Internet Control / Effectiveness / Implementation

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This article highlights the many aspects of the internet beginning with its early history, development, and commercialization as well as the by-products arising from its creation such as filter bubbles, echo chambers, censorship, and internet surveillance. This article touches on these broad topics with greater detail while analyzing the future outlook of the internet by discussing new applications such as Web 3.0 and decentralized digital currencies.

Internet History

ARPANET Network Access Points

Before the internet, computers were large, immobile, and expensive. To make use of information stored on the hardware, one had to either travel to the site of the computer or have magnetic computer tapes sent through the conventional postal system. [1] These time consuming methods of information exchange were sufficient until post-World War II.


At the height of the Cold War, the US worried about Soviet attacks and the impacts it would have on the nation's communication systems. Scientists and researchers needed to share ideas, access information, and communicate timely to respond to threats. As such, the US Defense Department formed ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency) which was an early iteration of the internet. [2] This allowed academic and research institutes that has contracts with the military to use a connected, distributed network. The first message was sent via ARPANET on October 29, 1969 from UCLA to Stanford and it contained one word, "LOGIN". The system ended up crashing and Stanford only received the first two letters, but this marked the beginning of information sharing through the internet. [3]


ARPANET was a great success, however, membership was limited. [4] This led to more network creations and as such there was no standardization for communication between networks. In the 1970s, internet communications protocols were developed and adopted as the standard, later to be known as TCP/IP. [5] This allowed computers on different networks to be connected through a universal language. The US government adopted TCP/IP standards on January 1, 1983 which is attributed as the internet's official birthday.


By the 1990s, the internet entered a stage of mass popularity which started with the introduction of the World Wide Web in 1991. [6] At this point, the internet was not only used to send and receive files from one place to another but became a web of information that anyone could retrieve.

Browsers were developed to access the web and some notably popular examples include:

Mosaic browser layout which influenced other browser developments in the 1990s
  • Mosaic: Popularized web-surfing by having a user-friendly way to search the web. This allowed users to see words and pictures on the same page for the first time. [7]
  • Erwise: The world’s first graphical web browser which allowed users to click on a link and be taken to another webpage. A search engine facility was built in along with the ability to browse different pages at the same time. [8]
  • Netscape Navigator: The most popular browser at the time and was the first commercially-available web-surfing option. Its popularity led to "Browser Wars" and prompted Microsoft to launch Internet Explorer. [9]


    Surface web and the hidden internet below

    While the internet has served its initial purpose it has evolved beyond an information hub that connects people from around the world. In today's landscape, the internet has become commercialized. With nearly 50% of online traffic passing through tech giants, [10] governance and control rise to the surface. While internet users get access to a realm of knowledge, the convenience has become influenced by various entities and their motivations. This has led to discussion about whether the information available is a realistic representation or has been distorted and taken advantage of such as the The Cambridge Analytica and Facebook Scandal deceiving consumers about the collection of Facebook data for voter profiling and targeting. [11]

    The internet is a vast stage extending beyond the tip of the iceberg known as web-surfing. The network, while open to everyone, has become too big and complex for any single person or agency to manage. [12] It is important to understand the levers influencing everyday internet usage to effectively realize the perceptions formed through digital consumption.

    Filter Bubbles and Echo Chambers

    What are Filter Bubbles?

    A filter bubble is an algorithmic bias that skews or restricts the online information that a particular person sees.[13]

    The algorithms employed by search engines, social media platforms, and advertisers to customize user experience lead to bias in the information that a user observes as it is tailor-made to their search history and habits.

    The filter bubble is useful for personalization as the algorithm can present a user with the most relevant information that is applicable to that specific user.

    However, because it gives information that the person has already indicated an interest in, it might also result in a mistaken perception of reality. The user's search history, browsing preferences, and prior interactions with web pages are only a few of the data sources utilized to customize user experience and build an insulating bubble.[14]

    Filter bubbles, which influence a person's online advertisements, social media newsfeeds, and web searches, ultimately shield a person from outside influences and confirm what they already believe.

    What are Echo Chambers?

    An echo chamber is an environment where someone only hears information or viewpoints that mirror and support their own.[15]

    Echo chambers can hinder critical thinking and distort a person's perspective, making it difficult for them to consider alternative points of view when engaging in complex discussions. In addition, echo chambers are fueled by confirmation bias which is the tendency to favor information that reinforces existing beliefs.

    Filter bubbles are seen as a unique form of echo chamber where the algorithm will consistently show you information that it knows you will favor and agree with.

    Below are some characteristics users can identify to help verify whether or not they are in an echo chamber. While these characteristics are not always applicable to all cases, they do form a general baseline for users to identify the possibility of being in an echo chamber. This process of identification falls largely upon the shoulders of the user and there is not much else that can be done except for using discretion and caution when searching for information.

