Communications Disruption & Censorship under International Law: History Lessons


Jonathon W. Penney, University of Oxford/Citizen Lab & Centre for Global Security Studies, University of Toronto


With Internet censorship on the rise around the world, a variety of tools have proliferated to assist Internet users to circumvent such censorship. However, there are few studies examining the implications of censorship circumvention under international law, and its related politics. This paper aims to help fill some of that void, with an examination of case studies wherein global communications technologies have been disrupted or censored—telegram cable cutting and censorship, high frequency radio jamming, and direct broadcast satellite blocking—and how the world community responded to that disruption or censorship through international law and law making. In addition to illustrating some of the law and politics animating global communications censorship, I extrapolate lessons and insights for the challenges posed by Internet censorship today, such as the international legality of censorship circumvention, the nature of censorship justifications, and the potential liabilities for those engaged in censorship resistance under newly emerging doctrines of international law.

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@inproceedings {179503,
title = {Communications Disruption \& Censorship under International Law: History Lessons},
booktitle = {2nd USENIX Workshop on Free and Open Communications on the Internet (FOCI 12)},
year = {2012},
address = {Bellevue, WA},
url = {},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = aug,