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The Privatisation of Censorship: The Online Responsibility to Protect Free Expression

by Prasad Krishna last modified Dec 09, 2012 01:48 AM
Pranesh Prakash was a panelist at this workshop organised on November 5, 2012. It was organized by Index on Censorship.

Much is known about state censorship, but increasingly private corporations are implementing censorship either at the behest of governments, or as part of a ‘walled garden’ approach. This censorship takes many guises: whether the proactive take-down of entirely legal material, the blocking of websites by overly zealous ISPs, mobile filters that cut access to websites such as Index on Censorship and the use of surveillance technology on behalf of autocratic states. The combination of state-led censorship with the privatisation of censorship requires a debate on the responsibilities of corporations and the framework needed to protect free expression online.

This side session will focus on two key areas:
1. Take-down, blocking and filtering of content
2. The export of surveillance technology, privacy

The panel will explore the ways in which the above can affect free expression online, and how civil society, governments and corporations can and should approach these issues, addressing the following questions:

1. Whether, why and in what ways censorship and surveillance is either as or more pervasive, intrusive and chilling than offline, and the impact on free speech and press freedom?
2. The inappropriate, intrusive or excessive use of filters and firewalls including how these impact directly and indirectly on access to media and the nature of news provision
3. Criminalisation of free speech and free expression – chilling use of takedown requests (impacting on public online debates, on media freedom including investigative journalism), and constraints on comment and debate (twitter, trolls, comment threads etc);
4. Excessive and blanket surveillance and data-gathering
5. Regulations and laws including intermediary responsibility that curtail digital free speech

Michael Harris, Head of Advocacy, Index on Censorship


  • Dr Hosein Badran, Regional Chief Technology Officer, Cisco Systems International, covering MENA
  • Pranesh Prakash, Policy Director at the Centre for Internet and Society
  • Abhilash Nair, Northumbria University, UK
  • Camino Manjon Sierra, International Relations Policy Officer, Directorate General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology, European Commission
  • Andrew Puddephatt, Global Partners and Associates
ASPI-CIS Partnership


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