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Access Contested

Access Contested: Security, Identity, and Resistance in Asian Cyberspace

Ronald Deibert
John Palfrey
Rafal Rohozinski
Jonathan Zittrain
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 432
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  • Book Info
    Access Contested
    Book Description:

    A daily battle for rights and freedoms in cyberspace is being waged in Asia. At the epicenter of this contest is China--home to the world's largest Internet population and what is perhaps the world's most advanced Internet censorship and surveillance regime in cyberspace. Resistance to China's Internet controls comes from both grassroots activists and corporate giants such as Google. Meanwhile, similar struggles play out across the rest of the region, from India and Singapore to Thailand and Burma, although each national dynamic is unique. Access Contested, the third volume from the OpenNet Initiative (a collaborative partnership of the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto's Munk School of Global Affairs, the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, and the SecDev Group in Ottawa), examines the interplay of national security, social and ethnic identity, and resistance in Asian cyberspace, offering in-depth accounts of national struggles against Internet controls as well as updated country reports by ONI researchers. The contributors examine such topics as Internet censorship in Thailand, the Malaysian blogosphere, surveillance and censorship around gender and sexuality in Malaysia, Internet governance in China, corporate social responsibility and freedom of expression in South Korea and India, cyber attacks on independent Burmese media, and distributed-denial-of-service attacks and other digital control measures across Asia.The hardcover edition does not include a dust jacket.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-29891-9
    Subjects: Technology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Author Biographies
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Foreword
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
    Carl Gershman

    As we enter the second decade of the 21st century, cyberspace has emerged as a leading sphere of contestation between largely democratic forces seeking to use the Internet and related “liberation technologies” to expand and enhance freedom, knowledge, and connectivity and autocratic states eager to stifle that potential. This volume is the most compelling and informed account and analysis of the new contestation in cyberspace that is now available.

    The Arab Spring highlighted the importance of new social media networks, which were vital tools used by activists in mounting the historic revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt. But as we know,...

  6. Part I: Access Contested:: Theory and Analysis

    • 1 Access Contested: Toward the Fourth Phase of Cyberspace Controls
      (pp. 3-20)
      Ronald Deibert, John Palfrey, Rafal Rohozinski and Jonathan Zittrain

      November 2009, Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. At a large conference facility in the middle of a desert landscape, the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) is in full swing. Thousands of attendees from all over the world, lanyards draped over their chests, bags stuffed with papers and books, mingle with each other while moving in and out of conference rooms. Down one hallway of the massive complex, a large banner is placed outside a conference room where a book launch is about to begin. The OpenNet Initiative (ONI) is holding a small reception to mark the release of its latest volume,Access Controlled:...

    • 2 Contesting Cyberspace and the Coming Crisis of Authority
      (pp. 21-42)
      Ronald Deibert and Rafal Rohozinski

      In its short life span, the Internet has evolved from a laboratory research tool to a global immersive environment—called cyberspace—that encompasses all of society, economics, and politics. It is the communications environment in which all other activities are now immersed. From the beginning, one of its central characteristics has been its unusual dynamism—a characteristic facilitated by a distributed architecture formed around a basic common protocol. Typically, innovations can come from anywhere in the network, at any of its constantly expanding edge locations, and from any member of its exponentially increasing user base. As the network grows, so...

    • 3 The Struggle for Digital Freedom of Speech: The Malaysian Sociopolitical Blogosphere’s Experience
      (pp. 43-64)
      Vee Vian Thien

      Beginning in July 2008, sodomy was featured in most Malaysian sociopolitical blogs and the headlines of Malaysian dailies for several months—a curious phenomenon given that a majority of Malaysians are either deeply religious or morally conservative, or a combination of both. Also, sodomy is a criminal offense in at least 78 countries including Malaysia.¹ The media interest was inspired by the unique identification of sodomy with the political career of a single man, Anwar Ibrahim. Anwar was charged with the offense once in 1998 when he held office as deputy prime minister of Malaysia, and again in 2008, as...

    • 4 Sexing the Internet: Censorship, Surveillance, and the Body Politic(s) of Malaysia
      (pp. 65-82)
      Heike Jensen, Jac sm Kee, Gayathry Venkiteswaran and Sonia Randhawa

      The scholarly investigation of digital censorship and surveillance has moved from an initial focus on fact finding—what was filtered, who was under surveillance, and how this was accomplished technologically—to more contextualized investigations of the political, economic, and social dimensions of specific censorship and surveillance practices. A gender-sensitive approach is arguably more important now than ever for fully understanding the meanings and struggles over censorship and surveillance regimes. For instance, consider the central finding reported by Jonathan Zittrain and John Palfrey: “The Internet content blocked for social reasons—commonly pornography, information about gay and lesbian issues, and information about...

