“The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.”
(John Gilmore, co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, 1993)1
For many netizens there is an illusory image of the Internet as an unfettered, unbounded global network; Gilmore's well-known statement reinforces that image. The Internet is seen as a global web of connections that allows information to flow along multiple pathways around any barriers erected by police-state nations, anti-pornography censors, and companies seeking to limit social network access by their employees. As with much Net folklore, the reality is not quite so reductionist.
As cited in Chapter 9, Internet scholars Jack Goldsmith and Tim Wu described numerous examples of successful censorship of Internet content by politically repressive nations (e.g., China) and even democracies such as France.2 They also note that on many websites the first thing a new user is asked to do is indicate their national origin by clicking on a menu of countries (or within a country by postal code). Once this is accomplished, the site then presents information that is tailored to the user's nationality, language, or community. Goldsmith and Wu note that this often makes the information more useful by limiting it to the user's immediate needs. Local weather information is typically more useful than national data, especially ...