Bending the Internet: How Governments Control the Flow of Information Online

Jun 18, 2018 | 09:00 GMT

In this photograph, people in Moscow rally for internet freedom during April 2018.

People attend an opposition rally in central Moscow on April 30, 2018, to demand internet freedom in Russia. Authorities tried to block access to the popular messaging app Telegram in the latest onslaught against dissent under President Vladimir Putin. At least 8,000 people, including top opposition leader Alexei Navalny, turned up in the center of the Russian capital.



  • As the internet matures, states will continue to refine their techniques for managing the flow of online information to their citizens.
  • Nearly every national government exerts some level of control over domestic internet use, but the extent of the manipulation, and the tactics used to achieve it, varies widely from state to state.
  • Four countries — Iran, China, Turkey and Russia — merit special attention for their efforts to break Western hegemony on the internet and, by extension, to challenge the free internet model.

Every government -- be it autocratic, democratic or somewhere in between -- wants to exploit the internet to its advantage. Administrations even in liberal countries such as the United States have attempted to direct online discourse and to sway public opinion toward some internet outlets and away from others. And in more authoritarian states, manipulating internet use has become a critical aspect of domestic policy. The precise tactics governments employ to moderate internet use in their countries depend in large part on their priorities....

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