This week the spotlight turns to Sub-Saharan Africa where Internet freedom advocates are demanding reform as a range of governments across the continent continue policies of censoring dissent. In Nairobi, Kenya, a Pan African Civil Society Workshop on “Who Controls the Internet?” published a statement calling for African nations to prioritize the UN Human Rights Council Resolution  affirming freedom of expression online. The participating organizations also called on governments across Africa to endorse the African Platform for Access to Information and to apply its principles.
Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch has called upon  United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to increase pressure for free expression during her 11-day tour of the region . In one of her first stops on the tour Clinton visited South Africa, where proposed legislation  could mandate up to 25 years in prison for journalists and government whistleblowers who leak, possess or publish classified government documents. This week Clinton is also visiting Nigeria , whose Senate President David Mark  has called for a clampdown  on social media. Amidst a backlash by Nigerian netizens, Mark said that his comments were taken out of context.
Human Rights Watch has also issued a report calling upon Angola to stop censoring free speech in advance of its elections  on August 31. Opposition party leader Isaias Samakuva has criticized attacks  on press freedom by the ruling party, a repeat of government-biased media crackdowns practiced in 2008.
Two newspapers in Gabon, Ezombolo and La Une  [fr], have been suspended  by the government for six months for criticizing political figures in their columns. The government’s National Communications Council also accused  Ezombolo of “threatening public order” by running an opinion piece urging troops not to obey orders to shoot protesters.
Moving on to Asia, two newspapers in Myanmar, The Voice and The Envoy, were also suspended for failing to submit stories to government censors, but solidarity support  from other online publications caused the government to back down and allow their return as of August 18. Taking a cue from Wikipedia’s website blackout  used to protest the Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA), The Messenger, Express Time and The Nation blacked out their websites in protest on August 6, following a protest march  on August 4.
France’s new Minister of Culture Aurélie Filippetti  plans to cut the budget of France’s Internet piracy police group, Hadopi , which some speculate could be part of a larger plan to shutter  the agency by newly-elected French President Francois Hollande .
Leaked text obtained by nonprofit Knowledge Ecology International  from negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement indicates  that the United States and Australia would require that fair use exceptions to copyright to be subject to an international standard.
Embedding copyright-infringing video content from third party websites is not a crime, according to a US Court of Appeals ruling  that favors social video bookmarking website MyVidster  in a lawsuit leveled by Flava Works , a pornography production company.
A leaked memo  authored by the Motion Picture Association of America  (MPAA) describes how its employees are being briefed to tell reporters that TVShack.net founder and UK citizen Richard O’Dwyer  “profited handsomely from advertising on the site,” which links to infringing videos rather than hosting them. With the help of Wikipedia Founder Jimmy Wales , O’Dwyer is fighting  extradition to the US to face charges of copyright infringement.
Supporters in Washington, DC, New York, and elsewhere are campaigning  for Ethiopia to release journalist and blogger Eskinder Nega . Nega was found guilty in June along with 23 other activists for “participation in a terrorist organization,” and in mid-July was sentenced  to 18 years in prison.
Nazir al-Majid has been released  without charges by Syrian authorities after spending a year in solitary confinement.
Two Sri Lankan news websites, the Sri Lanka Mirror and Sri Lanka X News, have been raided  by the Criminal Investigation Department’s Colombo Crime Division. Sri Lanka X News is tied to the primary opposition party the United National Party (UNP).
Iranian blogger Ahmad Shariat has been arrested. The National reports  that Shariat is among pro-administration bloggers that have faced arrest in an ongoing power struggle.
A Vietnamese woman, Dang Thi Kim Lieng, self-immolated outside of a government building to protest  the detention of her daughter, blogger Ta Phong Tan. She died of her burns on July 30. In a trial that began on August 7, which barred family from attending, Tan and two other bloggers  face 20 years in prison for maintaining the Free Journalists Club blog, which the government states “distort[s] the truth, denigrat[es] the party and state.”
