In 2011 John Palfrey of the OpenNet Initiative wrote in "Middle East Conflict and and Internet Tipping Point" that the OpenNet Initiative had divided the way in which states filtered and practice surveillance over the Internet into four phases: "open Internet," "access denied," "access controlled," and "access contested."
"The first is the 'open Internet' period, from the network's birth through about 2000. In this period, there were few restrictions on the network globally. There was even an argument about whether the network could itself be regulated. This sense of unfettered freedom is a distant memory today.
"In the 'access denied' period that followed, through about 2005, states like China, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and dozens of others began to block access to certain information online. They developed technical Internet filtering modes to stop people from reaching certain websites, commonly including material deemed sensitive for political, cultural, or religious reasons.
"The most recent period, 'access controlled,' through 2010 or so, was characterized by the growth in the sophistication with which states began to control the flow of information online. Internet filtering grew in scope and scale, especially throughout Asia, the former Soviet states, and the Middle East and North Africa. Techniques to use the network for surveillance grew dramatically, as did "just-in-time" blocking approaches such as the use of distributed denial-of-service attacks against undesirable content. Overall, states got much more effective at pushing back on the use of the Internet by those who wished to share information broadly and for prodemocratic purposes.
"Today, we are entering a period that we should call 'access contested.' Activists around the world are pushing back on the denial of access and controls put in place by states that wish to restrict the free flow of information. This round of the contest, at least in the Middle East and North Africa, is being won by those who are using the network to organize against autocratic regimes. Online communities such as Herdict.org and peer-to-peer technologies like mesh networking provide specific ways for people to get involved directly in shaping how these technologies develop around the world" (http://www.technologyreview.com/web/32437/?p1=A1, accessed 02-28-2011).