Communications Disruption and Censorship under International Law: History Lessons

Proceedings of the 2nd USENIX Workshop on Free and Open Communications on the Internet (FOCI '12), August 6 2012

11 Pages Posted: 19 Jun 2019

See all articles by Jon Penney

Jon Penney

Harvard Law School; Harvard University - Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society; Citizen Lab, University of Toronto

Date Written: August 6, 2012

Abstract

With Internet censorship on the rise around the world, a variety of tools have proliferated to assist Internet users to circumvent such censorship. However, there are few studies examining the implications of censorship circumvention under international law, and its related politics. This paper aims to help fill some of that void, with an examination of case studies wherein global communications technologies have been disrupted or censored — telegram cable cutting and censorship, high frequency radio jamming, and direct broadcast satellite blocking — and how the world community responded to that disruption or censorship through international law and law making. In addition to illustrating some of the law and politics animating global communications censorship, I extrapolate lessons and insights for the challenges posed by Internet censorship today, such as the international legality of censorship circumvention, the nature of censorship justifications, and the potential liabilities for those engaged in censorship resistance under newly emerging doctrines of international law.

Keywords: internet censorship, human rights, surveillance, telecommunications, international law, freedom of expression, privacy, telegraph, radio blocking

JEL Classification: F00

Suggested Citation

Penney, Jonathon, Communications Disruption and Censorship under International Law: History Lessons (August 6, 2012). Proceedings of the 2nd USENIX Workshop on Free and Open Communications on the Internet (FOCI '12), August 6 2012, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3402960

Jonathon Penney (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

1575 Massachusetts
Hauser 406
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Harvard University - Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society ( email )

Harvard Law School
23 Everett, 2nd Floor
Cambridge, MA Nova Scotia 02138
Canada

Citizen Lab, University of Toronto ( email )

Munk School of Global Affairs
University of Toronto
Toronto, Ontario M5S 3K7
Canada

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