  • Only one perspective/narrative is given on an issue.
  • The viewpoint is mainly supported by rumor or incomplete evidence.
  • Facts are ignored whenever they go against the viewpoint of the group.

    How Do Filter Bubbles & Echo Chambers Work?

    Filter bubbles can isolate a user and prevent them from seeing new information by quickly figuring out what they like/dislike and tailoring their online experience through data collected over time.

    Most personalized filters are based on a three-step model that focuses on who people are/what they like, providing them content and services that best fit what they like, and then fine-tuning the search algorithms to continuously update to accommodate changes in searches and interests.[16]

    The upside to this model is that everyone receives information that is relevant and useful to their specific needs. However, the drawbacks occur by having the user experience too focused on what they already like and know as it prevents users from obtaining information outside their existing beliefs and knowledge. This is how echo chambers and filter bubbles take shape which can prove to be deadly in the context of politics for instance, as you can have many online groups becoming radicalized as members are exclusively shown information that aligns with their beliefs without any constructive discourse related to other issues or ideas.

    As author and activist, Eli Pariser said "There’s just one flaw in this logic: Your identity shapes your media, but media also shapes your identity." Filter bubbles can cause cognitive biases amplifying their negative impact on our ability to think in a logical and critical manner and it is something we can only opt out of, not something we consent to.

    How to Avoid Filter Bubbles & Echo Chambers

    There is not a set tried and true method of avoiding filter bubbles and echo chambers. As mentioned previously it is at the sole discretion of the user to be aware of the biases that are being parroted to them through their searches and actively breaking the cycle of being stuck in a filter bubble or echo chamber. Below are some measures users can take to help limit the biases they see through their searches and have a web surfing experience that allows them to view all sorts of information outside their normal search behaviors.

  • Using ad-blocking browser extensions
  • Reading news sites and blogs which aim to provide a wide range of perspectives
  • Switching our focus from entertainment to education
  • Using Incognito browsing, deleting our search histories, and doing what we need to do online without logging into our accounts
  • Deleting or blocking browser cookies


    What is Censorship?

    Controlling or stifling what can be accessed, published, or viewed online is known as internet censorship. It occurs when authorities, groups, or people restrict or block access to web content [17].

    Reasons: Some nations restrict online content to prevent their citizens from seeing information that might shock them or cause them to think differently. They might even carry out this action to prevent citizens from raising objections to the government or planning protests. Their aim is typically to obstruct people from freely expressing their thoughts or to make it harder to obtain correct information about what is happening in the globe [18].

    However, there are also additional reasons why the government might censor the internet, such as limiting media freedom or having political, religious, or moral justifications [19].

    An organization may restrict access to particular websites for example entertainment websites to either boost productivity by preventing access to sites with objectionable or inappropriate content or to protect its members from such websites or social media in general [20].

    How Does Internet Censorship Happen?

    Internet censorship can take one of two forms:

    Top-down censorship When a government or other body directs service providers to censor certain types of content, this is known as top-down censorship. The censorship of some content may occasionally be mandated by law. Users have no control over this and cannot select which resources to access [21]. .

    Self-imposed censorship is related to people or groups who choose to shun certain types of content. For instance, a person can opt not to visit specific websites because they are aware that their government will censor the content, rendering it unreliable [22]. .

    Types of Censorship

    Certain images, words, entire websites, and internet protocols can all be banned, among other things. There are several methods of censorship as well, like restricting searches for prohibited phrases or completely prohibiting access to the item [23].

    Government-level Censorship: When a government makes it unlawful to express certain things, that is one form of censorship. As an illustration, the Chinese government has declared it unlawful to discuss some subjects online, such as democracy or human rights. In order to accomplish this, they censor websites that cover these subjects and penalize violators.

    Governments collaborate with ISPs to implement these limitations, either by completely denying access to certain websites or by rerouting traffic to similar, regulated websites [24].

    Platform Restrictions: Social media firms removing particular content from their sites is another form of censorship. For instance, Facebook has come under fire for removing content about sex education and body positivity. YouTube has also been charged with obstructing videos that advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, mental health, and COVID-19 awareness. In this situation, platforms issue take-down notices, and then the offending content is deleted [25]. .

    Governments frequently pressure tech companies to enforce content restrictions that are based on their own propaganda. In such a scenario, the government would threaten complete platform bans as a means of coercing content hosts into acquiescence [26].

    Twitter has started plainly identifying government-related profiles as a response, allowing users to quickly determine whether the profile might be a component of a propaganda operation. It's not much, but at least it works to counteract online restrictions [27]. .

