In terms of freedom of expression, the last few years represent a historical transition period. This transition has left a permanent imprint on the media, communications, political history and activism.

While the latest shifts of the developments, like Arab Spring, brought along many delightful signs of expanding freedom of speech, the real situation on the international level is still grim.

Every fourth citizen of the world lives under censorship. Also, Internet censorship and data surveillance has found global acceptance. The fundamental question of the legitimacy of control is no more addressed as often than questions like how to control and what. At the same time, the next phase of Internet development, the ubiquitous information society, threatens to establish conditions of continuous real-time surveillance everywhere.

Kai Ekholm, Director of the Finnish National Library, Chair of FAIFE and Researcher Päivikki Karhula have studied global trends in the freedom of expression in a recent research project.

This introduction and the following articles are the outcome of the Finnish research project Censorship and control in the Internet age, led by professor Kai Ekholm. The project was granted by Finnish Fund, Helsingin Sanomain Säätiö. Our heartfelt thanks to Helsingin Sanomain Säätiö who recognized the importance of the study. These papers present the top research done globally and tie together the results of this project until summer 2012 covering the history of internet censorship and conditions of its’ development directions through cases and country reviews. We are most interested in maintaining permanent research on this topic.

Kai Ekholm & Päivikki Karhula 
Helsinki, July 2012