Law
Filtering
17 May, 2012
Filtering

The number of states that limit access to Internet content has risen rapidly worldwide in recent years. Drawing on arguments that are often powerful and compelling such as “securing intellectual property rights,” “protecting national security,” “preserving cultural norms and religious values,” and “shielding children from pornography and exploitation,” many states are implementing extensive filtering practices to curb the perceived lawlessness of the medium.


Many others are debating the enactment of similar measures and pursuing technological solutions to complex sociological issue.

Access to Internet content in Georgia is largely unrestricted as the legal constitutional framework, developed after the 2003 Rose Revolution, established a series of provisions that should, in theory, curtail any attempts by the state to censor the Internet. At the same time, these legal instruments have not been sufficient to prevent limited filtering. During the Russia-Georgia war of August 2008, Georgian ISPs systematically filtered Russian Internet content. Internet emerged in Georgia in 1994 as an off-line e-mail service.
During the conflict, Georgian authorities alleged that the Russian government supported DoS attacks by Russian hackers and cyber criminals against Georgian ISPs and Web sites.
This cyber-war received significant attention in the Western media, which implied Russian government involvement, noting that the cyber attacks occurred at the same time as Russian troops crossed the border and deployed in South Ossetia. In the aftermath of the conflict, independent experts did not find conclusive evidence that the Russian government was directly involved in planning or carrying out cyber attacks on Georgia. At the same time, it is clear that the Russian government did little to curtail the activity of pro-government hackers and activists who used Russian online forums and Web sites to coordinate denial-of-service attacks against Georgian Web sites and Internet infrastructure.
Despite existing legal restrictions, filtering and monitoring of the Internet has been documented at Georgian ISPs. Evidence of filtering has also been documented on academic networks. In addition to the blocking of Web sites during the conflict with Russia in August 2008, the mediareported that some Russian sites hosted on “.ru” were blocked again after the state-of-emergencywas lifted. Several international gambling sites are filtered by most Georgian ISPs. In addition, a global blogging site has been blocked.
Commercial entities and public organizations filter some content mainly as a way of reducingInternet traffic. Often, online gaming services and instant messaging services are also affected. Georgia is also subject to upstream filtering. The main Georgian ISP buys its international connectivity from Turk Telecom. Consequently, the access ban imposed by Turk Telecom to YouTube in March 2008 caused a temporary blocking of the popular video-sharing site in Georgia.
At present, Internet filtering in Georgia appears to be limited to corporate and educational networks. With the exception of the Russia-Georgia war, which witnessed limited state-sanctioned filtering of Russian Internet resources, access to Internet content remains largely unfettered. Georgia’s dependence on international connectivity makes it vulnerable to upstream filtering, evident in the March 2008 blocking of YouTube by Turk Telecom. It is unlikely that the government would look to impose further controls over Internet content (or force ISPs to do so) given its strong public desire to forge stronger links with NATO, the European Union, and the United States.

 

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