Dozens of American Web sites went dark today in protest against the House’s Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Senate’s Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA), which critics believe would kill freedom of expression and allow the government to censor the Web.

A man protests SOPA in New York. (STAN HONDA/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

In democracies and authoritarian countries alike, efforts have been made by governments around the world to shut down Web sites, silence bloggers, filter out certain words or censor negative information. Our roundup of web censorship in 2011:


In the world’s largest democracy, the government tried to get Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Google to screen and remove offensive content related to political leaders and religious figures. The Web sites refused to do so.


Amid a growing uprising in the country, the Syrian government banned the iPhone in an attempt to stop the constant flow of images and video that anti-government protesters shared online.


A number of bloggers were arrested over the past year in Egypt. Most often these bloggers had spoken out negatively about the country’s military leadership.


When the government failed to introduce a mandatory filtering scheme, several Australian Internet service providers decided to do the filtering on their own, blocking access to 500 sites.


YouTube and WordPress are blocked in Turkey, among other sites, because the content is insulting to “Turkishness.” “Escort,” “gay” and “marriageable” are among the 138 words no longer allowed on the Internet.


A crackdown on Internet expression in Iran included new surveillance in cyber cafes and a proposed national, “halal” Internet that would prohibit users from using an international search engine such as Google.


The country’s government outlawed browsing foreign Web sites, making the visiting of those sites a misdemeanor.


One of many examples of online censorship in China this year came after a July train crash, when government censors forced the media to stop aggressively reporting online about what had gone wrong.


During the fall 2010 election period, court orders mandating removal of content related to political campaigns rose exponentially.


Danish police last year proposed abolishing all anonymous Internet access, arguing that they could more effectively fight terrorism if they had data from every person who accessed the Internet. 

More reading:

BlogPost: Web censorship moves to democracies

Google: Google Transparency Report

Reporters Without Borders: Enemies of the Internet

More world news coverage:

- Haiti’s former dictator lives in style

- Dilemma for China’s one-child generation

- Did U.S. radar fry Russian Mars probe?

- Read more headlines from around the world