Internet in Algeria
Internet penetration and ISPs
Over the past decade, the number of Internet users in Algeria has greatly increased, from 150,000 users in 2006 to approximately 5,230,000 in 2012. At the same time, the penetration rate is low, at 14% of the population. According to a 2007 UN Development Programme survey that covered the Maghreb, this is due to still high costs of computers and Internet connectivity and a lack of interesting Web content. The internet service providers in Algeria complain of their sector's underdevelopment and blame Algerian authorities for not encouraging the development of the IT sector. During a September 2007 forum in Algiers, they specifically complained that Algeria lagged behind other North African countries in number of domain names registered (at the time Algeria had 5,000, compared to Tunisia’s 16,000), that ADSL subscription was low, and that many state institutions do not have websites.
To improve the information and communications technology penetration rate, the government has started a number of initiatives, including its approval in January 2008 of a €100 million plan to implement Internet networks in every high school in the country.
Algeria’s main operator of Internet services and fixed and mobile telephone services is Algerie Telecom. The company has been slated for privatization, but the process has been repeatedly delayed. The firm’s chief executive said in 2008 that the company will be ready for privatization by 2011.
The number of Internet cafés in Algeria has jumped from 100 in 2000 to more than 5,000 in 2008. Chatting and searching for job opportunities online are among the popular activities in Internet cafés in Algeria.
Legal and regulatory frameworks
In July 2006, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika pardoned all journalists convicted of defamation offenses, a move welcomed by local journalists, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), and Reporters Without Borders (RSF). However, both the IFJ and RSF demanded long term reforms to protect press freedom, including abolishing the country's defamation laws which, in addition to government dominance over broadcasting, economic constraints, and journalists' lack of access to official information, restrict freedom of expression in Algeria. In addition, in January 2008 the government reinforced its surveillance of the press by placing state-owned printing companies, which print half of Algeria’s privately owned newspapers, under direct government control.
Algerian authorities continue to ignore journalists’ repeated calls for revision of the press law to eliminate prison sentences for offenses from the press. Blogger Abd el Salam Baroudy, administrator of the Bilad Telmesan blog, was charged with criminal defamation for criticizing a government official on his blog in June 2007.
In May 2008 the government introduced a new cyber-crime bill amid reports that government websites receive about 4,000 hacking attempts per month and that websites of financial institutions are also targeted by hackers. The bill criminalized online activities such as hacking, stealing of personal data, promoting terrorism and crimes online, blackmailing, and copyright infringement. The bill was followed in May 2009 by the creation of a new national security service focused on cyber-crime; police officers were also given explicit permission to “break into, inspect and control” Internet cafés in the interest of preventing terrorist activities.
In 2005 the Algerian government began allowing ISPs to use Voice-over Internet protocol for international calls. State-own telecoms company Algeria Telecom Satellite (ATS) launched VoIP and GPS in September 2008.
Surveillance and filtering
Article 14 of ministerial decree no 98-257 of August 25, 199824[clarification needed] makes ISPs responsible for the sites they host, and requires them to take “all necessary steps to ensure constant surveillance” of content to prevent access to “material contrary to public order and morality.” In 2004, journalists reported that it could take up to two days to receive their e-mails; they believed the government is spying on them.
Algerian security forces started raiding Internet cafés and checking the browsing history of Internet users after terrorist attacks hit the country in April 2007. In April 2008, the security forces increased their monitoring and surveillance efforts in these cafés to stop the their use for terrorist activities. In addition, Internet cafés are now required to collect names and ID numbers of their customers and report this information together with any suspicious activities to the police.
In March 2008, the Algerian government ordered domestic mobile phone companies to stop selling anonymous mobile phones and SIM cards. This call was prompted by concerns that mobile phones were used in terrorist attacks in the country.
OpenNet Initiative testing found no evidence that the government filters Internet sites. However, the Algerian security forces blocked access to the website of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in October 2007 after there were reports that the organization used the website to recruit minors and teenagers and to publish its press releases and videos related to terror attacks in Algeria.
The government’s primary forms of control appear to be the access controls and content monitoring regulations already noted.