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Incitement to terrorism and American providers

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Ironically, most of jihadi websites are hosted by American providers. Indeed, a number of American internet companies unwittingly play host to Arabic-language websites which often urge attacks against U.S. and Israeli targets, provide military instructions to Mujahedeen, or give advice on how to detonate bombs. In the courtrooms, prosecutors want the administrators of those sites to be held criminally responsible for their contents, but this position is strongly rejected by civil libertarians and has so far been proven unpersuasive. Thomas Hegghammer of the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment, argues that it is hard to make a distinction between a real terrorist and a virtual make-believe one.

A consequence of making a judgement by the state, would result in the risk of persecuting many young people who do not actually intend to take part on terrorist activities, but pretend to do so because of anger or to feel excitement. For those reasons, the federal government faces many difficulties in shutting down possible jihadist websites. North American Internet companies tend not to comply, arguing that keeping track of all the contents stored in their servers is impractical and unethical. The US News And World Report of 1998 claimed that even if terrorist Web sites were public, the FBI was precluded from keeping their files. Agents could surf their web pages, but in order to save material from a site on a regular basis, they must have been conducting a criminal investigation. Additionally, Islamic liberties campaigners in the US argue that the anti-terrorists websites effort would be in reality an anti-Muslim campaign, compromising important first amendment rights. In this respect, Arsalan Iftikhar, legal director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, accuses the Government to act in contrast to the freedom of speech, one of the most important principles in the American constitution.

Noticeably, the legislation regarding the publication of material on the internet, is a debated issue. The distinction between jihadi first level of propaganda and “moderate” Islamic websites can in fact be problematic. It is a crucial aspect of the investigations to establish whether a site is simply offering inspirational rhetoric or is truly linked to terror groups. It is in fact true that the hatred exhortations in 2006 of websites like britishoppression.com were often followed by acts of violence, but that does not necessarily mean that they were connected. Web sites such as the former britishopression.com helped to create a sense of victimization and incited to take action against the governments of the host countries. West governments  are  accused of oppressing  Muslims by attacking their religious symbols, using terror laws against them, invading and occupying their countries, spying on them, raiding their houses, torturing and killing them. These accusations are likely to fuel hatred and extremism, but since they don’t explicitly incite violence, they cannot be defined as terrorist websites. Salaattime.com could be considered a “moderate” website but among its publications there are clear vindications of suicide bombing act which they urge their audience to call “martyrdom operations” because ‘if his intention is to make the word of Allah High and Supreme by killing or destroying the Kafireen (unbelievers), then this is Shahaada fe Sabeelillah and not suicide’ (from the lecture “Allah is Preparing us for Victory” of Imam Anwar al-Awlaki downloadable from salaattime.com).

In other similar sites non-Muslims are not allowed to enter the Islamic part of the forums which, unsurprisingly, are protected.  While scholars and politicians were debating on those issues, in 2004, under the new anti-terror laws, a Lebanese Australian citizen, Bilal Khazal has been charged with publishing a document on the internet which incited terrorism.

Aside from those ethical and legal problems, many argue that monitoring the main jihadi websites could be more productive than trying to close them, because it is likely that they would soon appear back online with different names, making it harder for the investigators to find them again.


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Monitoring children’s online activities

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In the web age, the vast majority of households with children in the Western countries have internet access. As both parents and children use the internet for e-mailing, watching the news, listening to music, keeping in touch with friends and buying all sorts of goods online, the net is successfully rivalling television as the most important media outlet.

Studies have shown that having a pc at home is associated with better results in school, especially in mathematics and readings. Parents are aware of it and promote its use but, on the other hand they are also aware of the negative effects of this medium. Indeed the  growing internet usage can have isolating effects on kids and can facilitate physical inactivity and therefore obesity with its related health problems. Furthermore, in the digital world, children are more easily exposed to unsuitable material like pornography and can be lured by paedophiles. A number of surveys have shown that many kids, as young as 10 years old are exposed to unwanted sexual materials when they are online.

