Internet Filtering in Tunisia

The International Freedom of Expression eXchange (IFEX) Tunisia Monitoring Group sent a fact-finding mission to investigate the state of freedom of expression in Tunisia. The OpenNet Initiative participated in the technical investigation of the blocking of websites, including news and information websites in Tunisia. We found that Tunisia is blocking prominent news, information and NGO websites that provide alternative information on Tunisia. Also, Tunisia is using SmartFilter to block access to these websites as well as websites classified (and mis-classified) by SmartFilter (v3) as Anonymizer/Translator, Sex, and Nudity. The full report is available here.

A variety of sites are blocked in Tunisia because of SmartFilter’s categories of Anonymizer/Translator, Sex, and Nudity. However, there are additional sites that the authorities have added to these exisiting lists that include many websites that are critical of the government. The report states:

These sites are all available outside Tunisia and none appear to carry material which could justify blocking on the basis of internationally agreed freedom of expression standards. What they have in common is that they provide information and points of view which are independent and which are sometimes critical of the Tunisian government.

Many countries that filter their citizens’ access to the internet do so by building on top of existing commercial filtering technologies. SmartFilter is popular as is the cache server, Netcache. When filtering software is used in conjunction with cache servers there is little if any performace issues caused due to the implementation of filtering software.

The Internet blocking appears to be performed by the software application SmartFilter Version 3. Smartfilter is an application developed and marketed by a US company, Secure Computing. This application provides a series of website categories which may be switched on or off. In addition it allows for unique blocking of specified URLs.

The Tunisian use of Smartfilter appears to have the categories of nudity, pornography and anonymisers switched on. In addition a number of unique URLs are switched on to ensure website blocking.

Here is a list of websites that are blocked in Tunisia for political reasons.


List of blocked websites providing news, politics and information on Tunisia as at 16 January 2005.1
– Tunisia alternative political discussion board
– website of international press freedom defenders, Reporters Sans Frontieres
– Tunisian news and comment, editor was imprisoned
– website of banned Tunisian Islamist An-Nahdha movement
– Tunisian oppositional news and politics
– Tunisian oppositional news and politics
– online newspaper of the banned Tunisian Communist Workers Party
– Tunisian independent/alternative news and information
– Tunisian oppositional politics, news, linked to the CPR (unrecognized political party)
– “official” website of the Tunisian CPR (Congress for the Republic, unrecognized)
– Tunisian oppositional politics, linked to the independent Democratic Initiative
– website of exiled Tunisian human rights defender, Moncef Marzouki
– Tunisian oppositional news and politics
– Tunisian oppositional news and politics
– website of Swiss NGO campaigning for human rights in Tunisia
– Tunisian oppositional news and politics
– solidarity with Tunisian political prisoners
– Tunisian oppositional politics, news, satire
– “the Word”, independent Tunisian news and politics
– website of international press freedom defenders, Reporters Sans Frontieres

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