    • 5 Internet Politics in Thailand after the 2006 Coup: Regulation by Code and a Contested Ideological Terrain
      (pp. 83-114)
      Pirongrong Ramasoota

      In 2009, Thailand joined the rank of “a new enemy of the Internet,” according to Reporters Without Borders.¹ This status is ironic, given the fact that the country’s name means “land of the free” in Thai. This development marked a significant regress from a decade earlier when there was no cyber law and no regulator, only open Internet architecture and freedom as the central norm among first-generation Thai Internet users. Despite economic doldrums that followed a financial meltdown in 1997, freedom of expression and freedom of information in Thailand were markedly stable in the late 1990s.² The Thai Internet regulatory...

    • 6 Competing Values Regarding Internet Use in “Free” Philippine Social Institutions
      (pp. 115-132)
      Erwin A. Alampay, Joselito C. Olpoc and Regina M. Hechanova

      The Internet is used within institutions to expand access to knowledge, to improve communications, to manage information, or to increase productivity. But users also download movies, write blog posts, and chat with friends. In other words, people do not always use the Internet for the original purpose for which an institution provided it. Though it is value neutral, there are often competing values in the intentions of those who use Internet technology in an organization: between openness and control, privacy and security, participation and efficiency. These competing values are not necessarily emphasized equally, and may differ from unit to unit,...

    • 7 Interconnected Contests: Distributed Denial of Service Attacks and Other Digital Control Measures in Asia
      (pp. 133-152)
      Hal Roberts, Ethan Zuckerman and John Palfrey

      In early 2008 the Vietnamese government announced plans to mine bauxite, the mineral used to make aluminum, in the Central Highlands of Vietnam in cooperation with a Chinese company. These plans became the subject of increasing protest beginning in 2008 and continuing thereafter. Protesters have expressed environmental concerns about damage to mined areas and toxic by-products of bauxite mining. While some activists involved with the bauxite protests have been connected to banned prodemocracy movements, others have been protesting the Chinese-backed mine on grounds of environmental concern or national pride.¹

      In 2009 a group of activists distributed a petition and created...

    • 8 Control and Resistance: Attacks on Burmese Opposition Media
      (pp. 153-176)
      Nart Villeneuve and Masashi Crete-Nishihata

      Burma is consistently identified by human rights organizations as one of the world’s most repressive regimes. Human rights violations occur with regularity, especially in connection with the country’s long-standing armed conflict. The ruling military junta, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), is best known for its political prisoners and its systematic denial of universal human rights such as freedom of expression.¹ The government’s efforts to silence dissent pervade cyberspace and its system of Internet control is one of the most restrictive in Asia.

      Despite the heavy hand that the regime wields over cyberspace, information communication technologies (ICTs) have provided...

    • 9 China and Global Internet Governance: A Tiger by the Tail
      (pp. 177-194)
      Milton L. Mueller

      As of June 2010 the Chinese government claimed the country’s number of “netizens,” or Internet users, had increased to 430 million.¹ That very large number is only 32 percent of China’s total population.² Already one of the biggest presences on the Internet, and with a long way to go yet, China and the Internet enjoy a complex and seemingly paradoxical relationship. Many Westerners have trouble making sense of the way China’s socialist market economy (SME) combines heavy restrictions with vibrant growth, and globalized networking with an insistence on territorial sovereignty. Western observers have long abandoned the notion that the Internet...

    • 10 Corporate Accountability in Networked Asia
      (pp. 195-216)
      Rebecca MacKinnon

      In 2010, Google’s defiance of Chinese government censorship demands, followed by its decision to remove its Chinese search operations from mainland China, grabbed front-page headlines around the world. Human rights groups and socially responsible investors praised the global Internet giant for standing up to the Chinese government’s censorship policies. China’s sophisticated system of Internet censorship and control depends on the compliance of domestic and foreign corporate intermediaries, which are required by Chinese law to help authorities track user activity and to remove or prevent publication and transmission of politically sensitive content on or through their services.

      Yet China is by...

  7. Part II: Country Profiles and Regional Overview

    • Introduction to the Country Profiles
      (pp. 219-224)

      The country profiles that follow offer a synopsis of the findings and conclusions of OpenNet Initiative (ONI) research into the factors influencing specific countries’ decisions to filter or abstain from filtering the Internet, as well as the impact, relevance, and efficacy of technical filtering in a broader context of Internet censorship.

      These profiles cover a selection of countries in Asia where the ONI conducted technical testing and analysis from 2009 to 2010. Countries selected for in-depth analysis are those in which it is believed there is the most to learn about the extent and processes of Internet filtering.

      The ONI...

    • Asia Overview
      (pp. 225-240)

      Asian cyberspace is the setting for a diverse range of information controls, contestations, and resistance. Governments across the region struggle to balance the rapid growth of information communication technologies (ICTs) with their concerns over social stability, national security, and cultural values. These tensions manifest themselves differently according to each state’s context. The region is home to some of the least connected countries, such as Burma, and burgeoning ICT markets such as China and India. The spectrum of information controls across the region varies as well, with some of the world’s strictest regimes of information control on one end and relatively...

    • Bangladesh
      (pp. 241-250)

      Although Internet access in Bangladesh is not restricted by a nationallevel filtering regime, the state has twice intervened to block Web sites for hosting anti-Islamic content and content deemed subversive. Internet content is regulated by existing legal frameworks that restrict material deemed defamatory or offensive, as well as content that might challenge law and order.

