The List

The List: Look Who's Censoring the Internet Now

Countries like Iran and China are notorious for their Internet censorship regimes. But a growing number of democracies are setting up their own great fire walls.


What's targeted? Officially, child pornography and terrorism, but recent reports suggest the scope might be expanded.

What's behind the wall? In January 2008, the Australian Parliament began considering a law to require all Internet service providers (ISPs) to filter the content they provide to users in order to block a blacklist of objectionable sites prepared by the Australian Communications and Media Authority. Although the law is still in the planning stages, ISPs are required to have their filtering systems ready for testing by June 2009.

The government claimed that the blacklist would combat child pornography and terrorism-related sites, but in March 2009, the list of 2,935 sites was leaked by anticensorship Web site Wikileaks and revealed a much broader scope of content, including online poker, Satanism, and euthanasia. Some seemingly uncontroversial private businesses, such as a Queensland dentist's office, were also included for unknown reasons. The release of the list has dampened public support for the law, and one of Australia's largest ISPs recently announced it would not participate in the filtering tests.

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What's targeted? File-sharing

What's behind the wall? The French Parliament is debating and seems likely to pass the world's toughest antipiracy law to date. Other countries have begun cracking down on file-sharers with fines, but the French law would require ISPs to deny Internet access to those who have been repeatedly caught illegally downloading material. A new administrative body would be created and granted judicial power to enforce the law. The controversial measure is strongly supported by music and film industry leaders, as well as President Nicolas Sarkozy (whose wife Carla Bruni recently released an album incidentally), and opposed by privacy groups and cable companies.

One of the law's most controversial aspects is that it would penalize anyone whose Internet connection was used for downloading illegal material, even if the person wasn't aware of it or the network was used without permission. All people in France, in effect, would be legally required to secure their wireless networks.

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What's targeted? Political radicalism, terrorist tools

What's behind the wall? India's Internet filtering is still sporadic, but the seemingly arbitrary nature of its enforcement has censorship watchdogs nervous. In 2003, the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) was created to enforce the country's filtering regime. CERT-In is the sole authority empowered to block Web sites, and there is no review or appeals process once it blacklists a site. Many blocked sites have been found to contain obscene material, but CERT-In has also shut down Hindu nationalists and other radical groups on social networking sites such as Orkut. In 2003, thousands of Indian Internet users were blocked from accessing Yahoo! Groups because CERT-In objected to a message board for a minor North Indian separatist group consisting of 25 people.

When it was revealed that the terrorists responsible for the November 2008 Mumbai attacks used Google Earth to plan their assault, a prosecutor petitioned the Bombay High Court to block the popular site. The motion was ultimately thrown out, but security concerns are also dogging a rival satellite-mapping site being developed by the Indian government itself. The government agency building the program suggests that some sensitive sites might be blurred out in the final version.



What's targeted? Celebrity dirt

What's behind the wall? Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona is best known for his controversial 1986 hand of God goal, but he also has a hand in one of the world's most brazen acts of Web censorship. Maradona and about 70 other celebrities filed a class action suit in mid-2007 against Google and Yahoo!, claiming that their names were being associated with pornography or libelous sites against their will. A judge ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, essentially holding the search engines responsible for the content of other sites, a standard that a Google Argentina spokesperson told Time was like suing the newsstand for what appears in the newspapers it sells.

The search engines are appealing the ruling, but for now, if you search for Maradona or any of his co-plaintiffs on the Argentine version of Google or Yahoo!, you'll get a message saying the search engine is obliged to temporarily suspend all or some of the results related to this search, followed by an abridged list of links to major news sites. It's one thing for Maradona to try to cover up gossip about his past partying, but the plaintiffs also included several judges whose decisions have provoked online discussion, a fact many see as a major conflict of interest for the justices deciding the case. Unfortunately for Maradona, though, getting the dirt on him is as easy as loading up another country's version of the search engines.



What's targeted: North Korean propaganda

What's behind the wall: South Korea is one of the world's most wired countries, with about 90 percent of households hooked up to the Web, but the Korean Internet is also one of the world's most heavily policed. ISPs are reportedly required to block as many as 120,000 sites from an official government blacklist. Some sites on the list are for pornography and gambling -- South Korea requires ISPs to self-police content that could be deemed harmful to youth -- but much of it is content sympathetic to North Korea or advocating Korean reunification.

The medium may be new, but the justification is decades old. Thanks to the 1948 anticommunist National Security Law, South Koreans can be imprisoned for up to seven years for vaguely defined antistate activities. In recent years such activities have extended to the Internet, with communist activists being arrested for downloading material on Marxism. The National Security Law is controversial, and the South Korean government recently stated that it will relax restrictions on access to pro-North Korea sites, many of which are hosted in Japan. However, recent testing by the OpenNet Initiative has revealed that filtering is still pervasive.