    Local Restrictions: Last but not least, censorship can occur on a more limited scale within a single organization. For instance, a school might impose restrictions on access to specific websites or even keyword phrases. In this method, the students are prevented from using the school's computers to access objectionable websites like social networks or adult websites [28].

    Similarly, companies may place restrictions on particular apps, services, and websites so that employees can only access the applications and websites that they permit them to.

    Impact of Censorship

    People have fought for online freedom ever since the internet's infancy. The internet has grown so central to our lives that, in 2016, a UN Resolution deemed internet access to be a fundamental human right. We lose that fundamental right when the internet is censored [29].

    Increasing censorship may have a variety of detrimental outcomes. It restricts people's access to knowledge and ideas. Loss of information, as well as missed opportunities for learning and development, might result from this [30].

    In addition, digital censorship can also impede critical thinking and creativity. People's freedom of expression may be constrained if they lack access to the internet. It might be difficult to form a well-rounded opinion when people are only exposed to one side of a topic. Having merely a partial understanding of the situation might also result in false information [31].

    Also, fear and distrust can be fostered by censorship. It's possible for people to develop a fear of speaking their minds or sharing their ideas, which can cause them to feel alone and disconnected [32].

    Censorship in Countries

    Some nations have strict censorship regulations, while others have none.

    China: The Chinese government limits access to numerous websites and social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter, and is well recognized for its internet restrictions, which some refer to as the "great firewall of China." The Google search engine and all other Google goods are prohibited in China. The government prevents some words from being used online and censors search results [33].

    Since China banned the use of personal VPNs in 2017, some users have managed to circumvent the restrictions using one of the VPNs that are still effective. Some users even had to deal with visiting law enforcement who demanded they delete their social media posts [34].

    The government also ruled in 2017 that news content on websites or social media accounts cannot be published without the approval of the relevant government agency. The Great Firewall is a set of laws and technological advancements that are used to lock down foreign social media sites, search engines, news outlets, and other content and applications during the sweep. Both the media and the internet are subject to government censorship [35].

    China is well-known for imprisoning journalists, along with Iran and Eritrea [36].

    Iran: Countries with internet censorship, such as Iran, allow only VPNs approved by the authorities, rendering them nearly useless. While foreign VPNs are prohibited, torrenting is not completely prohibited. Social media is strictly regulated, and this trend is on the rise, while pornography is strictly prohibited [37].

    YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook are also restricted. A restriction on other social media websites is expected to be implemented in the near future [38].

    Eritrea: In 2015 alone, twenty-four journalists were imprisoned in Eritrea without a fair trial. Internet access is mostly available in internet cafes, making it easier for the government to monitor online activity.

    Eritrea has one of the lowest internet penetration rates in the world, with only 8% of the population having access [39].

    Most African governments restrict social media apps, particularly during elections. Eritrea, on the other hand, has completely blocked all access to apps like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

    Saudi Arabia: The Saudi Arabian government censors content in accordance with its moral and religious principles. Websites with pornographic or otherwise potentially offensive content are typically blocked. Websites that criticize the government or that have content that could be used to spark unrest are blocked in Iran [40].

    Saudi Arabia has a long history of limiting the freedoms of its citizens. Any attempt to criticize the government is harshly punished, and people are even arrested for spreading atheism [41].

    To become a blogger, people must obtain a government license, and any deviation from the strict guidelines results in the license being revoked and the website being taken down. Because many websites are blocked, using a VPN makes sense. The connection, however, frequently fails, and if the government discovers that a user used a VPN to access prohibited content, they will be arrested [42].

    Russia: A new rule in Russia mandates that internet service providers restrict websites that the government deems to be "extremist," including international websites that express disapproval of the relevant government or that report on demonstrations or other acts of noncompliance [43].

    North Korea: Almost everyone immediately thinks of North Korea when talking about political persecution and internet restriction. North Korea completely censors its internet [44].

    Internet pornography is prohibited, no foreign media is permitted, and VPNs are shut down [45].

    Users can only use messaging apps created in North Korea, which are almost certainly strictly regulated, as there are no messaging apps available from other countries.

    Censored news is the only kind of news that is available [46].

    Internet Surveillance

    Internet surveillance is the monitoring of computers and network activity. The purpose of internet surveillance is largely to obtain data on users and track their activities.

    Conducting of Internet Surveillance

    Internet surveillance has one common goal of tracking user and network activity. However, the uses of the data obtained and how it is used varies based on who is conducting the surveillance. The three biggest users of this data are governments, corporations, and criminal organizations.

    Governments and Internet Surveillance

    Governments can use internet surveillance for public health monitoring, criminal investigations, and monitoring of terrorist threats.

