It would be hilariously ironic if it weren’t so terrifying: United Nations security forces confiscated a poster mentioning Chinese Internet censorship at this weekend’s meeting of the Internet Governance Forum, a UN body that promotes open discussion on public policy related to Internet governance.
The OpenNet Initiative, a research group headquartered at Harvard that studies Internet censorship worldwide (full disclosure: I’ve worked for them on and off since the fall of 2007, including full time last summer), held a reception during the forum to announce their new book. On the wall was a poster mentioning China’s Great Firewall censorship and surveillance project.
UN officials asked ONI to take down the poster to avoid “creat[ing] a political crisis with a UN member state.” When ONI said no, UN security took the poster away.
According to Ron Diebert, an ONI principle investigator who was at the forum, “We were told that the banner had to be removed because of the reference to China. This was repeated on several occasions, in front of about two dozen witnesses and officials, including the UN Special Rapporteur For Human Rights, who asked that I send in a formal letter of complaint.” Deibert has since filed a complaint with the UN Human Rights Commission.
A video taken at the forum shows the discussion between UN security and ONI representatives:
More info, including links to media coverage of the incident, is at the ONI blog.
Crossposted on The Morningside Post.