Netizen Report: Tibetan Internet Users Targeted With Malware

Image via Flickr user IMs BILDARKIV. Licence CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Surveillance camera. Photo by IMs BILDARKIV. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Most of this report was researched, written, and edited by Lisa Ferguson, Weiping Li, Hisham Almiraat and Sarah Myers.

Global Voices Advocacy's Netizen Report offers an international snapshot of challenges, victories, and emerging trends in Internet rights around the world. Highlights this week include China's efforts to deploy new surveillance tactics against users in Tibet, the questionable prison sentence of an Azeri web editor, and WordPress’ decision to step up their game on user security.


Chinese government security forces appear to be using new tactics for carrying out digital surveillance in Tibet. Last week, Kaspersky Lab and Citizen Lab reported a surge in attacks on Tibetan and Uyghur activists as well as the greater Tibetan community, in which users are being targeted with malware that captures information about the user’s location, SMS message history, calls and contacts. This comes after the Tibet Action Institute campaign, Detach from Attachments, educated Tibetan users on how spear-phishing attacks could compromise their online security.


A member of Brazil's lower house of congress, Claudio Cajado, has requested Google remove videos and content deemed offensive to members of congress from search results. Cajado claims that by issuing the request directly, rather than reporting to the judiciary, he's not seeking to restrict freedom of expression but rather to speed up the process of resolving complaints regarding content found on YouTube or Google’s Blogger platform. Judicial procedures around take-down requests can take months or even years to resolve in Brazil.


An Azeri judge sentenced Araz Guliyev, editor of a website [az] that reports on religious life and news affecting the Muslim community in Azerbaijan, to eight years in prison. Guliyev was tried on charges of ​​”participation in activities that disrupt public order” and “inciting ethnic and religious hatred” among other things, but according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, these charges were not substantiated in court. Guliyev's brother suspects that he may have been targeted for covering protests of a ban on headscarves and veils at a local public school.


A group of hackers claiming to be part of Anonymous took over the North Korean government’s Twitter and Flickr accounts. The government deactivated its Flickr account after postings of satirical images and criticisms of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un appeared on the site. An anonymous statement attributed to the hackers claims that over 15,000 user records on government websites like had been compromised.

WordPress recently enabled two-step authentication for greater security by using Google’s Authenticator smartphone app. It also allows users to print backup codes in the event their phones are lost or stolen. This is a positive development for the many netizens who use the platform to host their blogs.


The UK is attempting to opt out of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, which is aimed at standardizing Internet data protection regulations across the EU. The UK takes issue with the proposed Article 17, or “right to be forgotten,” which would require companies to comply with individuals’ requests for their personal information to be removed from the Internet. The UK argues the regulation sets unfair expectations for companies, as implementing the provision would require extensive resources. The EU Justice Commissioner has asserted that the burden to protect users should lie with companies, as it has become increasingly difficult for individuals to control the way that personal information appears on the Internet on their own.

National Policy

Proposed changes to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act in the US would treat any violation of a website’s terms of service as a criminal act. These changes could lead to untold violations of users’ rights to free expression and access to information. The International Business Times notes that such a policy would criminalize users under 18 years of age for reading certain news websites.

Sovereigns of Cyberspace

Six European nations announced that they would conduct formal investigations of Google’s privacy policy after the company refused to undo recent changes in which 70 different policies were bundled into one terms-of-service document. After Google failed to comply with the recommendations of the French National Commission on Computing and Liberty investigation, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and the UK said they would follow suit. Authorities plan to evaluate whether Google’s actions were in compliance with the European Data Protection Directive.

Cool Things

The Tibet Action Institute has collaborated with Ushahidi and Open Street Map to create an interactive digital map of Tibet that will be used to track incidents such as natural disasters and protests in the region. It will be fully localized into Tibetan, English, and Chinese.

United Press International’s media development division, UPI Next, is developing a wiki for Pakistani journalists to use as a resource and guide during Pakistan’s May 11 election.

Publications and Studies

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