    In terms of public health monitoring, governments have been able to track activities such as Google searches, social media posts, and geolocation information. The data obtained from this surveillance can be used to monitor the public’s responses to illness and infectious disease, the size of outbreaks, and which locations are experiencing more outbreaks. [47]

    Criminal investigations can also be aided through internet surveillance. This is done mainly through tapping broadband internet to monitor activity of suspects of crimes. The types of crimes that may be monitored include, but are not limited to, drug trafficking, money laundering, smuggling, child pornography, and terrorism. [48]

    Legal Boundaries

  • Canadian Government : In using internet surveillance, the Government is limited by a piece of legislation called “Lawful Access”. Law enforcement is only permitted to access personal information of citizens in the scope of established investigations. [49]
  • American Government : Similarly to the Canadian Government, the American Government must also only access personal information for the purposes of investigations. This legislation is known as the “Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act” (CALEA). [50]

    Corporations, Internet Surveillance, and Big Data

    Corporations gather data on a variety of consumer activities, including GPS monitoring, purchases, link clicks, and search engine data. The data obtained through this monitoring is commonly referred to as “Big Data”.

  • Big Data : Large sets of data about consumer activity, which are used to identify consumer patterns and trends. Big data is useful to corporations as it can help to reduce marketing costs through targeted ads based on consumer interests. [51] It can also aid in tracking consumer feedback to improve service experiences and operational efficiency, as well as the development of new products. [52]

    Case Example

    In some cases, tracking consumer data can be problematic and targeted ads can be harmful. University of Iowa Law Professor, Anya Prince, was a victim of targeted ads. Having specialized partially in privacy in health care, she wanted to make an effort to keep her pregnancy a secret from the internet once she found out she was expecting. She took precautions such as using cash only for purchases related to her pregnancy, she turned off her GPS or left her phone at home when attending doctor’s appointments, and she refrained from using prenatal applications on her phone. Despite her efforts, she ended up receiving a targeted ad for baby diapers in the same week that she lost the pregnancy. This experience was mentally distressing in an already traumatic time. [53]

    Criminal Organizations and Internet Surveillance

    Criminals are able to access data through hacking platforms where data is stored. As more items in our daily lives become powered by internet, there is now an increased opportunity for criminals to access and benefit from information about others. Just one example of this is Killjacking. Killjacking is the hacking of a smart car with the intent to cause a malfunction and kill the driver. [54]

    Canadian Laws on Data Protection

    There are two main pieces of legislation to protect citizens’ data in Canada. These are the “Privacy Act” and “PIPEDA”.

    Privacy Act

    The Privacy Act covers data pertaining to the public sector. It outlines the rights of an individual to access the information the government holds about them. Common data held by the government can include age, race, religion, education level, employment history, and workplace behaviour. [55]

    Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA)

    Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada

    PIPEDA covers data held in the private sector. It outlines how private organizations are allowed to collect, use, and disclose consumer information. Examples of these types of organizations include Financial Institutions and retailers. [56]

    Does PIPEDA Actually Protect Data?

    Data obtained about Canadian consumers may not always be regulated in accordance with PIPEDA. This is largely due to boomerang routing, which is the process of Canadian to Canadian internet transmissions being routed through the US and US carriers. At this point, the data is no longer under Canadian legislation and is subject the US laws and surveillance activities. This is creating protest for more Canadian networks in order to promote network sovereignty and better regulation of Canadians’ data. [57]

    More data privacy concerns come into question when considering data residency. ‘’’Data residency’’’ is the geographical location in which data is stored by an organization. Consumers are frequently using services, such as applications, which are not Canadian, and data is almost always stored outside of the country. The use of these services automatically provides consent to terms and conditions that let companies know they can share your data. In turn, Canadian laws do not apply. [58] For example, the commonly used social media platform “TikTok” shares user data with “ByteDance”, a Shanghai based company. [59]

    Case Study: CSIS Privacy Breach

    Case Study: CSIS Privacy Breach

    Although Canada has established comprehensive privacy laws, they have shown to not always be followed accordingly. An example of data violations within the Canadian Government involves the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, or CSIS.

  • CSIS : The government agency responsible for analyzing threats to Canada’s national security. In 2016, it was discovered that CSIS illegally held data about Canadians who did not pose a threat to national security. This violates the previously outlined Lawful Access regulations. The information CSIS held was not reported to the Canadian Courts, who are the sole regulators that hold CSIS accountable. [60]

    American Laws on Data Protection

    American Laws on Data Protection

    As of the time of writing, there is not one single blanket legislation for data protection in the United States. Legislation is dealt with at a state level and varies significantly. Only five states have signed comprehensive privacy bills. “Comprehensive” refers to legislation that covers a broad scope of privacy areas and concerns. Most states have privacy laws in place that are narrowly defined and only cover small areas of citizen data. [61]

    Data protections for American citizens are expected to change soon, as California Governor Gavin Newsom has recently signed a new privacy bill. The laws are set to take effect on January 1, 2023. The legislation is more broad and allows consumers the right to prevent businesses from sharing their personal information. While this legislation is only being implemented in California, it will naturally benefit many Americans outside of the state due to the amount of businesses that have operations all throughout America. [62]

    Benefits of Internet Surveillance

    As previously outlined, internet surveillance has the potential to protect society as a whole when used properly in the course of law enforcement. Governments work to use data with the goal of tracking down or preventing illegal and harmful activities such as trafficking, child pornography, and terrorist threats.

