People involved with protests and violence across numerous countries this past week directed at the United States (US), claimed that they were reacting to a controversial YouTube video of an anti-Islamic movie trailer, raising questions about the censoring of offensive material on the global digital commons. See Global Voices coverage of social media reactions to the events across the Arab World and in the global Twittersphere, as well as in Libya, Pakistan (also here), Iran, Sudan, Indonesia, Russia, and Australia.
For discussion of YouTube's handling of the situation see Jillian York's analysis here on Global Voices Advocacy and this post by Access Now. As York argues, YouTube's censorship without government request in Egypt and Libya breaks a precedent for Google as it censored the video in those countries without a legal order, even though the video did not violate the website’s Terms of Service (ToS).
The moral dilemma of whether to censor social media content to prevent hate speech-inspired violence is one the Netizen Report has previously addressed in the Assam Edition about India and the Transition Edition about Myanmar. The debate continues about who can decide to remove inflammatory web content, and how it should be done. Columbia University Law Professor Tim Wu has suggested that while YouTube should adopt a Wikipedia-style community approach to handling such content. Pakistan-based Bytes for All is calling on government to “encourage thoughtful, informed responses to hate speech” as an alternative to censorship.
Officials in Bahrain restricted web access to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) after the UN commission included Bahrain in a list of 16 governments that frequently intimidate and threaten activists. One such critic of the government who received threats for attending the UNHRC meeting was Mohamed Al-Maskati, president of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights.
Inspired by a speech from a politician who claimed he was cyberbullied, the Philippines’ Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile suggested a new law to regulate online bullying, which could be used to regulate blogs. Libel is one of the offenses punishable under the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 which was recently passed in the Phillipines, but the law has not been tested in court.
Activists in Kyrgyzstan are petitioning against government plans to monitor the Internet for hate speech, comparing it to a law passed in Russia in July. As in the Russian example, the law proposed is intended to screen for offensive and illegal material such as child pornography but could be leveraged for broader online censorship.
A series of anti-Japan protests across China that appear to be coordinated over social media, have raised speculation about how the protesters could have managed to catch riot police and the Chinese censorship regime off guard. Speculation includes the idea that some of the destructive protests were coordinated with help from the government to inspire support for the status quo by creating fear, while others state private QQ chats helped protesters communicate.
An article from The Atlantic described how some Internet memes, a form of popular Internet culture that use expressions such as humorous remixed photos to ridicule social issues, manage to slip through the net of Chinese Internet censorship and promote wider citizen participation.
The Vietnamese government has started a crackdown on bloggers critical of the government, calling them “terrorists.” In an official message, three pro-democracy activists were accused of “publishing distorted and fabricated articles.” The netizens have pledged to continue their mission of exposing the truth.
Global Voices author Endalk writes about reactions following the sentencing of Ethiopian journalist and blogger Eskinder Nega. The latter and 23 other prominent opposition activists were imprisoned for 18 years for “terrorism.”
Security researchers have passively intercepted data from mobile phones and computers connecting to Wi-Fi networks. These devices keep a record of the stations their users have previously connected to. The survey showed that mobile phones leak much more information than even tech-savvy people could imagine.
ACLU reports that the US House of Representatives passed a reauthorization of the 2008 FISA Amendments Act, “an unconstitutional domestic spying law that gives vast, unchecked surveillance authority to the government.”
Bill Binney, a former US National Security Agency (NSA) official, said from his experiences as a technical director in NSA that the US government has been illegally surveilling electronic communications and web information, from the emails to the social media updates of American citizens.
‘Naked Security’ reports that a Texas school embeds a chip in all mandatory student ID cards to keep track of all their whereabouts.
Developers of the Apache web server application have upgraded the software to ignore Microsoft’s Internet Explorer privacy settings based on the “Do Not Track” web standard which gives end users the possibility to register their request that browsers and ads don’t track their browsing habits. Meanwhile, Google-developed web browser Chrome finally supports “Do Not Track”.
The US Congress has introduced a new bill called the Mobile Device Privacy Act. If passed, it will require that mobile phone creators and operators, network providers and app developers disclose to customers the existence of any monitoring software on their device.
Numerous sites hosted by GoDaddy, one of the world's biggest webhosting providers, were rendered inaccessible last week. Initially, a DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack was suspected as the cause, but the company’s engineers finally identified the outage as provoked by a router issue.
An article in The Atlantic discusses what it calls the “password fallacy,” or what other possibilities exist for securing access to online accounts.
Researchers have identified a breach in encrypted web browsing. CRIME (Compression Ratio Info-leak Made Easy) is reported to be a novel attack targeting HTTPS sessions. The weakness allows interception of the data contained within encrypted authentication “cookies.”
The ‘Journalist Security Blog’ of the Committee to Protect Journalists published a comprehensive account on Cryptocat, a user-friendly secure chat. The tool is aimed at bridging the gap between tech-savvy activists who have been highly critical of journalists’ failure to protect sources’ security online, and media people complaining about their technical difficulties when attempting to use encryption tools.
ArsTechnica discusses the future of the “six strikes” program in the US. The “anti-piracy education effort,” is not a law, but rather a voluntary system that Internet Service Providers sign up to, which would warn users about intellectual property breaches in six phases. Implementation has been delayed until the end of 2012.
Meanwhile in France, a man was sentenced to a 150-euro fine (USD 194) following the “three strikes” law known as HADOPI. The man has been found guilty of not securing his Internet connection (presumably Wi-Fi) and for ignoring the three warnings sent by the Agency. His wife is actually the one who downloaded the two songs in question. This is the first such case since the controversial anti-piracy law was passed.
The Chilean non-governmental organization Derechos Digitales (Digital Rights) comprehensively illustrates through an infographic ten things that should not be prohibited due to copyright.
Sovereigns of cyberspace
A judge of the New York State Supreme Court ruled that Twitter must turn over private information connected to Occupy Wall Street protester Malcolm Harris’s Twitter posts or the company would face fines. Twitter has now released Harris’ Twitter messages to New York law enforcement, who argued that these messages can prove that he was aware of the police’s orders but then disregarded them. EFF reports that the records will remain sealed until September 21, which may give Twitter a chance to appeal the decision to a higher court.
According to TechCrunch, Russian company Yandex will replace Google in handling certain mapping functions on Apple products in Russia.
In an interview with Bloomberg BNA, International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Secretary-General Hamadoun I. Touré said that the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT-12), which will be hosted by the ITU in December, is not about Internet governance. He has also refuted some of the criticisms and disagreed that the proposals for International Telecommunication Regulations will expand the treaty to Internet governance.
After Asia Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC), the organization which distributes IP addresses in the Asia-Pacific region, announced in 2011 that it has run out of IPv4 addresses, the Réseaux IP Européens Network Coordination Centre (RIPE NCC), the Regional Internet registry for Europe, the Middle East and part of Central Asia also said last week that it has exhausted IPv4 addresses in these areas. Due to IPv4 exhaustion the world is undergoing a transition to IPv6, which allows for many more IP addresses to be assigned than under the old system.
Research focusing on news websites in Chicago as example, found out that small news websites depend more on social media to attract traffic than large sites do.
Publications and studies
- Center for Democracy and Technology: Defamation in the Internet age: protecting reputation without infringing free expression.
- Lumko Mtimde: Concepts of Media Regulation.
- Derek Bambauer: Censorship v3.1