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Skype in Ethiopia, Go to Jail

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According to Reporters Without Borders, the Ethiopian government recently put new restrictions on internet use inside the country by criminalizing Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services, The Verge reports. Anyone who makes a phone call over the internet using services such as Skype (MSFT), FaceTime (AAPL), and Google Talk (GOOG) -- among others -- are subject to hefty fines, and as many as 15 years in prison.

Former BBC Ethiopia correspondent Elizabeth Blunt believes that the new law is meant to protect state run Ethio Teleco, the sole telecommunications provider in the country.

"Internet cafes may be allowing people to make calls for far less than the cost of Ethiopia telecom, the state's telecommunications provider that has the monopoly and charges very high prices -- and doesn't want to have its service undermined," Blunt said.

In addition to criminalizing VoIP use, the Ethiopian government has also begun blocking its citizens from accessing the anonymizing tool Tor, which makes it possible to access banned websites. Reporters Without Borders posted on its site that it has "previously analyzed the same kind of censorship in China, Iran, and Kazakhstan." The group believes that these actions may be a "turning point in the Ethiopian government's control of the Internet," and suspects the techniques being deployed could possibly be used to monitor the online behavior of citizens.

According to a 2010 data report via Google, only a small fraction of Ethiopia’s population -- about 0.75% of the 82 million people in the country -- are able to access the internet.
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