    Surveillance for marketing purposes are also accepted by some, due to data being used to send consumers coupons for frequently bought items, or product design and performance improvements. [63]

    Concerns Surrounding Internet Surveillance

    With internet surveillance comes concerns surrounding where the line should be drawn with what is being monitored. With the Internet of Things becoming more prevalent, more types of data in people’s everyday lives can be monitored. Examples of this include data from smart fridges, smart televisions, and even smart toilets. All of these things are hackable, thus, the risk of data being exposed or compromised is heightened. [64] In contrast to the previously mentioned benefits, government surveillance has shown in some cases to be illegitimate. For example, a study showed that the United States National Security Agency (US NSA) program did not prevent any terrorist attacks from taking place. [65]

    Our Future With Internet Surveillance

    With internet surveillance comes concerns of government control. People are shown to alter their behaviour when they know the government is watching. For example, a survey found that 1 in 6 writers avoid writing about topics they believe may subject them to government surveillance. [66] This can also lead to the prevention of free and open discourse. Regular citizens in society who have not accepted the idea of surveillance are more likely to self censor and avoid engaging in conversations in certain topics. [67]

    International Differences

    Freedom of the Net is an annual survey and analysis of internet freedom around the world by the Freedom House [68]. Freedom of Net report is considered a credible, reliable, and unbiased source of information based on facts, research, and analysis. It ranks the countries by Net Freedom. To evaluate surveillance and censorship and the extent to which they exist in countries around the world, Freedom of the Net report breaks the evaluation criteria into three categories:

  • Obstacles to Access: Obstacles to access includes Infrastructure, economic, and political barriers to access [69]. Infrastructure barriers can restrict access to the internet or influence the speed and quality of internet connection. Economic factors evaluate whether internet is affordable for the majority or beyond certain segments of the populations. Lastly, political barriers evaluate whether government exercises control over the internet. This includes the government policies on blocking specific applications, controlling flow of information over internet and mobile phone access providers.
  • Limit on Content: Limit on content explores regulations in a country that limit the availability of content. Limit of content investigates whether the bodies that control the restrict access to content are independent and without influence and that they exercise their duty to comply with internal human rights standards [70]. This can include but is not limited to filtering and blocking websites to reduce diversity and reliability of information, manipulating content, self-censorship, usage of digital media for political activism.
  • Violation of User Rights: Violations of user rights evaluates whether the constitution or other laws of a country protect the rights of its citizens [71]. It evaluates the degree to which the citizens protected from the restrictions and repercussions on freedom of expression, online activity, surveillance, and violation of privacy. Violation of user rights can include repercussion such as imprisonment, harassment, and physical violence.

    Overview of Censorship Around the World

    Censorship Around the World

    The green countries represent low to mid-low censorship, orange represents mid-low to mid-high and red represents extreme censorship control [72] .

  • High: China, North Korea
  • Moderate: Canada, Unites States, Africa
  • Low: Switzerland, Croatia

    Overview of Surveillance Around the World

    Surveillance Around the World

    The scale in the lower-right corner shows the scale from least watched to most watch countries [73].

  • High: China, USA, North Korea
  • Moderate: Europe, Canada
  • Low: Africa, Croatia

    Exploring Countries Around the World in More Detail

    Below we explore few countries that fall in different categories of level of surveillance and censorship in the world.

    China: High Surveillance and Censorship


    China remains the world’s worst abuser of internet freedom as condition remain profoundly oppressive [74]. The People’s republic of China is run a single party known as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The CCP is tightening it hold on over the citizens by monitoring and controlling online speech, universities, businesses, and state bureaucracy more than ever. It scores 10/100 on the Freedom of Net report.

