My hard working colleagues at the Berkman Center and the Open Net Initiative have just released Internet Filtering in Tunisia in 2005: A Country Study. A key point is that Tunisia's censorship is brought to you courtesy of an American company, Secure Computing, with the tool Smartfilter.
NOTE: We will be discussing the release of this report, among other things, at the "Expression Under Repression" seminar on Thursday afternoon at 2pm in Tunis. Click here for full details.
According to the report:
Our high-impact testing demonstrates that Tunisia uses the SmartFilter software to block sites on political opposition, criticism of the state’s human rights practices, independent news (particularly that aligned with dissident political groups), and non-governmental organizations focused on human rights.
On what Tunisia filters:
The state prevents access to the majority – in some cases, nearly all – of sites on topics such as anonymizers and circumvention tools, political opposition, human rights criticism of Tunisia’s practices, and pornography. Tunisia’s filtering system is concentrated and quite effective.
The report concludes:
In Tunisia, citizens may be theoretically free to receive and share information, but they are practically prevented from doing so on a number of vital topics by a state that combines sophisticated American technology, harsh laws, and informal pressures to limit access. Tunisia focuses its efforts on four areas: political opposition, criticism of the government’s human rights record, methods of circumventing filtering, and pornography. Unlike other states employing filtering software that ONI has studied, Tunisia actively disguises its blocking by presenting users with a fake error page instead of the “block page” offered by SmartFilter. This decreases the transparency of Tunisia’s filtering and prevents users from understanding the boundaries of blocked content. In sum, Tunisia maintains a focused, effective system of Internet control that blends multiple methods to make some on-line material simply unavailable from within its borders. The stark contrast between Tunisia’s censorship regime and the lofty goals of the World Summit on the Information Society call into question the United Nations decision to hold the summit in Tunis.