John D Radcliff, Specializing in Interactive Technology & Education!

Laws and the internet in Libya

        The middle east has several first and second generation measures to regulate internet access and online activities.  This includes laws and regulations, technical filtering, physical restrictions, surveillance and monitoring, and harassment and arrests.  There are alot of laws and regulations used to control access which include laws that start with press and publications all the way to Internet and ISP rules and regulations.  Ghadafi used several of these methods to try and suppress the anti government protests that broke out in Libya.  He threatened to lock people up if they were caught using Facebook to post anti government remarks.  He shutdown cellular and internet access through out the country.  All of his actions are from laws that are prominent in other Middle East and North African countries who all share the same view of controlling internet content which is seen as insulting or offensive.  Here is one example of a current law in Kuwait: "Kuwait's 2006 press law allows the imprisonment of journalists for making references to Islam that are deemed insulting or for articles seen as "against national interests" (Access Controlled, p. 526)."

        According to the laws setup in the middle east, Ghadafi has every right in arresting people and shutting down the internet in order to protect "national interests" in Libya.  I agree with having laws and filters in place to regulate certain content if it is going to pose a threat or harm someone else.  For example, if there is a website that is promoting a terrorist attack on the Libyan government then I think the government has every right in taking action against the site and its owners.  The problem with this is what is considered unlawful in the eyes of the Libyan government?  Also, why filter the internet to the point of limiting a person's freedom of speech or expression in Libya?  Does limiting the access to certain online content, shutting down the internet and arresting people for posting anti government information going to stop the uprising in Libya?

        Currently Libya is in a state of turmoil.  Rebel forces in cities across Libya are starting a revolution against Ghadafi and the current Libyan government.  Ghadafi has retaliated by using the Libyan military to wage a war against his own people.  It may seem strange to wage a war against one's own cititzens until we look at the laws, policies and structures in place which allow for these actions.  So in the eyes of Ghadafi this could be deemed as a disruption to the state and he is acting with "national interests" in mind.  This  does not have anything to do with the rules and regulations of content being filtered or blocked on the internet in Libya.  But it does point to how the people in Libya are being treated and why they are being treated this way.  Since Libya is a authoritarian government the people's rights and freedom of expression will be hampered no matter what they do in this country.

Middle-East-Fire-Protest

        These kind of laws can stifle Libya's economy and which we have seen can lead to a revolution.  If people are stifled online then this can have a government start to take away freedoms in real space as well.  In the reading I found that countries in the middle east like Libya are blocking sites for political campaigning and social activism.  Of course the people in these countries are asking that these restrictions be lifted.  Of course these countries are not going to lift these restrictions since they know that the internet is associated with voice and power.  Ghadafi understands this and that is why he has not lifted restrictions on the net or changed any of the laws in his country.  The worst part about this is that U.S. companies are helping to provide these technological restrictions for these countries so that they can make a profit.  It is a shame that content filtering companies do not have a conscience or a concerns about the issues going on in these countries.  I think if they did it would have a big impact on how these countries would go about filtering their internet content.

        A balance of laws and content filtering must be reached if the middle east along with Libya want to keep peace in their countries.  If not, then these governments will continue to experience turmoil and uprisings.

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