  • Obstacles to Access: Majority of the citizens of China have access to the internet [75]. However, there are strict controls over the internet and websites that are available for the public to use. The Great Firewall software blocks over 8000 websites Popular websites and application from around the world are all banned in China [76]. Some of these banned websites include Meta – Facebook, Messenger, and Instagram, Gmail, BBC News, YouTube, Spotify, Slack and more [77]. However, there are Chinese versions of these applications controlled and heavily monitored by the government available for the public.
  • Limit on content: Additionally, Internet and content regulation bodies as well as the mobile and internet service providers are not free from government control, thus making it easier to limit the content [78]. Several governments and CPP agencies decide what public is allowed to have access to. Based on a report published by Ryan Fedasiuk of Georgetown University in the Jamestown in January 2021, it is estimated that China’s Cyberspace Affairs Commissions and Public Security Bureaus spent $6.6 billion on internet censorship since 2018, with $5.75 billion of that being spent at the county or municipal level. Moreover, there are now severe restriction on VPN usage and many VPN providers have been blocked. Overall, there is a severe lack of reliability and diversity of information due to heavy government interference. There is also no transparency surrounding private companies’ day-to-day censorship in China, and users similarly lack avenues for appeal.
    Freedom of Net Report Score China
  • Violation of User Rights: Although the constitution guarantees freedom of speech and publication, these rights are subordination by CPP’s control [79]. There are many laws that place restrictions on online activities. The judiciary party is not independent of government control and hence users can face serious repercussions for their actions. For example, “online rumors” or expression that “seriously harms” public order or state interests is punishable as serious offense with imprisonment sentence up to three years if viewed more than 5000 times. Online messages or conversations deemed to incite unrest or protests are subject to criminal penalties for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”. These repercussions include detainment, imprisonment, “residential surveillance at designated location” where police many hold individuals at secrets locations without information families or anyone and other serious repercussions. In terms of violation of privacy, under data-privacy legislation in effect since 2012 web service companies are required to register users under their real names and national ID numbers, compromising anonymity and placing communications at risk of direct government surveillance [80] .

    North Korea: High Surveillance and Censorship

    North Korea

    North Korea is a one-party state which is also known as under dictatorship rule [81]. It remains one of the most extreme in the world in terms of imposing internet censorship and surveillance [82]. Information available on internet freedom is limited and most of it extrapolated from other political conditions. In 2006, Julien Pain, head of the Internet Desk at Reporters Without Borders, described North Korea as the world's worst Internet black hole. It scores 3/100 on the Freedom of Net report.

  • Obstacles to Access: As of 2022, access to global internet is restricted to military and government business in North Korea As of 2022, access to global internet is restricted to military and government business in . Citizens of North Korea do not have access to global internet and are only able to access 28 websites through Kwangmyong, which is a free domestic-only network. Only the “elite” have access to global internet [83].
    Freedom of Net Report Score North Korea
  • Limit on content and Violation of User Rights: The government imposes extreme control over the flow of information and applications on the internet [84]. All domestic media outlets are run by the state and hence subjected to strict censorship. Radio and televisions are preset to receive government frequencies and any attempt to tamper with it considered a serious offence [85] . Foreign content is sometimes made available to the public but the decisions relating to the content is left to the government’s discretion. All forms of private communication are heavily monitored to maintain control. There are no legal associations or organizations protecting or advocating for due process in civil and criminal matters [86]. There are serious repercussions to violating rules related to online activity, communication, and more. Some repercussion includes surveillance, arbitrary arrests, and detention, shoot on sight and other punishment for political offenses. The state also maintains camps where prisoners are starved and forced to perform labour jobs. Human rights violations are widespread and systematic as extreme penalties result from any “ disloyalty” to the government.

    Unites States of America: High Surveillance and Moderate Censorship


    United States of America is the second biggest democracy (after India) in the world [87] and is considered the leader of the free world. Internet in the United States remains largely free from censorship [88]. However, the level of surveillance has been on the rise which is leading to an overall decline in Internet Freedom over the years [89]. In 2014, United States was added to the “Enemies of the Internet", a group of countries with the highest level of Internet censorship and surveillance by the Reporters Without Borders Group [90]. However, it currently scores 75/100 on the Freedom of Net report.

  • Obstacles to Access: Unites States of America has the third-largest number of internet users in the world [91]. Barriers to access of internet are extremely low as majority of the population has access to internet. The government imposes minimal control over the access of internet and does not have undue influence over private telecommunication or internet provider companies. There are some banned websites and applications, but the existing laws do not allow for broad blocking of websites.
    Freedom of Net Report Score USA
  • Limit on content: In general, the government does not directly block, filter, or censor online content [92]. The first Amendment prohibits direct censorship, specially of content protected by international human rights standards. However, certain content is restricted by legal rules. This includes content that violates Child Online Protection Act such as child sexual abuse, Communication Decency Act, Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and more. There is a clear diversity of information on the internet. The online environment is dynamic, and integrity of sources is preserved.Though there is low censorship, surveillance through social media and other communications channels monitoring is on the rise. This has negatively impacted USA’s internet freedom ranking. There are said to be two cameras for every 10 people in major cities [93]. Government continuously requests access to citizens’ personal data from application hosts such as Apple, Google, Facebook, and more.
  • Violation of User Rights: Internet users are not subject to legal intimidation and physical violence by the government bodies for their online activities. The rights of the citizens are protected by the constitution. For example, the First Amendment of federal constitution guarantees protection for free speech. However, laws such as Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, Communication Decency Act have been used to impose punishment ranging from fines to imprisonment if deemed just by the courts. Violation of privacy exists as the legal framework for government surveillance in the United States is open to abuse. There are very limited constraints on the collection, storage, and transfer of data by private or public bodies [94]. Companies collect information about users’ online activities, communications, and preferences, all of which violated user privacy.

