Algeria to censor internet

Algeria is planning to introduce a centralised system for filtering (i.e. censoring) the internet. It is also proposing stiff penalties for anyone who circumvents the government's filtering, according to the Magharebia news website.

Algeria is one of the few Arab countries (along with Egypt and Iraq) that does not routinely block access to disapproved websites at present, though it seeks to control internet use in other ways.

Under a law introduced in 1998, internet service provides (ISPs) are responsible for the sites they host, and must take “all necessary steps to ensure constant surveillance” of content to prevent access to “material contrary to public order and morality.”

Last year, the government introduced a wide-ranging bill to criminalise hacking, stealing of personal data, promoting terrorism and crimes online, blackmailing, and copyright infringement.

Earlier this year it established an new security service specialising in "cybercrime". Police officers were also given powers to “break into, inspect and control” internet cafés in the interest of preventing terrorist activities.

The government says it has a "responsibility" to protect citizens from "malicious content online" and is presenting the filtering plan as way to block pornography and websites that promote terrorism, though the system could also be used to block politically sensitive content.

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 20 December 2009.

UPDATE: The Algerian Review blog has further discussion of the government's internet policies.