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computer crimesGovernments across the world have tried to tame the Internet as a tempest of new technology threatens everything from strict government censorship and control over the media to entrenched media conglomerates The Entertainment Industry Giants Already Have Too Much Power [Opinion] The Entertainment Industry Giants Already Have Too Much Power [Opinion] In recent weeks, the Internet has been up in arms about the proposed SOPA/PIPA legislation. Many people see these measures as incredibly powerful and therefore dangerous to businesses and individuals online. While most people will... Read More and old concepts of acceptable speech. Like King Canute commanding the tide to turn back and not disturb him, governments have put up laws against everything from forwarding emails and commenting online in an attempt to stop the inevitable.

Many of us take for granted the freedoms we have online, but there are some people that could only dream they had the freedoms we have. Still, even those of us living in more developed countries are restricted online.

Skype & Voice-Chatting Online

Under a draft bill, Skype 6 Things You Should Check First When Skype Does Not Work 6 Things You Should Check First When Skype Does Not Work Most of the time, Skype just works – but every now and then you’ll run into a snag. These six troubleshooting steps will solve most common Skype problems, whether your microphone isn’t working or the... Read More and other voice-over-IP (VoIP) services How Does Skype Work? [Technology Explained] How Does Skype Work? [Technology Explained] Read More would soon be illegal in Ethiopia. Initially, news organizations reported that anyone using Skype could end up with a 15 year jail sentence (Source). However, it appears that the reporting was sensationalist and the law appears designed primarily to prevent businesses from offering their own VoIP services. However, the law also includes this line:

Whosoever intentionally or by negligence obtains the [VoIP] service stipulated under sub-article (3) of this article commits an offence and shall be punishable with imprisonment from 3 months to 3 years…

In other words, it appears that using Skype to call a telephone through the Internet could land you 3 years in jail. Even worse, Ethiopia’s previous (current) law, passed in 2002, says:

The use or provision of voice communication or fax services through the Internet are prohibited. (Source)

It appears that Skype has already been illegal in Ethiopia for a decade. This law appears designed to crack down on competition to Ethiopia’s government-owned telephone company, as well as giving the government control over voice communications.

computer crimes


Blogging & Forwarding Emails

Some authoritarian governments crack down on any form of speech they dislike – generally political speech that portrays the government in a bad light. For example, according to Human Rights Watch’s 2005 False Freedom report,

The [Syrian] government has detained people for expressing their opinions or reporting information online, and even for forwarding political jokes by email. Syrian bloggers and human rights activists told Human Rights Watch that plainclothes security officers maintain a close watch over Internet cafés. (Source)

The next time you express your opinion online 7 Types Of Blogs You Can Write [Opinion] 7 Types Of Blogs You Can Write [Opinion] When you set out to write your personal blog, you'll realize that there are a variety of different writer's hats that you can wear. You may want to make a personal blog with your thoughts... Read More or forward a funny joke email, remember that you could be arrested for it if you had been born in a different country.

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Commenting & Online Anonymity

Syria doesn’t just arrest people for blogging and forwarding emails, they also take action against people that leave comments the government doesn’t like. As Human Rights Watch reported in 2007,

Syrian authorities have held two men in incommunicado detention since June for expressing online views that are critical of the Syrian government. Authorities have refused to disclose the whereabouts of the detained men to their families. On September 23, the Supreme State Security Court sentenced a third man to two years in prison for posting online comments that displeased the authorities. (Source)

To ensure people can’t leave comments with anonymity How the Tor Project Can Help You Protect Your Own Online Privacy How the Tor Project Can Help You Protect Your Own Online Privacy Privacy has been a constant issue with virtually all major sites that you visit today, especially those that handle personal information on a regular basis. However, while most security efforts are currently directed towards the... Read More and flout the authorities, Syria demands that websites clearly display the real names of their commenters, allowing them to be tracked down. Websites that refuse to do so are blocked How To Quickly Check If Your Site Is Visible Behind The Great Firewall Of China How To Quickly Check If Your Site Is Visible Behind The Great Firewall Of China The Great Firewall of China, officially known as the Golden Shield project, uses a variety of methods to block foreign websites that the Chinese government doesn’t like. The Chinese government doesn’t publish a list of... Read More . They also passed a law that required Internet café owners to spy on customers that access certain, “sensitive” websites.

Disrespecting King Or Religion

While it may not be surprising that authoritarian governments will arrest people for criticizing the government, you may be surprised at the other types of speech people can get arrested for. In some countries, people can be arrested for criticizing the country’s king or religion.

In Thailand, an American citizen was arrested for translating Learn A Language And Translate For Practice With Duolingo (Now Open To All!) Learn A Language And Translate For Practice With Duolingo (Now Open To All!) The internet has given us some fantastic tools for language learning, and Duolingo is the latest site to give it a go. It's just come out of closed beta and is now available for everyone... Read More an article that was “offensive to the monarchy” and posting it on his blog. (Source). Thailand has strict “lese-majesty” laws – insulting the monarchy can result in up to 15 years in prison. Lese-majesty is based on a French term, which translates to “injured majesty.”

types of computer crimes

In Indonesia, a man was recently jailed for two and a half years because he posted the comment “God does not exist” and similar content on Facebook The 5 Best Hidden Facebook Tricks You Should Make Use Of The 5 Best Hidden Facebook Tricks You Should Make Use Of How much do you use Facebook? Every day? Would you consider yourself an expert? It’s true that we do spend a lot of time on Facebook, but surprisingly, a lot of users still don’t completely... Read More  (Source).

Gambling Online

While online gambling is legal in many countries worldwide, it’s most notably illegal in the United States Did You Know: 5 Illegal Website Ideas For The United States Did You Know: 5 Illegal Website Ideas For The United States Read More , where American online gamblers often end up using offshore websites. So far, the American government has only arrested people for running online gambling websites – in one case, a UK citizen was arrested at an airport in Texas while transferring planes during a trip between the United Kingdom and Costa Rica because he ran a large online-gambling website that took bets from Americans (Source).

However, the government has also threatened the average person with arrest in the past – in 2008, March Madness The Best 9 Fantasy Sports Online Resources The Best 9 Fantasy Sports Online Resources Read More sports betting pools started popping up on Facebook. The FBI warned people publically that they could be arrested for running an office-wide online gambling pool on Facebook (Source). All March Madness betting pools are illegal in the US, too – but the online ones allow the government to crack down more easily.

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File Sharing

File sharing may not technically belong on this list, as people are technically sued in civil court and not arrested for downloading content without permission. However, file sharing is what most people will think of when they consider government restrictions on the Internet. From SOPA Behind SOPA : What It Means For Business & Innovation [INFOGRAPHIC] Behind SOPA : What It Means For Business & Innovation [INFOGRAPHIC] Ever since the Internet began, online piracy has been a big problem with the two biggest casualties being the music industry (RIAA) and the movie industry (MPAA). The Internet made it extremely easy to download... Read More to ACTA, it’s a hot topic these days.

While it’s obvious to say that sharing unauthorized files can land many Internet users in hot water, file sharing for personal use is actually perfectly legal in some countries. For example, in the Netherlands, downloading files for personal use is legal – it’s considered “fair use.” (Source)

Do you know of any other common things Internet users can get arrested for? Leave a comment below and join the discussion.

Image Credit: Handcuffs on Laptop via Shutterstock, Victim With Mouth Related via Shutterstock, Prisoner in Old Jail Cell via Shutterstock, Traditional Thai Architecture via Shutterstock, Two Dice via Shutterstock

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