UN Security Forces Removal of ONI Poster

By: Jillian C. York on 16 November 2009
Posted in China, Egypt, ONI

Whilst attending the Internet Governance Forum in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, the OpenNet Initiative (along with partners of ONI Asia) gathered to present their upcoming book, Access Controlled: The Shaping of Power, Rights, and Rule in Cyberspace. A poster advertising the book was hung for the reception; UN security officials requested removal of the poster, which contained mention of China's "Great Firewall." When ONI officials refused to remove the poster, UN security bundled up the poster and took it away.

The sentence in question? "The first generation of Internet controls consisted largely of building firewalls at key Internet gateways; China’s famous ‘Great Firewall of China’ is one of the first national Internet filtering systems."

OpenNet Initiative officials were told that the banner had to be removed because of its reference to China, a request repeated on several occasions, and in front of a number of witnesses, including the UN Special Rapporteur For Human Rights. Earlier, those same officials had asked ONI to stop circulating an invite to the event because it contained a mention of Tibet.

ONI officials requested to see governing rules pertaining to the act, however, UN security refused to provide them, with mention given to "objections of a member state."

The incident has been covered in the major news media, most notably by the BBC, which quoted ONI Principal Investigator Ron Deibert as saying "If we are not allowed to discuss topics such as internet censorship, surveillance and privacy at a forum on internet governance, then what is the point of the IGF?" Deibert's web site contains further information and will be updated to reflect new developments.

Access Controlled is slated for release in early 2010. Our previous volume, Access Denied: The Practice and Policy of Global Internet Filtering is available on Amazon.com and other booksellers; each chapter is also available individually online.