By Tony Romm - 03/17/10 04:34 PM EDT
Many of the states on the list are authoritarian in structure, meaning free expression restrictions pervade all media. But Reporters Without Borders expressed special concern about the fact it had to include Australia and South Korea in its report -- two states with democratically elected lawmakers.
Both states have recently ramped up their Web censorship regimes. In particular, Australia has examined ways to put in place an online content filtering system, which would block access to sites with "offensive material." While some local lawmakers support the legislation's aims, the proposed regulation would give the Australian government vast, ambiguous leverage to define what, exactly, qualifies as "offensive."
Ultimately, the RWB report arrives at a time when Internet freedom has become something of a buzz word on Capitol Hill. The concern seems mostly to follow the high-profile dispute between Google and China this year over a massive, January cyberattack -- a breach that has prompted Google to announce it will no longer censor its Chinese users' search results, even if that requires the company to cease its search business there.
The standoff has piqued some congressional lawmakers, including Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinSpending bill doesn't include Cruz internet fight Overnight Tech: GOP says internet fight isn't over | EU chief defends Apple tax ruling | Feds roll out self-driving car guidelines | Netflix's China worries Reid blasts Cruz over internet fight MORE (D-Ill.) and Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), to question how U.S. companies abiding by free expression rules domestically should handle censored systems abroad. Consequently, both members have promised to pursue legislation that would address those concerns.