Information warfare



It’s sad but not surprising to learn that North Korea has blocked Twitter, Facebook, and You Tube.   If there is any surprise, it is that it has taken them this long, an implicit testament to the lack of internet access in North Korea. And while this kind of censorship is expected in North Korea, one has higher hopes for South Korea.

Admittedly, while North Korean interference in South Korean internal politics presents a unique challenge, traditionally Seoul’s implementation of the National Security Law has erred on the side of excessive caution.  Those repressive tendencies seem to have deepened in recent years, and reached a disconcerting nadir earlier this month with the blocking of the wonderful North Korea Tech Blog run by Martyn Williams.

In a world in which many pass off blather for analysis, Martyn’s blog in fact-based and highly informative. The Korea Communications Standards Commission which implemented the ban didn’t even bother to inform Williams of the block and has provided no specific reason for the action.  The implications for other information sources, including this one, are chilling.

But denying access to information is not limited to the Korean peninsula. According to NK News, soon after the latest round of UN sanctions were announced, China stopped publishing online data on its bilateral trade with North Korea. As in the case of the ban on Martyn Williams’ blog, Kent Boydston tells me that there are clever ways to circumvent the restriction.  But the signal is clear: we don’t want the rest of the world examining our implementation of UN sanctions.

In sum, three governments understandably trying to control the information environment in which they operate.  As a former colleague from the State Department once put, “its OK to lie to other people as long as we are honest with ourselves.” One only hopes that these governments don’t lose sight of the inconvenient truths that they are trying to hide from the general public.

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