    Canada: Moderate Surveillance and Censorship


    Canada is the second-largest country by total area [95] with over 97 % of the total population having access to Internet [96]. Canada has a parliamentary democracy and is world most ethnically diverse and multicultural nations. It scores 87/100 on the Freedom of Net report.

  • Obstacles to Access: There are minimal infrastructure blocks in Canada [97] . Majority of the population (excluding rural areas) have reliable and affordable access to the internet. The government imposes minimal technical or legal control over the access of internet and does not have undue influence over private telecommunication or internet provider companies. There are some banned websites and applications, but the existing laws do not allow for broad blocking of websites
    Freedom of Net Report Score Canada
  • Limit on content: In general, the government does not directly block, filter, or censor online content Canada [98] . However, projects like Project Cleanfeed allows the IPSs to block content that violates human rights standards such as child sexual abuse [99] . Media companies are allowed to go through court to block content that violates copyright laws Canada . But restrictions on the internet and content are generally fair [100]. Community standard and public interest guides the content that maybe broadcasted or published. Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission also has the authority to censor content. There is a clear diversity of information on the internet as online sources are not controlled or manipulated by the government. The online environment is dynamic, and people are free to expresses their opinions and views.
    However, recently there have been changes to the Censorship Bill C-11 that are supposedly for the purpose of promoting Canadian content and artists [101]. But people believe that if this bill is passes, it can invade Canadian’s privacy [102]. It will allow the government to influence what we see and say online. Currently, platforms like YouTube do not track where viewers are from. This bill would force platforms to track where viewers are from and what they like to watch. In a way it would create a filter bubble for viewers as they would only be able to access some force fed to them.
  • Violation of User Rights:User rights in Canada are protected by the constitution [103]. Internet users are not subject to legal intimidation and physical violence by the government bodies for their online activities. It is only recently that Canadians have been a little concerned about surveillance and privacy rights, especially with the C-51 bill [104]. Moreover, laws exist to impose punishment ranging from fines to imprisonment for actions that violate the regulations set by the constitution.

    Croatia: Low Surveillance and Censorship


    Croatia or the Republic of Croatia is unitary, constitutional state using a parliamentary system [105]. It scores 85/100 on the Freedom of Net report.

  • Obstacles to Access: Internet has been widely accessible in Croatia with over 74.2 % percent of the population using internet. Government does not impose direct restrictions on access to the Internet. Internet is affordable and reliable [106]. The government policies on blocking specific applications and controlling flow of information over internet are in complicate with human rights standards.
    Freedom of Net Report Score Croatia
  • Limit on content: There is very little or no evidence of Internet filtering or content manipulation in all areas like political, social and Internet tools [107] . In the past there have been concern about censorship [108], but the current situation has improved tremendously. In 2013, Croatia passed the Law on Right to Access to Information to balance reasons for disclosing information or restricting it [109]. The content on the internet is generally free from political interference and manipulation. There is a diversity in the information available on the internet and people right to express themselves is protected by Freedom of Expression.
  • Violation of User Rights: Judicial independence is respected and user rights and privacy in Croatia are protected by the constitution [110]. Internet users are not subject to legal intimidation and physical violence by the government bodies for their online activities. Due process rights are upheld. Activities like hate speech is punishable by six months to three years' imprisonment and libel is considered a criminal offence [111].

    Web 3.0

    Web 1.0 was a static read only internet whereas Web 2.0 is read and write. Within Web 2.0 a few platforms are owning and controlling data. Web 3.0 promises to hand some of that ownership back to users and become a read, write and own system building on blockchain technology. This would be an internet that would be decentralized, democratic and peer to peer. NFT or DAOs or tokens or crypto would be currency exchanged and generating within Web 3.0. This would allow users to have more ownership. In theory Web 3.0 is community owned and self governing with little to no control from big organization. However this technology still has many limitations [112].

    Why Web 3.0

    Web 3.30 doesn't solve all our problems but it hopes to resolve a lot of them. There is a change in data structure which brings control over private data by using peer-to-peer technology without middlemen. Web 3.0 changes money and value creation within the internet. It also increases the security, transparency and traceability of data shared [113].

