Censorship and the Deglobalization of the World Wide Web
With the Cameron government's proposal to automatically filter out pornographic websites from Internet access to all households in the United Kingdom, the UK joins a growing list of countries which attempt to censor all or part of the Internet content their citizens are able to access. All of which begs the question, is the name "world wide web" a misnomer? Is the Internet truly universal?
For almost 3 decades, the world wide web has been a part of our lives. It's our source of news and information, our link to family and friends around the globe, our giant 24/7 shopping mall, our entertainment, and our nearly constant companion. But in fact, the "world wide web" is not so "world wide" as we think.
Censorship has caused a major deglobalization of the world wide web. What an Internet user in Canada can access is much different from what a user in North Korea or Afghanistan or Russia is able to see. The Washington Post interviewed Sanja Kelly, project director for Freedom House, whose 2013 report found that "Internet censorship is on the rise: more websites are being blocked than ever before and an increasing number of countries are passing laws that would restrict certain types of online content.”
Each year the Internet becomes less global in nature, as new content restrictions and privacy laws are adopted by countries around the world. It can be very difficult for online businesses with customers in more than one country to try to make sense of all the laws, rules, regulations and guidelines. There is no "one size fits all". How can you be sure that certain content on your website will not cause your site to be blacklisted or blocked in some other country?
The answer is, you can't be absolutely sure unless and until it happens. But you can find plenty of help online, such as the U.S. Small Business Administration's guide for online businesses, so you can at least be sure that your website complies with the laws in your home jurisdiction. If your target markets include customers in other countries (such as China and India), consider creating country-specific versions of your website that geo-target specific audiences and that comply with the laws and regulations of those countries. Outsource the website development to experts within those countries who can then ensure that your site is not only legally compliant but also culturally relevant.
Image by squarefrog from Pixabay