Parents are concerned about both the effects of television and the internet, but while they can easily apply family rules on the use of the small screen – where parents and children are equally skilled -  their control of the net turns out to be more complicated. In 2001 the Pew Internet & American Life Report showed that 64% of teens believed to know more than their parents and 66% of parents admitted to be less skilled than their children. Lately these percentages have probably changed in favour of parents, but children are quick to grasp the use of new applications that adults probably ignore.

All the same, mothers and fathers should try to make an effort to efficiently supervise their children’s online activities in order to ensure that they take full advantage of the medium while minimizing the possible online dangers and negative psychological or physical effects. Amato, Fowler and Pettit’s studies have proven that a high level of parental monitoring is associated with better grades in school and lower levels of deviance.

Teenagers typically use the internet more extensively than other age groups, their relationship with parents is often turbulent and they are likely to resist to parental monitoring. Researches on parental monitoring showed that with higher socioeconomic status, parents are  more likely to set television rules and probably the same pattern can be found for internet rules as well.

A 2005 survey on American parents control over the online activities shows that the majority of them tries to regulate their children’s online conduct. Parents see older teenagers as less vulnerable to the adverse effects of the internet  than younger children and thus their online activities are less regulated. Rather than actively monitoring their children’s activities, parents with lower incomes tend to use monitoring software on home PCs whereas more educated and computer-savvy parents feel more confident with their skills and monitor them directly. Fathers are more likely to check the website their children have visited while mothers who spend more time with them at home, can directly check what their children are up to during the day.

Having said that, it is important for parents to find the right balance between monitoring and avoiding cyber-stalking: they need to make sure that children keep away from online troubles, without violating their privacy. Some parents are easily tempted to cyber-stalk their sons and daughters by reading their blogs and looking at their pictures and even pretending to be someone else.  As Yang Chiu-ying notes, sometimes a father can read too much of his/her child businesses, using the excuse of wanting to help him/her in case he/she really needs him. A wise way to deal with the problem would be to have an open dialogue with teenagers about cyber dangers and parents’ concerns. Indeed some researchers believe that parental use of the internet together with children is linked to a higher level of parental monitoring and is definitely a healthy way to use the new media.


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The internet as a stabilizing or destabilizing force

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The academic debate over the internet focus on the contrast between utopians and dystopians of the internet. In the utopians view the net will be the saviour of democracy  while the dystopians argue that the destructions of the national boundaries will cause a profound crisis of the nation-state.  In reality, the internet is not only a technology that challenges the frontiers of nation-states, it can also be used by the governments to legitimize their policies and increase their control over the population.  That is what happens in many Asian countries.

The Chinese Communist party showed a proactive role in the promotion of internet use, since the beginning  of its world spread. By the year 2000, over 80% of the Chinese government’s departments were online and notions such as internet transparency and democracy were broadly used in order to take advantage of the new technology and legitimize its powers while covering it with an ideological veil. Chinese officials have a strong belief in the importance of the internet as we can see from the words of one them reported by Hachigian in 2001: “we in the government think we missed a lot of the industrial revolution. And we don’t want to miss the digital revolution!”

In the same way, Indonesian officials want the internet  to serve as a political vehicle. They consider it to be essential for democratization, and development during the process of “reformasi” started after the fall of Suharto in 1998. Thus its diffusion to fight collusion, corruption and nepotism and to link Indonesia to the rest of the world within the global capitalism is welcomed by the government.

Nevertheless the internet is a double-edged sword, it can be extremely useful for those who oppose the government too. China is renowned for its online censorship, site bans, arrest of cyber activists. Falungong members use the web profusely and the government blocks their web pages and detains whoever promotes them. In the same way, in Indonesia internet communications among dissidents, in the form of an e-mail list, facilitated the fall of Suharto’s New Order regime.

For this reason it is important to bear in mind that, as Castells points out, the internet can weaken the nation-state but at the same time its power can be used by officials to reinforce it. We are dealing with an ongoing battle between governments and civil society and this virtual fight is particularly dynamic in autocratic countries.

