Global Voices Advocacy's Netizen Report offers an international snapshot of challenges, victories, and emerging trends in Internet rights around the world. Highlights in this week's report include demonstrations in Bangladesh, YouTube's lawsuit against a Russian consumer protection agency, and Internet rights advocacy efforts in Azerbaijan and Pakistan.
YouTube is suing Rospotrebnadzor, the Russian government's consumer protection agency, for blocking access to a video of a teenage girl using fake blood and other props to make it look as if she has slit her wrists. Rospotrebnadzor acted under a new child protection law which allows the government to block content including or related to child pornography, suicide, and illegal drug use.
A Gwalior district court in India ordered Internet service providers (ISPs) to block web URLs of 78 blogs and other sites that featured criticism of the Indian Institute of Planning and Management (IIPM) and its director, Arindam Chaudhuri. India's Department of Electronics and Information Technology has vowed to appeal the order. The Centre for Internet and Society, an Internet law research center in Bangalore, recently published an article arguing that freedom of expression in the country continues to face challenges due to the “overhanging threat of the law.”
Dr. Abdulaziz Khoja, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Culture and Information, has admitted that the Saudi government faces challenges in monitoring and blocking content on Twitter due to the large number of Twitter users in the country. He suggested that “the individual’s education and society’s culture” should guide Twitter users as they decide what to post on the microblogging platform.
For weeks, demonstrators in Bangladesh have gathered in Dhaka's Shahbag Square to demand capital punishment for officials guilty of war crimes committed during Bangladesh's liberation from Pakistan in 1971. In the midst of this uprising, anti-Islamist blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider, who blogged under the pseudonym Thaba Baba (Captain Claw) and was a leading force in the protests, was hacked to death near his home. Thousands of supporters gathered in Shahbag square to honor the blogger's life. At least four people were killed and 200 injured during a nationwide counter-protest organised by 12 Islamic parties demanding the execution of blasphemous bloggers. Global Voices Online is running special coverage of the demonstrations.
Five online activists in Kuwait were acquitted after being charged with “offending the emir.” Human Rights Watch argues that this is a victory for free speech in the country, but also notes that Kuwaiti courts should develop clearer rules regarding these types of charges.
Canada's controversial bill C-30, which would allow police to wiretap online communications without a warrant, has been scrapped. Federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said opposition from the public convinced lawmakers to rethink the legislation.
Blogger Daniel Wright has obtained and published FBI files on Aaron Swartz, the Internet activist who was facing prosecution under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and committed suicide in January. The files show how the FBI collected Swartz's information and monitored his online activities, including his Facebook and LinkedIn profiles.
Chinese technology experts have reportedly been working to assist the Zambian government in building an Internet monitoring apparatus. This would coincide with Zambia's increasing efforts to monitor citizens’ mobile phone communications.
China Digital Times published a translation of an article written by Qi Hong, an former wiretapping detective in China, originally published by Southern People Weekly in which he describes his experiences working as a government spy.
As previously reported in the Netizen Report, since January 2013 the Copyright Office at the US Library of Congress has removed the Digital Millenium Copyright Act exemption that allows US customers to unlock cell phones in order to use other carriers’ networks. As of publication, over 100,000 people have signed a petition to the White House asking the Library of Congress to reconsider the decision. The White House must respond to the issue, given that petition has passed the required 100,000 signature threshold.
North Korea is now allowing foreigners to connect to the Internet by providing a 3G network service including a monthly data plan and USB modem from Koryolink, a joint venture between two telcos in Korea and Egypt. However, North Korean citizens are not allowed access to these networks.
A Kazakh senior government official has ordered the creation of a database of popular bloggers and social media moderators in the country and asked state-run media to work closely with these bloggers.
The Swedish Pirate Party has decided not to host the file-sharing website The Pirate Bay after facing legal threats from Swedish anti-piracy group Rights Alliance. Pirate Parties in Norway and Spain will soon become hosts for The Pirate Bay.
US Internet service providers (ISPs) have launched the previously delayed “six strikes” anti-piracy system through which US-based ISPs can locate and punish users who share illegal files online. According to news reports, each ISP has its own launch date and scheme for warning transgressors.
Sovereigns of Cyberspace
The Telegraph reports that Google is working with major US credit card companies to block payment processing on “illegal piracy sites.” TechDirt points out that this could prove challenging, as the category of “illegal piracy” or “illegal download” sites is not as clear-cut as it may seem.
Facebook is enjoying a victory in a court case filed by a German state-level data protection agency that argued that the social networking site's real name policy breaches German privacy laws. As Facebook's European headquarters are in Ireland, the German court said that German privacy laws could not be applied.
Chilean business tycoon Andrónico Luksic has sued a Twitter user for managing parody accounts which mocked him and his family. Attorney Rodrigo Ferrari, who posted images and text via three parody accounts, might face a year and a half in jail if he is convicted.
After revealing information about off-shore bank accounts held by Ecuadorean president Rafael Correa, transparency site BananaLeaks.co was attacked. The website's Twitter account suggested that the site may have undergone a DDoS attack by the Ecuadorian government.
Hackers reportedly backed by the Chinese government used a security hole in Microsoft Office for Mac OS X to install a backdoor which allows them to remotely control affected computers. This capability reportedly has been used to attack Uyghur people, an ethnic minority group living in Eastern and Central Asia that has a long history of conflict with the Chinese government.
Security firm Mandiant has published a detailed report linking recent hacks on US government agencies, corporations, and human rights organizations to a group affiliated with the Chinese military, known to security researchers as the “Comment Crew.” Although the victims are not disclosed in the report, the Chertoff Group, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, and Coca-Cola were reportedly compromised by the Comment Crew.
Emin Milli, a human rights blogger in Azerbaijan, continues to speak out on the importance of protecting human rights online despite recently being released from a fifteen-day prison sentence for organizing an “unsanctioned rally” to protest police violence against protesters.
Publications and Studies
- Herdict 2012: By the Numbers
- The Internet and Corruption – Global Information Society Watch
- Internet 2013 – Shaping policies to advance media freedom – Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe
- Digital and Mobile Security for Mexican Journalists and Bloggers – Freedom House and the International Center for Journalists
For upcoming events related to the future of citizen rights in the digital age, see the Global Voices Events Calendar.