Most of this report was researched, written, and edited by Weiping Li, James Losey, Tom Risen, and Sarah Myers.
In March, Vladimir Putin reclaimed the Russian presidency amidst accusations of fraud. A wave of protests prompted new attacks on media: at least 15 journalists have been arrested or beaten, and independent news organizations targeted by distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS) in an attempt to limit coverage of the protests.
Attacks have also targeted Russia's citizen journalists. Last week a DDoS attack targeted UStream user reggamortis1, who was using the service to report on recent protests in the country. The targeting of Kirill Mikhailov, the citizen journalist behind the account, has created strong suspicion that the Russian government was behind the attack. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe has also expressed concerns over attacks on media organizations, and also four journalists who were recently injured by police.
More posts on this issue can be found at Global Voices’ RuNet Echo, a project that aims to expand and deepen understanding of the Russian language Internet and related online communities. Meanwhile, the global battle for freedom and control of the Internet continues…
Indian newspaper The Hindu has profiled the hunger strike against Internet censorship in India as organized by Save Your Voice, quoting striker Alok Dixit as saying “The empowerment that social media provides has begun to be seen as threatening. This is an attempt to clamp down on an individual’s right to dissent and his freedom of expression.”
Iran’s web censorship regime censored a statement by its own Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, because he used the word “antifiltering” in the context of an interview with Iran's semiofficial Mehr news agency. [CORRECTION NOTE: An earlier version of this item incorrectly reported that the interview was conducted by RFE/RL, which is obviously impossible given that the regime is no fan of RFE/RL. We regret the error.]
Sina Weibo, a popular micro-blogging platform in China, has issued guidelines to users prohibiting some categories of content including statements that are “untrue” or threaten stability.
A U.S. State Department study shows that more foreign media is entering North Korea than ever before, while word of mouth is still seen as the most important source of information.
On May 5, Bahraini activist Nabeel Rajab was arrested when arriving home. The Electronic Frontier Foundation is calling for his release.
Ampon Tangnopponkul, a Thai grandfather arrested for sending four SMS messages claimed to be offensive to the monarchy has died. He had been sentenced to 20 years in prison, five years for each message sent, yet at his trial said he did not know how to send SMS messages.
Azerbaijan’s government is using intimidation rather than censorship to limit dissent online, making social media use seem like a form of bad citizenship and a source of deviance and criminality.
The Syrian government is using malware, sometimes disguised as encryption software, to spy on its citizens.
Sweden passed a law allowing police to monitor Internet traffic and telephone conversations, even before someone has been suspected of a crime.
The United Nations’ World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) 2012 Forum is taking place in Geneva this week. The goal, according to the Forum website, “is to achieve a common vision, desire and commitment to build a people-centric, inclusive and development-oriented Information Society where everyone can create, access, utilize and share information.” All netizens are welcome to participate remotely via this website.
Among the many issues to be discussed this week at WSIS is a proposal by the Indian government to create a new global Internet governance body.
Sovereigns of cyberspace
Twitter is currently fighting a court order requesting three months of messages from an Occupy Wall Street protester. The Electronic Frontier Foundation noted that this type of court order could reveal location data without requiring a search warrant. Often these types of requests include gag orders, which means companies might not even tell users that their data is being requested. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, few companies fight these types of request.
Facebook recently conducted a live Q&A with users about its privacy policies; a detailed explanation of recent changes to those policies can be found on the Site Governance page. The company also recently launched a Terms and Policies Hub to help people understand the laws of Facebookistan. The company's Initial Public Offering is planned for Friday May 18, but new research indicates that privacy concerns could dampen investor enthusiasm.
While some countries block access to certain websites, some websites or services prevent users from other geographic areas from gaining access. To counter this, a New Zealand Internet Service Provider (ISP) is offering a “global mode” to access services that might be locked to a given region or country.
Al Jazeera has launched a new portal for citizen reporters to upload videos. The portal is also making steps to evaluate the veracity of videos. Additionally, the Robert F. Kennedy Center announced an award for international social media journalism.
The United States Department of State Office of Innovation and eDiplomacy recently held two tech camps in Tel Aviv and Ramallah to raise the digital literacy of organizations focused on women's empowerment.
National policy & politics
The Netherlands became the second country on earth and the first country in Europe to pass a net neutrality law. While the net neutrality law passed in Chile in 2010, focused on preventing ISPs from prioritizing some traffic over others, the Dutch law goes farther by limiting the use of privacy invasive technologies such as Deep Packet Inspection.
In Austria, the state broadcaster ORF is shutting down its Facebook pages after broadcasting regulators ruled it is not allowed to have a presence on social media.
The German Pirate Party is having a breakthrough success in Germany’s state elections, after winning access to Germany’s largest state of North Rhine-Westphalia, its fourth consecutive state parliament victory.
In related news, a new court ruling by the Court of The Hague has forbidden the Dutch Pirate Party from providing website links around the Netherlands’ censorship of the Swedish file-sharing Pirate Bay website that inspired the political party.
According to an unconfirmed leak on the Chinese Internet, the Working Guide for Internet Commentators, more commonly known as the 50 Cent Party, has outlined the practices for Chinese citizens hired to propagandize for the Chinese government online.
MySpace, the predecessor to Facebook as the most popular social network, has been charged by the Federal Trade Commission for sharing personal information and web browsing history with advertising companies.
Louis Vuitton, the luxury brand that has targeted artists for using the brand in their artwork, has asked a Florida court to require domain registers to remove several hundred websites from registries.
By contrast, the Italian Communications Authority is absolving its attempt to regulate copyright online.
A series of instructional videos show online safety tips, including email and Facebook security and private browsing.
Global Voices has announced the Breaking Borders Award for 2012. More info or to nominate someone can be found here.
A BBC series is analyzing the Antikythera Mechanism, widely considered the world’s oldest computer.
Publications and studies
- The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) released the 2011 Internet Crime Report;
- The United Kingdom based Open Rights Group has published a new report on mobile Internet censorship in Britain.
For upcoming events related to the future of citizen rights in the digital age, see the Global Voices Events Calendar.