Sometimes the cyber battle is not conducted against the dissident’s country but the hacker embraces the causes of its government and can easily take a nationalistic of religious stance. There are many examples of this pattern since the 1990s. In 1998 a group of Portuguese hackers penetrated the Indonesia Department of Security Site, replacing it with the slogan “Free Xanana Gusmao” and protesting against the government oppression towards East Timor. This attack triggered the revenge of Indonesian hackers  who penetrated the server of Portugal’s University of Coimbra which hosted the TimorNet Information Service.

Later, in 2001, following the collision of a U.S. surveillance plane and a Chinese fighter, Chinese hackers  showered a number of U.S. web sites with eulogies of Chinese fighter pilot Wang Wei, who was killed in the accident and Chinese flags appeared in U.S. government websites. Additionally, some people believe that the Code Red Worm and Lion Worm viruses came from China as a response to the incident. The American hackers responded by attacking sina.com, one of the most popular portals,  Xinhua news agency, and some local government sites. In the same year a group of Muslim hackers named Cyberjihad hacked the website  of the Indonesian police to force them to release an islamist leader.

In conclusion, the internet is neither a force that destroys national boundaries, nor can be used to have a complete control over the population, because different  parties will use it for different meanings.


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Internet job searching in the digital era

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Nowadays an unprecedented number of firms and job hunters turn to the net for work opportunities, some of them using it at their only method for employment. Indeed, using the internet for job  searching  gives both employers and workers the opportunity to look at the trade off between quantity and quality of information but it is not clear whether the matching process is made more efficient by this relatively new method.

Christine Fountain, University of Washington, argues that the internet’s contribution to unemployed searchers may give them a small advantage only when other people looking for jobs are not using it. The outcomes of the process through which workers are matched with jobs does not depend solely on their characteristics and requirements, but also on the availability of information that both parties are able to acquire. The information available clearly is limited, is not uniformly distributed and has a cost;  for this reason it’s important to examine how employers and workers find out about each other. Both workers and firms need to transmit and gather information in order to find what they are looking for and their searching strategies are interdependent.

Social networks have always been important in working out the information problem and today  hundreds of thousands of job searching sites containing a growing number of national and international job offers and resumés show that the internet is steadily taking the place of traditional social spaces. Employers clearly save money in looking for potential employees using the web, because they have access to a large number of applicants at almost no cost.  Workers as well can save money and time by applying from home to numerous vacant positions. The information provided by both parties via the internet is theoretically  close to perfection and should be beneficial to the work market as a whole because if workers are hired for jobs they perfectly match, costs are reduced and productivity and therefore wages are raised.

On the other hand, too much information can cause new problems. With a vast number of postings, the job hunter has to devote a considerable amount of time in locating the opportunities that best match his wishes. In the same way, the firms should allocate resources to find the candidate that best suit their needs among possibly thousands of applications. In order to use job searching sites proficiently, it is necessary to find the right balance between minimizing recruiting costs and hiring qualified candidates or, from the workers perspective, finding proper employments.

According to Fountain’s findings, at the end of 1990s internet job searchers differed in important ways from nonusers. They were more likely to have more education, have used the internet in their previous jobs and have higher incomes than nonusers. Therefore, people who used the internet to find a job were a small selected segment of all job searchers. They were likely to find a job much quicker than others thus internet facilitated their hunting. However, the last decade has seen such an increase of the use of the internet by the general public, that this effectiveness declined.

Some literature suggests that a substantial number of the best matches occur not when searchers apply for job postings but when workers and employers find information about one another through a net of acquaintances. Internet can facilitate the communication of this chain through the online relationships of individuals that could have had a previous work tie in the past such as colleagues or employers. Moreover the internet facilitates new ties among people with the same interests and creates new networks that share previously unavailable information.

In conclusion, unemployed people can today access information on job offers around the world but sometimes more information is not necessarily better and can be misleading both for employers and applicants. It is necessary to evaluate the accuracy of it by investing resources and time to do it and take advantage of virtual social networks.


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The risks of undergraduate research via the internet

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Using the internet when working from home is common practice among students but in order to use it effectively teachers should create specific assignments that take this possibility into account. A study of professor Richard P. Barberio of Oneonta, State University of New York indicates that students often overuse the internet much to their detriment and teachers are yet unaware of the significance of this trend and the way it contributes to poorer results. Barberio also argues that there might be a transformation in terms of topics students choose to examine and in the ideological framework of the information they acquire online.