The Verge reported  that “Olympic ‘Wi-Fi’” police were spotted shutting down unsanctioned Wi-Fi hotspots, officially including Wi-Fi on the list of items controlled at the Olympics. The London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games  also shut down  a free service that would alert users when tickets for Olympics events were available.
Next month Iran will unplug  its ministries from the global Internet as part of a move to operate a national intranet.
Brazil’s government will vote  on August 8 on the proposed Marco Civil , a legal framework of civil rights for Internet users in Brazil. The bill  outlines protection for Internet users’ personal data and requires Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to inform the public of content removals.
Freedom House has launched a contest  called the Internet Governance Forum Incubator Project. Project finalists will be part of Freedom House’s delegation to the IGF and at least two projects will receive funding.
In Sudan, bloggers  are using online channels such as tweeting the hashtag #sudanrevolts  in response to President Omar Hassan al-Bashir's  crackdown on conventional media stifling protests  against government austerity.
Sovereigns of cyberspace
Amidst rumors  that Chinese-based telecommunications company Huawei  is providing wiretap backdoors for the Chinese government, German security researcher Felix Lindner has told CNET  that security flaws in Huawei’s routers already offer monitoring opportunities. In response Huawei stated that it seeks out such security gaps and requested input from businesses.
The now publicly-traded Facebook estimated 83 million  of its approximately 955 million registered users were “fake” (not under the user's real legal name) according to its latest SEC filing released on Thursday, available here . It claims some use pseudonyms to seek privacy, but 14 million “undesirable” users estimated in the report use fake names to spread links to malware.
In the US Senate, the Cybersecurity Act was defeated , gaining only 52 of the required 60 votes. The bill would have established  a National Cybersecurity Council to coordinate with network managers in critical infrastructure industries such as emergency services, energy, banking, health care and communications. President Obama supports the bill and is considering an executive order  to strengthen security measures if Congress does not pass the legislation.
The Twitter account  and blog of Reuters were hacked and posted phony news  tweets favoring the Syria’s embattled President Bashar al-Assad and fake White House statements taking Al-Qaeda off the terrorist agency list. While the hacks are unattributed, they resemble  hacks by the Syrian Electronic Army  on Al Jazeera’s Twitter account in January.
An article by India's Economic Times  reports that Research in Motion (RIM), best known for its popular BlackBerry mobile services, has bowed to years of pressure from Indian authorities and provided a data solution allowing the government access to encrypted communications. The company stated  in response “RIM cannot access information encrypted through BlackBerry Enterprise Server as RIM is not ever in possession of the encryption keys.” RIM set up servers and interception  facilities in Mumbai in October after India threatened to shut down BlackBerry services because it could not wiretap encrypted communications.
The Norwegian Data Authority  is investigating the privacy implications  of Facebook’s Tag Suggestions  feature, a default facial recognition option, which Facebook states complies with EU privacy laws because user can opt out of the feature. The US Senate questioned  Facebook about facial recognition use on the website’s photos in July.
The World Wide Web turned 21 on August 6.
Global Voices Advocacy announced a new Facebook page .
Santiago Atitlan, an indigenous Guatemalan village, has declared  Internet access a human right and is working to build a community wireless network to provide access.
Publications and Studies
- La Quadrature du Net: Proposals for the Reform of Copyright and Related Culture and Media Policy 
- Liberation Tech: How Companies Could Fix Social Media’s Net Censorship Problem 
- Journal For Communication Studies: Evaluating Press Freedom: Have Social Media Changed the Landscape? 
- Internet Society: Internet Interconnections Proposals For New Interconnection Model Comes Up Short 
- Freedom House: Safety on the Line:Exposing the Myth of Mobile Communication Security 
- Department of Homeland Security Chief Privacy Officer Mary Ellen Callahan: Published Privacy Impact Assessments on the Web 
For upcoming events related to the future of citizen rights in the digital age, see the Global Voices Events Calendar .