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The List

The List: The Best Places to Lose Your Job

As many as 50 million people could be out of work by the end of 2009. But the unemployed in some countries definitely have it better than others.


Benefits: 80 to 90 percent of prior income

For how long? 10 months to four years

Life on the dole: Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden. Theyre cold. Theyre dark. And theyre the best places on Earth to be sacked. On virtually every metric, these countries outspend and outdo all others in supporting the involuntarily unemployed. Denmark -- home to the most generous entitlement in the world -- offers up to 90 percent of prior earnings for up to 48 months. Average-income workers in Finland take home about 85 percent for up to 500 days, a little over 17 months. Comparatively stingy Sweden provides about 80 percent of earnings for about 10 months.

All of the Scandinavian countries require registration with public offices that connect job seekers with employers and retrain workers into high-demand industries. Denmark, for instance, staffs 190 such offices. They offer computer training and rsum review, and even help place unemployed workers into temporary positions, filling in for employees who leave for educational sabbaticals and parents on maternity or paternity leave.

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Benefits: 60 to 85 percent of prior income

For how long? One year to indefinitely

Life on the dole: Second to Scandinavia come Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. In Luxembourg, a single, unemployed worker gets 80 percent of her income, up to 250 percent of the minimum wage -- currently more than 1,300 ($1,690) a month. The Netherlands shells out up to 168 ($218) a day and provides Dutch-as-a-second-language programs and short-term work placements for the unemployed. Belgium offers 60 percent of salary for an indefinite amount of time -- distributed by separate Flemish and French offices, naturally. The country also offers cash and retraining to recent university graduates having trouble finding work in the declining job market.

The government of Luxembourg, however, has recently grown fed up with wastrel youths applying for unemployment benefits while still living with their parents. Anyone applying for social benefits now has to take minimum-wage government jobs or attend subsidized vocational training instead.



Benefits: 70 to 80 percent of prior income

For how long? 400 to 520 days

Life on the dole: The Swiss government metes out generous weekly checks from unemployment pools to avoid anyone taking a lump sum and fleeing the country (depositing in a Swiss bank account, perhaps?). In 1997, the country began requiring districts to fund job-retraining courses and offices to aid job seekers. Those who miss their classes can forfeit up to a months unemployment benefits.

And it isnt just the unemployed who benefit from the Swiss states generosity. If you find a job that pays less than two thirds of your prior salary, the government will subsidize your wages. Despite the generosity of its benefits, the country maintains a low rate of unemployed and underemployed workers. Switzerland also does one of the worlds best jobs at keeping tabs on its social assistance figures and programs. Kept like clockwork since 1948, all stats are online.



Benefits: 57 to 75 percent of prior income

For how long? Up to three years

Life on the dole: If youre fired in France, expect a weekly benefit check if you were a salaried employee who worked six months out of the past 22. The country scales its payouts depending on how long the worker paid into a national unemployment insurance fund; checks average 1,100 ($1,430) a month. Minimum-wage workers receive 75 percent of their last paycheck; higher-income workers receive about 57 percent. France is also one of the toughest countries on Earth to get laid off in. The country requires companies to justify themselves to unions or trade commissions when they feel the need to fire workers to cut costs.

Unfortunately, because the French workforce is so cushy, it can be a very tough club to join. France has astronomically high rates of unemployment among youths -- up to 40 percent in some areas -- who've never held jobs and therefore do not qualify for benefits. This generation' stagiaire', or work-experience generation, of 20-somethings who accept short-term and unpaid work experiences to remain active has taken to the streets in protest in past years.



Benefits: 50 to 80 percent of prior income

For how long? Six months to a year

Life on the dole: The countrys unemployment benefits calculation works like a Rube Goldberg machine, involving length of employment, age of the worker, non-bonus pretax income, and a number of other data points. If a worker can muddle through the paperwork, though, he may receive between 50 and 80 percent of salary, for up to six months. Workers are supported even longer if their industry is deemed to be in decline.

Japan also offers other perks, such as retraining and unemployment health insurance. The Ministry of Labors employment bureau, called -- really -- Hello Work, has bolstered these benefits since the financial crisis took hold. It now subsidizes public housing for the laid-off, many of whom had been receiving housing as part of their compensation. It has also shortened the minimum time a worker needs to pay into the system to become eligible. Still, Japans safety net has a huge hole. It excludes most temporary and short-contract workers, who now make up more than 30 percent of the workforce. Theyre completely out of luck.