Some undergraduate students rely only on the internet for the research on their assignments. The first problem with this research technique, lays on the fact that the internet does not contain everything and more and more scientific information is accessed solely by subscription users. Many students are not capable of searching the net efficiently and rely only on one search engine. The professor of Oneonta SUNY also argues that some students are tempted to use the internet for many forms of plagiarism and that campus libraries are increasingly deserted and are consequently allocated less resources for traditional research material.

In the first phase of the study, Barberio surveyed 119 students from six courses of his department. It emerged that they clearly used the internet for all major phases of the research assignments, with two thirds occasionally consulting the web even before making a choice on the topic to be researched. Also, 76% of the sample declared that checking the internet is the first step of their research over interacting with library personnel, consulting hard copy material or asking the advice of the professors. Moreover, 36 percent of the students surveyed rely on the internet for half or more of their research and nearly 17% use if from three quarters to all of their research activity.

Besides, instructors seems to facilitate this trend. Students believe that most of the assignments they are given could be done primarily via the internet. When asked what they do when using the internet as a research tool, most of them declare to use commercial search engines like Google, Excite or Yahoo!. Barberio finds this data worrisome because this kind of search engines provide different search results when consulted in different countries and sometimes work as information filters without the users being aware of it.

Form the Oneonta study also emerged that undergraduate students are becoming so used to online gathering of material, that nearly 44% of them would not use other sources when they have problems finding information on the internet. Indeed, a concerning 24.6% would rather switch topic than use traditional sources of information and data.

Barberio argues that in order to avoid the widespread misuse of the internet by university students, professors should make use of some tricks. First of all they could restrict the range of website the students are allowed to use for their assignment by giving them a set of hyperlinks such as tools to compile data. Also, they could require the use of multiple resources and, when assessing papers, they might consider the use of anti plagiarism technology to screen them. Finally, the encouragement of personal data gathering coupled with the critical analysis of academic works could be a useful and clever way to avoid the abuse of electronic sources.

In conclusion, the internet can be an extremely useful tool for academic research and students’ assignments, but it could be easily misused and facilitate plagiarism and poor work. University staff should be aware of it and take the appropriate measures to avoid the negative outcomes of the web revolution.


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Academic research and the internet

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The growing use of the internet in the academic world is gradually changing the job of university researchers. In the work market in general the diffusion of the internet has facilitated team collaboration by reducing the costs of communication and information sharing. As far as universities are concerned, it is not longer required to be a top level lab or department to have access to the work of the best researchers in a given field, or even communicate or collaborate with them.

Recent researches show that the internet has been beneficial to the collaboration between different faculties and departments. The 2003 research of Walsh and Maloney, using survey information from the fields of experimental biology, mathematics, physics, and sociology showed that e-mailing significantly reduced coordination problems in research collaborations. Later, in 2006 Ajay K. Agrawal and Avi Goldfarb found that internet connectivity increased collaboration between universities by 85%. In the same year Han Kim, Adair Morse and Luigi Zingales reported that the internet, giving researchers outside the top schools direct access to colleagues working within them, reduced research externalities in economics and finance.  This reduction of externalities coincided with an increase in salaries at top academic institutes.

An interesting study of Richard J. Butler in 2007 argued that publication technology has changed and the Internet has made academic specialization progressively more important for meeting the quality standards of journals. Butler findings show that it is increasingly difficult for articles written exclusively by one author to be published and he suggests that quality standards have increased with the growth of the Internet.

Clearly, using the internet for academic research entails both advantages and disadvantages. The benefits include: the vastly expanding world of resources, unparalleled multimedia capabilities and instant access to materials. On the other hand, those materials can be inappropriate for academic research, hard to find, incomplete, outdated, erroneous or biased. Researchers should therefore be able to evaluate web contents and know where to find what they are looking for. Indeed, people who undertake academic research must always  assess the accuracy of what is found on the world wide web, by verifying the methodology used and the data provided to support the argument.