    Decentralized Block Chain

    Instead of running on servers, Web 3.0 runs on many users' computers. Blockchain platforms allow users and developers to create uses on top of the existing peer-to-peer infrastructure. Developers will use platforms with the highest amount of users [114].

    This makes it difficult or impossible to change, hack or cheat the system. If you wanted to hack you would have to change every block in the chain across all distributed versions of that chain. With a decentralized blockchain, you have increased privacy security [115].

    Each block in the chain has a number of transactions. There is a decentralized database that multiple participants manage. There is no one person in charge but is run by its users [116].


    Etherium manages and tracks currency without relying on financial institutions. There is no need for a central intermediary such as a bank. Currency is anonymous and transactions are anonymous [117].

    Ethereum runs on smart contracts. You can play games, invest, send money, track an investment portfolio, follow social media and more. There is no centralized (government) control over the movement of money or other assets. Coins are created as payment for validators, participants who oversee and verify transactions in the cryptocurrency. You earn rewards for verifying and lose investment if validate transactions that don’t conform to Ethereum rules [118].

    Data Democracy

    Both Web 1.0 and 2.0: Server-based data where users dont have control of data. This also makes back-end processing tedious, costly and inefficient [119].

    Web 3.0 builds on peer-to-peer technology that currently exists. All data is transferred to computers on the network and all have same info. In theory privacy is guaranteed due to an economic incentive to perform correctly with network tokens or cryptocurrency [120].

    With this change comes a change of top-down management traditional organization to a decentralized autonomous organization. There is no centralized legal entity, and no employment contracts (replaced with smart contracts)[121].

    Smart contracts work since all users behave because they value their tokens and assumption they value tokens and value resources. Smart contracts are not legally binding. It’s a digital handshake. Users sign through private keys aka encrypted passwords. Users execute actions once contract conditions have been met. Rules are defined and enforced through code [122].


    We see the start of social media Web 3.0 with companies like Meta and Steemit. Steemit is a blockchain-based blogging and social media website. Users can gain a cryptocurrency, STEEM, for publishing and curating content [123].

    Limitations of Web 3.0

    There are many limitations of Web 3.0. If something goes wrong who helps you? Smart Contracts or code or a Digital handshake is not upheld in court and are not well developed just yet [124].

    Many limitations that exist in Web 2.0 still exist in Web 3.0. If designed incorrectly, the design of these platforms or machines against us can be used against us. We need to ask who designs what rules to be enforced and what limitations exist. Once outlined solution is to involve governance, ethical and organizational experts in design stages to avoid running into some issues that exist in Web 2.0. Continuing to only have software developers create our platforms is not working. Currently Web 3.0 consists of platforms that are mostly based on money and capitalism. We need to ask are there alternatives that will be more successful [125]?

    Like Web 2.0, Web 3.0 also has limits in maintaining privacy and not being fully anonymous. Blockchain technology needs data trails. If you buy something there’s a peer-to-peer exchange and evidence, making it not fully anonymous. This continues the issue of a citizen scorecard and a nations ability to control people. Current government legislation condemns cryptographic methods that allow you to be more anonymous [126].

    This is not inherently a bad thing. Should Web 3.0 be a full fledged freedom machine or control machine? With cryptoscams continuing to occur, some of the only method of preventing these scams is the lack of ability to be fully anonymous [127].


    Bitconnect was the 13th biggest cryptocurrency in 2017. A big reason why it was so large was that it went viral during its own conference [128].

    The conference really gained media interest, but Bitconnect also incentivized customers with large unrealistic bonuses [129].

    Bitconnect was a fully anonymous company. No one knew who owned it and it turned out to be a large Ponzi scheme where people lost millions of dollars. Something that seemed like a good investment turned out the be devastating. In 2018 Bitconnect was issued a cease and desist. Government officials were now convinced this was a Ponzi scheme and it was finally stopped. Eventually, one of the owners Divyesh Darji was arrested. Darji also had another crypto scam called Regal Coin [130].

    Crypto scams continue to happen and it's important to do research before purchasing tokens/currency.


    Fendi Huynh Navraj Powar Sydney Levington Navraj Randhawa Mehakdeep Atwal Saeda Galmo
    Beedie School of Business
    Simon Fraser University
    Burnaby, BC, Canada
    Beedie School of Business
    Simon Fraser University
    Burnaby, BC, Canada
    Beedie School of Business
    Simon Fraser University
    Burnaby, BC, Canada
    Beedie School of Business
    Simon Fraser University
    Burnaby, BC, Canada
    Beedie School of Business
    Simon Fraser University
    Burnaby, BC, Canada
    Beedie School of Business
    Simon Fraser University
    Burnaby, BC, Canada


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