Free for all

OpenNet Initiative (ONI) has conducted a report on Nigeria’s 2007 election, the use of the internet and access to media:

ONI has shown through its past research that countries that do not filter Internet content on a regular basis may nonetheless control Internet communications during election periods, and may use methods subtler than outright filtering or blocking. For this reason, ONI has begun to undertake investigations of the Internet during elections, with Nigeria as the fourth such effort.

ONI began its monitoring of the Internet during elections with the 2004 US Presidential elections. Testing showed that while President Bush’s official Web site was blocked to Internet users outside the country, users within the United States were able to access the site.(5)

ONI election monitoring efforts followed with a larger research project in Kyrgyzstan during the 2005 elections. ONI researchers were able to track two Denial-of-Service (DoS)(6) attacks on ISPs hosting opposition newspapers back to a group of Ukrainian hackers-for-hire. However, ONI was unable to connect this group to the Kyrgyz government. Both the government and the opposition newspapers were able to spin the Web site malfunctions to their own advantage.(7)

In 2006, ONI mounted a third election monitoring project, in Belarus. This project encountered similar challenges to the Kyrgyz project. Several opposition Web sites were inaccessible via the state-owned Beltelecom ISP both on and directly after election day. However, ONI was unable to conclusively prove that DoS attacks had taken place because researchers did not have access to server logs. The fact that these sites were blocked on a network controlled by the regime indicates that official manipulation was the likely explanation. However, ONI found no conclusive evidence of systematic and comprehensive interference by state authorities or their agents with the Internet in Belarus, although it was clear that tampering did occur. The report recommended that election monitoring become a special focus of ONI attention, and that the issue of Internet openness during elections should be raised as an important emerging issue among those groups mandated with measuring the freedom and fairness of elections.(8)