Harvard's Berkman Center and IEEE Internet Computing have posted an an interesting series of peer-reviewed papers on the future of internet censorship and control. In one, Derek Bambauer of the James E. Rogers School of Law and the University of Arizona argues that it's no longer entirely accurate or useful to associate internet censorships solely with authoritarian regimes:
This easy formula - filtering equates with authoritarian government - no longer held true by 2006-2007, when an increasing number of democratic countries were engaging in censorship. The list grew rapidly. France blocked hate speech; South Korea filtered North Korean sites Great Britain censored child pornography and then copyright infringement; India curtailed access to political and religious content Censorship v3.0, where filtering was increasingly ubiquitous regardless of political system, had definitively arrived when the United States began seizing domain names and blocking access to the content located at them, primarily due to allegations of intellectual property infringement. Countries such as the U.S. sought to retain the rhetorical and normative advantages of the prior period by describing their efforts as enforcing property rights, protecting children, or preventing dignitary harms. Such assertions became increasingly untenable. Censorship functions identically when America redirects access [Link here] to domain names about Cuban culture or hip hop music and when Vietnam redirects ones about political minorities. While one can distinguish between the legitimacy of the actions of these two states, both countries plainly censor the Internet.
The argument, as I read it, is not so much that the censorship practiced by democracies is equivalent in scale or intent to that in autocracies, but that we're entering a period where the debate is not so much about whether the Internet can or should be censored, but when censorship is appropriate and who will have authority to do it.