Regarding internet network speed matters, maybe our country is still lagging behind neighboring countries. However, if it is in terms of freedom of surfing in cyberspace, maybe we are more grateful than some countries whose governments impose strict rules. Every day we can still access the internet without interruption, unless you try to access a website that really needs to be blocked.
How about a story about internet access in a country that is really trying to restrict its people from exploring what they want? Here are five countries in the world that strictly control the internet and how it affects their communities.
Late last year around December 2017, Cubans just started enjoying private internet access using the 3G network. Then, in July 2019, the Cuban government lifted the import ban on internet router devices, allowing people to start registering their devices with the only ISP in their country, ETECSA – which allows Cubans to access the internet at home.
Before the ban is lifted, the majority of Cubans will need to visit ETECSA-run ‘hotspots’ to access the internet or internet cafes provided by the government. This is a common sight in Cuba when dozens of citizens gather in one place while everyone faces their respective phones.
Their internet access is completely controlled by the government, with ETECSA in March 2019 having to pay special fees to connect to giant websites like Google and Youtube – due to the lack of a complete infrastructure, which requires third-party connections to international networks. This causes the internet costs there to be very high.
The story that happened to activist Bassel Khartabil, who died while in the custody of the Syrian government, is said to continue to haunt the country. Internet freedom activist who deserves to be called an ICT expert, Bassel is said to be responsible for initiating demands that restrictions on internet access be opened to Syrians.
The activist movement that he supports can indeed be said to have succeeded in changing the openness of the Syrian government to further improve the internet infrastructure in the country, with many external sites such as Wikipedia and WordPress starting to allow access around 2017.
Even though it has been fixed, internet restrictions in Syria are still not worthy of being called free. Restrictions on accessing websites related to politics and international affairs have not been fully opened, so the Syrian people have to rely on local news sites or other news sites in Arab countries for the latest information.
The Iranian government has created a centralized censorship system that monitors all internet access and networks in the country. In 2018, the Telegram application, which is the choice of 40 million Iranians, was blocked for reasons of national security because it was an active platform for spreading anti-government sentiment. Arrests involving Telegram space operators have been made several times, with the most recent case involving an influential Telegram operator named Ruhollah Zam. He is a refugee in France who has been accused of colluding with the French, Israeli and US governments.
In recent years, the Ethiopian government is said to be increasingly interested in using their powers to restrict not only internet access, but also telecommunications networks – to prevent the spread of material that carries anti-government sentiment.
In June 2016, as a result of a number of protests, the Ethiopian government was found to be intentionally disrupting internet access on social media sites and messaging apps.
This action is said to be quite extreme because the country itself does not have a large number of internet users, with only 15 percent of the country’s population having internet access. This figure is not expected to grow rapidly due to government restrictions on the internet provider market (ISP), opting to limit the number of ISPs available to facilitate monitoring and licensing.
That is why not many Ethiopians own smartphones, with the majority still relying on internet access through available internet cafes. To this day, the Ethiopian government still adopts similar methods of maintaining power, blocking sensitive content and shutting down internet access whenever there is an anti-government incident.
The network control and control system used by the Chinese government over its people is the most advanced security system available so far for this purpose. Their main filter system, known as the ‘Great Firewall of China’ or GFW – is named after the existing Great Wall of China.
This system was developed by incorporating laws legalizing government control over all internet access and channels aided by modern technology. Its main purpose is to prevent users in China from accessing certain websites. Many outside sites are blocked, including social media sites and the Google search engine.
Used as a method of controlling bad elements that ‘disturb’ the thinking of the Chinese community, the GFW system is also said to be an effort to protect the secrets of Chinese technology companies from violating their internal information – so that these companies cooperate with the Chinese government on development.
Despite being viewed as badly from an outside community’s perspective, these restrictions actually helped Chinese businessmen develop their own alternatives to blocking outside websites. This makes locally owned apps the absolute choice of Chinese as a whole, without having to rely on outsourcing systems.