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Be irrepressible! a campaign for global internet freedom

As more and more nations carve up the so-called global, borderless internet into separate spheres of control through filtering and censorship, often using technology supplied by large IT companies, Amnesty International has launched a new campaign – irrepressible.info to raise awareness of and protest against the infringements on the basic human right of freedom of speech.

Chat rooms monitored. Blogs deleted. Websites blocked. Search engines restricted. People imprisoned for simply posting and sharing information.

The Internet is a new frontier in the struggle for human rights. Governments – with the help of some of the biggest IT companies in the world – are cracking down on freedom of expression.

There are specific examples of some of the countries and companies in the spotlight:

The web is a great tool for sharing ideas and freedom of expression. However, efforts to try and control the Internet are growing. Internet repression is reported in countries like China, Vietnam, Tunisia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Syria. People are persecuted and imprisoned simply for criticising their government, calling for democracy and greater press freedom or exposing human rights abuses, online.

But Internet repression is not just about governments. IT companies have helped build the systems that enable surveillance and censorship to take place. Yahoo! have supplied email users’ private data to the Chinese authorities, helping to facilitate cases of wrongful imprisonment. Microsoft and Google have both complied with government demands to actively censor Chinese users of their services.

The campaign has three main points of action – firstly urging people to sign a pledge on internet freedom, secondly encouraging individuals to undermine censorship by publishing “irrepressible” fragments on censored material on personal sites and thirdly to take action on behalf of imprisoned Chinese journalist Shi Tao

The second option involves putting a piece of javascript on your site which will generate a box containing random pieces of censored information.

If you click on the box you are taken to the campaign page where, not entirely obviously, there is more information about where the random piece of information originated and a url to the censored website (in the off-white box on the right hand side of the page).

The fragments are generated from a database of censored material which is being compiled by the OpenNet Initiative which also has an interactive map with a geographical representation of their detailed research into national efforts to filter the internet.

At least 200 people signed the internet freedom pledge in the time it took me to write this post, according to the counter on the irrepressible.info main page, bringing the total to nearly 13,000 signatures. Let's make some noise, and make a difference.

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