      The modern Bangladesh state (formerly East Pakistan) was created after the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War when East Pakistan separated from West Pakistan. Following the independence movement, the new Bangladesh state was governed under military rule. In 1990 it reverted back to a democracy, but remained...

    • Burma
      (pp. 251-270)

      Burma’s ruling military junta is attempting to expand Internet access in the country while maintaining a restrictive system of control. Although less than only 1 percent of the population has access to the Internet, the government maintains a tight grip over online content, and—as demonstrated by the shutdown of Internet access during the 2007 “Saffron Revolution”—is willing to take drastic action to control the flow of information. Internet filtering in Burma is pervasive and extensively targets political and social content. Strict laws and regulations, along with surveillance, prohibit Internet users from freely accessing the Internet. Cyber attacks on...

    • China
      (pp. 271-298)

      China maintains one of the most pervasive and sophisticated regimes of Internet filtering and information control in the world. The community of Chinese Internet users continues to grow, while the state simultaneously increases its capacity to restrict content that might threaten social stability or state control through tight regulations on domestic media, delegated liability for online content providers, just-in-time filtering, and “cleanup” campaigns.

      The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is a one-party state ruled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Since the opening of its economy under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping in the 1980s, the country has undergone drastic...

    • India
      (pp. 299-308)

      A stable democracy with a strong tradition of press freedom, India nevertheless continues its regime of Internet filtering. However, India’s selective censorship of blogs and other content, often under the guise of security, has also been met with significant opposition.

      With a population of over one billion, India is the world’s second most populous nation. The Indian government, a constitutional republic and representative democracy, generally respects the right to free speech and allows a wide array of political, social, and economic beliefs to be expressed. However, on targeted political and social conflicts, the government censors media and online discussion, particularly...

    • Indonesia
      (pp. 309-322)

      The Internet in Indonesia has been expanding rapidly. Although broadband subscriptions are relatively expensive, users have been accessing the Internet through mobile telephones and Internet cafés. As the Internet market continues to grow, the Indonesian government has become increasingly sensitive about pornographic and anti-Islamic online content. This concern has led to the creation of a number of laws to regulate such content on the Internet and sparked discussions within the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology on how best to regulate content deemed “illegal” under the new laws. The circulation of two celebrity sex videos on the Internet sparked a...

    • Malaysia
      (pp. 323-338)

      The Malaysian government’s 1998 pledge not to censor the Internet rings hollow a decade later. Since an unprecedented loss of voter confidence in the 2008 Malaysian general elections that was partly attributable to online dissent, the Malaysian government is now attuned to the political costs of a relatively uncensored Internet. It has since employed all means of control short of an outright technical filter of the Internet against cyber dissidents. In 1998, the Malaysian government pledged to refrain from censorship of the Internet as part of a financial calculation to attract foreign investment. This pledge was statutorily enshrined in Section...

    • Pakistan
      (pp. 339-350)

      In 2010, Pakistan made global headlines for blocking Facebook and other Web sites in response to a contest popularized on the social networking site to draw images of the Prophet Mohammad. In general, Internet filtering in Pakistan remains both inconsistent and intermittent, with filtering primarily targeted at content deemed to be a threat to national security and at religious content considered blasphemous. Under General Pervez Musharraf’s leadership (1999–2008), print and electronic media were often censored in cases where content was deemed to be antigovernment or anti-Islam. Government repression of media was particularly acute with regard to Baluchi and Sindhi...

    • South Korea
      (pp. 351-370)

      Despite the fact that South Korea has one of the most advanced information communication technology sectors in the world, online expression remains under the strict legal and technological control of the central government. The country is the global leader in Internet connectivity and speed, but its restrictions on what Internet users can access are substantial. The Republic of Korea (commonly referred to as South Korea) was established in 1948 and spent most of its first four decades under authoritarian rule. In response to massive protests in 1987, the government eventually enacted a democratic constitution that has endured to this day....

    • Thailand
      (pp. 371-384)

      Amid political crisis, a deep social divide, and the uncertainty of royal succession, Thailand’s Internet has become a contested terrain of various political views and movements. While the government has employed both legal and technological means to censor, filter, and control Internet content and communication, service providers and users resort to intermediary censorship and self-censorship, and dissidents resist the control, using evasion and circumvention tools and campaigning for freedom and transparency. Lèse-majesté, a deep-seated tradition in Thai society, has become a tool for clamping down on dissenting opinion and a basis for many online users to integrate state control into...

    • Vietnam
      (pp. 385-398)

      The expansion of Internet use in the country has become a cause for concern for the government of Vietnam, which on one hand aspires to expand information and communication technologies for development purposes, and on the other, sees the Internet as a source of instability. The Vietnamese state has taken steps to control Internet use through legal and regulatory frameworks, and by filtering content that it deems threatening to the regime, state unity, or national security. With the rise of social networking and blogging as tools to express dissent, the Internet has become a contested space in Vietnam: the government...

  8. Glossary of Technical Terms
    (pp. 399-402)
  9. Index
    (pp. 403-414)