Amnesty calls for end to web censorship

Human rights group Amnesty International today launched a campaign urging internet users to stand up for freedom of speech on the web.

A website at will spearhead a campaign bringing together all of Amnesty's separate actions on web repression and the jailing of internet dissidents, highlighting abusive countries and calling for the release of those imprisoned because of speaking out online

Marking Amnesty's 45 years of activism, Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International UK, today said: "While the internet has brought freedom of information to millions, for some it has led to imprisonment by a government that has sought to curtail this freedom.

"Governments have shut down and censored websites and blogs; they have created firewalls to prevent access to information; and they have restricted and filtered search engines to keep information from their citizens. China is perhaps the clearest example, where internet censorship and the clampdown on internet dissent is most sophisticated and widespread. But Amnesty has documented internet repression in countries as diverse as Iran, Turkmenistan, Tunisia, Israel, the Maldives and Vietnam."

But the organisation was quick to point out that internet repression is not just about governments. "IT companies have helped build the systems that enable surveillance and censorship to take place. *****! has 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 organisation said.

As one of its main weapons against censorship, Amnesty and is offering a piece of code that can be inserted into a web site or email that contains a fragment of web content that somebody somewhere has tried to suppress. "So every time you send an email or someone visits your site, you are spreading this information further - doing exactly what the censors are trying to prevent. Every time someone new sees your badge...they in turn can click on it to sign the Pledge and join the campaign," Amnesty said.