Researchers can use directories as a starting point but they have a limited coverage compared to search engines. In order to work more effectively, they should employ different search engines, be able to use appropriate keywords, boolean operators and limit results by language, material type or domain. Some pages are intentionally excluded from the indexes of search engines but can be found using direct links or paying subscriptions.

In conclusion, the internet can be a positive changing force for scientific research but its great potential can be destroyed if it is not appropriately brought into play.


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Internet: changing relationships and new addictions

Most people consider the internet as a useful tool in their daily life but a growing number of web users are becoming psychologically dependent on it. A 2009 survey on the impact of the internet conducted by the University of South California finds that we are witnessing the true emergence of the internet as a powerful personal and social phenomenon and for some users, the virtual world is becoming as important as the real world. The number of people who keep a blog, post comments or pictures on the world wide web continues to grow steadily and the net is facilitating contacts to family and friends who don’t live at a close distance to each other.

According to the USC-Annenberg School Center for the Digital Future findings methods for online communication are rapidly evolving. Nearly half of the members of virtual communities declare that they “feel as strongly” about their online friends as their real-world contacts. The majority of members log onto their community website at least once a day. Many people believe that the internet is important in maintaining social relationships but a small but growing number of members of social communities are aware that their online activities are reducing their involvement on offline relationships. Some interviewee say that they feel neglected by another member of their family because of his/her online activities.

On the contrary, being part of an online social network seems to be linked to an increase in offline social activism. Over 20% of the members of online communities reported participation in the social causes and non-profit organizations they are involved with online. Some of them take interest in social causes they notice online, and they tend to participate to those kind of activities more frequently than in the past.

Internet is therefore slowly changing the way we interact with other people. It could have an overall positive effect but also cause some negative deviations. Some experts estimate that 10% of net users suffer from a disorder known as “internet addiction disorder”. Dr. Pinhas Dannon, a psychiatrist from Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine believes that obsessively checking e-mails in the middle of the night or craving to be online first thing in the morning, is not an obsession but an extremely addictive disorder similar to drug, alcohol and sex addictions. He argues that addictions are changing with time and internet addiction is a product of modernisation.

Dr. Dannon and his assistants have published their findings on 2007 in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology and are currently trying to raise awareness of the dangers associated with excessive internet use.

At present, internet addiction is classified as an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder a mental health condition that is characterized by recurrent, unwanted and/or repetitive behaviours (for example handwashing, counting, checking, or cleaning). This classification is not accepted by Dr. Dannon, who believes that  we need to look at internet addiction in a different way. In his opinion internet addiction is more than an urge, it is a deep craving and it’s important to make such distinction in order to be able to cure it.

Internet addiction manifests itself with vague symptoms which are often difficult to diagnose: periods of deep depression, loss of sleep, loss of work anxiety when not online, isolation from family and friends. The two groups that are more likely to suffer from this condition are teenagers and people in their mid-50s who feel lonely when their children leave home.

According to Dr. Dannon and his colleagues in order to effectively treat the disease, it is necessary to deal with it in the same way as other extreme and menacing addictions namely with talk therapy and medications such as Serotonin blockers and Naltrexone. Moreover they argue that all mental health practitioners should be made aware of the seriousness of this condition.


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The enemies of the internet

The great deal of information available online can cause problems to both democratic and authoritarian governments. It is common knowledge that undemocratic states like China or Iran implement strict online censorships but even democracies are sometimes tempted to over regulate online activities.  In November 2005 Reporters Without Borders drew up a list of 15 countries considered “enemies of the internet” which crack down hardest on the web, censoring independent online news, monitoring the net to find dissidents,  pursuing, threatening and imprisoning bloggers and journalists that diverge from the government’s directives. The list was updated in 2009 and three of the countries have been removed (Libya, Maldives, and Nepal)

The following list enumerate those countries in alphabetical order:

Burma
The military regime is one of the hardest opponent to internet freedom. Its policies are, in many ways, tougher than China’s. The exorbitant price of computers and home Internet connections, make internet cafés the target of the government’s scrutiny. As in neighbouring China and Vietnam, access to opposition sites is carefully blocked and e-mail, such as Hotmail or Yahoo, are banned. In addition, all internet café computers record every five minutes the web-pages being consulted, enabling the state officials to spy on what customers are doing.

