West Censoring East: The Use of Western Technologies by Middle East Censors, 2010-2011


Jillian York and Helmi Noman
Open Net Initiative
March 28, 2011

The OpenNet Initiative has documented network filtering of the Internet by national governments in over forty countries worldwide. Countries use this network filtering as one of many methods to control the flow of online content that is objectionable to the filtering governments for social, political, and security reasons. Filtering is particularly appealing to governments as it allows them to control content not published within their national borders.

National governments use a variety of technical means to filter the Internet; in this paper, we analyze the use of American- and Canadian-made software for the purpose of government-level filtering in the Middle East and North Africa.

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In this report, the authors find that nine countries in the region utilize Western-made tools for the purpose of blocking social and political content, effectively blocking a total of over 20 million Internet users from accessing such websites.1 The authors analyze as well the increasing opacity of the usage of Western-made tools for filtering at the national level.

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