proactive role as they are in other places.

Finally, the Paris based group Reporters Without Borders has compiled a list of the twelve worse offenders when it comes to Internet censorship. Burma is near the top even though it is one of the least connected countries in the world. They even have an Electronic Act they used to imprison a blogger/comedian who was critical of the government. Zarganar was sentenced to 35 years.