China
One the first authoritarian regimes to recognize the importance of the internet and of controlling  it was China. To be precise it is one of the few countries that has succeeded in blocking access to online material that criticize the regime while at the same time expanding the social range of the net. This was achieved by filter, spying and censorship technology, together with repression and diplomacy.  Currently there are 62 people in jail for what they posted online and the regime is very good at intimidating users and forcing them to censor their own material.

Cuba
The Chinese model of keeping control of the internet while expanding it is too expensive for Castro’s regime, therefore it has been put out of reach for practically the entire population. Being online in Cuba is an unusual concession and requires special authorization from the ruling Communist Party. People who manage (often illegally) to surf the internet in Cuba have access to an extremely censured version of it.

Egypt

Egypt has promoted an infrastructure development strategy while keeping a tight control over the internet’s political and social contents. About 1 million Egyptians have access to the web, and approximately 9 percent of that group are on Facebook which provides them a platform not only for social interaction but also for dissent. For this reason the confiscation of printed material and the blocking of websites continues and security officers have arrested several bloggers.

Iran
The information ministry blocks access to hundreds of thousands of websites providing any kind of independent news and those dealing with sex. Several bloggers were imprisoned in the last few years. One of them, Mojtaba Saminejad, was given a two-year sentence for supposedly insulting the country’s Supreme Guide, Ayatollah Khamenei. Despite the harsh censorship of the media, the presidential elections of June 2009 showed the world the importance of social networks. Several electoral debates took place via facebook and twitter was essential in organizing and spreading the news of the Iranian protests that took place in Teheran after the release of the official results of the vote.

North Korea
North Korea is the most isolated country in the world and its government, which exercises total control of the media, refused until recently to be connected to the Internet. The regime does not act on the lack of infrastructure development because it serves its purpose. Merely a few thousand privileged people have access to the web but only to a heavily-censored version, with about 30 sites praising the establishment. Nevertheless, the telecom black market is flourishing on the border between China and North Korea and some dissidents are managing to send videos or pictures abroad.

Saudi Arabia
With the excuse of protecting citizens from online material that is offensive or violates Islamic principles and social standards, the government agency in charge of “cleaning up” the Web, the Internet Service Unit (ISU), presently blocks access to hundreds of thousands of sites. The sites barred deal mainly with sex, politics or religion with the exception of those about Islam that are approved by the establishment. In addition, several online tools, including anonymizers and translators, were filtered. Saudi citizens have started to use the web for online activism, hence the authorities have arrested several bloggers and blocked their content.

Syria
The telecommunications in Syria are the most regulated of the Arab countries but are among the least developed. The regime filters the Web and very closely monitors online activity. Opening an internet cafés in Syria is very difficult because they are subject to harsh measures and if the owners don’t follow each rule, they risk imprisonment. Besides high profile sites such as Youtube and facebook, the regime blocks anonymizer sites the entire “.il” domain and URLs containing the keyword “Israel”. Repressive legislation and the arrest of bloggers and journalists for their online activities and have led many web users to adapt to self-censorship.

Tunisia
Tunisia has one of the most developed telecommunications infrastructures in North Africa with one of the lowest broadband prices in the continent and has installed a very efficient system of censoring the internet. Opposition publications are blocked, along with many other news sites. The regime tries to discourage the use of webmail to spy on electronic communication more easily. Online dissidents face severe punishment. For instance in April 2005, Mohammed Abbou, a pro-democracy lawyer, was given a three-and-a-half-year sentence for publishing on a banned Web site a report in which he accused the government of torturing Tunisian prisoners.

Turkmenistan
The government is considered the region’s most autocratic, but the strict isolation imposed by peculiar dictator Saparmurat Niyazov has seemingly lifted after his death in December 2006. Turkmentelecom and other state bodies control internet access in the country and in March 2008 there were around 70,000 internet users. All foreign-based Turkmen opposition websites are blocked. As in Cuba and North Korea, the regime used to take a radical attitude to the internet and kept virtually all citizens away from it, with home connections and internet cafés not allowed. The new president Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has promised to introduce some reforms including  unlimited access to the internet.

