Downstream Internet Filtering in Unsuspecting CountriesAn interesting side effect of internet filtering has reared its head: those upstream of a filtering nation also have filtered internet.
The World Wide Web is more a series of patch cables than a true web. Smaller countries or regions connect to whatever the largest nearby cable is, and that is how they get their internet. In Oman, much of the internet traffic is routed through Indian ISP Bharti Airtel.
Now, both India and Oman filter their traffic. But they filter different things. In Oman, it is largely just pornographic content that is blocked. In India, entertainment and news sites are also subject to the blocking.
Because the Indian ISP complies with Indian law and blocks access to what the Indian government considers damaging content, Omanese are subject to the ban, too.
This surprising, if now obvious side effect of the internet's architecture was documented by researchers from the Citizen Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs in Toronto. Said the Citizen Lab in its report:
“The application of filters in India restricts Internet users in Oman from accessing content, potentially even content produced in Oman itself, as a result of actions taken for domestic purposes within India. Users in Oman did not consent to this blocking, are left with little recourse for challenging these actions, and have limited means of accessing this content, which may or may not be in violation of Omani regulations. Combined with the significant filtering implemented by Omantel itself, this essentially puts Internet users in Oman behind multiple layers of national-level filtering.”
Mostly the filtering has to do with Indian and Pakastani entertainment sites, file-sharing sites and political blogs, though apparently San Francisco news site IndyBay is also affected.
As more countries begin filtering access to the internet, we're going to see more problems like this. Already similar bahavior has been witnessed in Central Asia.