Uzbekistan
In May 2001 president Islam Karimov envisaged an era of internet development in his country and, in fact, online facilities have expanded rapidly but so has censorship. The government blocks access to most of the independent websites that deal with Uzbek affairs and the state security service frequently asks ISPs to temporarily block access to opposition sites. Since June 2005, some Internet cafés in the capital have displayed warnings that users will be fined 5,000 soms for looking at pornographic sites and 10,000  for consulting banned political sites. To avoid aggravating authorities, internet users frequently undertake self-censorship.

Vietnam
Vietnam’s filtering regime is multifaceted, relying not only on technology but also on threats of legal responsibility, public and private monitoring of users’ online activities, and informal pressures. Internet police controls subversive content and spy on cybercafés. In the last few years, the regime’s online filtering has expanded, both in the content blocked and the number of categories that are targeted. While the state’s filtering can be circumvented by users with technical knowledge, ordinary users will likely continue to see only what the government considers safe. Cyber-dissidents are imprisoned and some have been in jail for more than three years.


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The rapid growth of the World Wide Web

Essentially, what we call the “Internet” is the electronic network of networks that connects people and  information through different digital devices permitting information retrieval  and person-to-person communication.  In the late 1960s the U.S. Department of Defence commissioned the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) for network research, but only in 1982 Internet technology protocols, commonly known as TCP/IP, are developed. The medium began its rapid ascent in the early 1990s, when commercial interests were allowed to participate and graphical interfaces became broadly accessible.

Since then the number of people who have access to the internet and use it on a daily basis has risen exponentially, and so have the web sites available online. In 1995 they were less than 20,000, in 2000 were over 10 million (over two billion web pages) in 2010 they are estimated to be around 800,000,000.

The growth or the World Wide Web is not the privilege of the West. There is considerable activity in the Internet and online markets across Asia. A study conducted by China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), the state network information center of China, found out that China has more internet users than the total population of the U.S. Internet penetration remains much lower, 28.7% according to the latest data, (while North America reached 76.2%) but the vast majority are already using broadband connections. Internet use by mobile phones is rapidly increasing and although their connection speed is lower than fixed lines, it can cover a vast geographic area and can easily be applied.

South Korea, with over 37,475,800 users and an extremely vibrant web market, has one of the largest internet penetration rates in the world (77.3%). By contrast the perilous economy and the government’s repression in Democratic People’s Republic of Korea are badly obstructing any possibility of telecommunication development in the country.

According to the Internet World Stats, internet penetration in Africa in 2009 was around 6.7%, a poor result if compared to 27.7% of the rest of the world. Yet its growth has accelerated in recent years due to the improvements on infrastructures and broadband is rapidly replacing dial-up connections.


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Bloggers see movie before distribution

For the first time in the history of cinema, an Hollywood movie has been shown to bloggers before the distributors. Dead of Night, a Kevin Munroe’s thriller movie will be released later this year but a secret test screening has been organized in Los Angeles only for the eyes of some American bloggers.  The internet writers enjoyed the preview of the film and praise it in their well known blogs, undoubtedly giving the production a good publicity.

Vanna Land, author of the website itsjustmovies.com says: “I found the movie totally charming from start to finish with plenty of laughs, just enough gore and suspense and lots of witty banter, even between the most unlikely of characters”. Referring to the audience Ms Land also adds “I believe the movie will have a broad appeal beyond the typical horror genre fans. The audience certainly seemed to enjoy the movie. Everyone was laughing at the right times and quiet at other times. I found the humour was just right — as was the pacing and action scenes”.

This is just a new development of a viral marketing campaign that is taking advantage of the networks created via the web. The theatres’ customers are more likely to decide to watch a movie when recommended from a trusted friend or a person who is believed not to have an economic interest in publicizing it. In my opinion, the idea of promoting the film through bloggers is particularly clever because it will create a growing desire to watch a movie which reliable people praise. Besides, the rumour is likely to quickly spread over the internet creating more and more free exposure.


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