Global Voices Advocacy's Netizen Report offers an international snapshot of challenges, victories, and emerging trends in Internet rights around the world. We begin this edition in the EU, where last week France trashed its controversial ‘Hadopi’ anti-piracy law and German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for greater protections for user data in the EU, reminding us that not all news is bad news.
French legislators struck down the heavy-handed ‘Hadopi’ online copyright law. Under the law's “three strikes” rule, users who violated copyright restrictions three or more times could be punished by having their Internet connections cut. The Guardian reports that legislators are seeking policy reforms that will shift the focus of law enforcement towards commercial piracy issues.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel promised to push for tougher laws in the EU aimed at protecting personal information on the Internet. According to Merkel, a region-wide approach that unifies the diverse range of data protection laws that individual European states have adopted will improve user protections overall.
Iran launched a “national email service” that all citizens will be required to use to “safely” communicate with government officials. It remains unclear whether this will impact access to other email providers. President-elect Hassan Rouhani has called for less filtering of the Internet, saying “gone are the days when a wall could be built around the country.” Analysts see the debate over Internet policy as critical to Iran’s future, as relaxation of controls could help bolster the country’s economy.
A Brazilian blogger was sentenced to seven months in prison after being convicted of defamation by a court in the northeastern state of Aracaju. According to Reporters Without Borders, a state-level judge pressed charges against the blogger due to an allegorical blog post that called attention to corrupt judicial practices in the region.
idcloak Technologies recently released a new anti-censorship, anti-surveillance tool, Web Unblocker. The site-based proxy service allows users to view blocked websites using three “layers” of security, incorporating an SSL connection to a remote proxy server, along with the option to encrypt both web pages and URLs. The tool was designed to serve politically active Internet users in countries with strong online censorship and surveillance regimes.
In Bahrain, a government spokesperson warned opposition groups against holding protests next month, stating that participation in the “Rebellion of Bahrain” movement will be considered illegal. The spokesperson noted that citizens were welcome to raise their concerns with the government's legislative branch.
Akhmednabi Akhmednabiyev, deputy editor of Russian independent news outlet Novoye Delo and a contributor to independent regional news website Kavkazsky Uzel, was killed on July 9 in a drive-by shooting in Dagestan, a region with a long history of ethnic conflict. According to CPJ, Akhmednabiyev covered politically controversial topics and had received multiple death threats in the past. Russia's Investigative Committee, a federal agency tasked with solving serious crimes, released a statement acknowledging political motivations behind the journalist's murder.
The Indian government has reached an agreement that will allow law enforcement agencies to intercept certain data sent using Blackberry devices, including emails, attachments, web browsing data, and BlackBerry Messenger chats. The agreement does not include access to BlackBerry’s Enterprise servers, something the government had previously demanded from the company. Instead, Blackberry will have to notify law enforcement about which companies use Enterprise services. Human Rights Watch has heavily criticized the Indian government’s Central Monitoring System, which it calls “chilling,” and “reckless.”
Devices used for Internet monitoring made by American firm Blue Coat were detected in Iran and Sudan this week. Previously detected in Syria, the California-based tech company’s products allow governments to censor web sites and monitor online communications. Blue Coat denies having allowed for the sale of their products to embargoed countries and claims their products are not intended for surveillance purposes.
Members of Russia’s Parliament are using Edward Snowden’s presence in Russia’s airport to strengthen their arguments in favor of greater state-level control over user data held by multinational Internet companies such as Google and Microsoft.
Drawing from recent revelations about the extent to which Skype, owned by Microsoft, allowed the NSA to eavesdrop on users’ communications, Slate.com constructed a timeline of key public statements and private actions taken by the VoIP provider on the issue.
Anonymous shut down the official website of Gabonese President Ali Bongo as part of Operation Gabon (#OpGabon), a campaign against ritual killings and government corruption in the West African nation.
Developers including Pirate Bay founder Peter Sunde are creating a “spy-proof” text messaging app that will use highly secure end-to-end encryption. Sunde and his team are crowdfunding the effort, accepting both cash and BitCoin donations.
Publications and Studies
- Some Devices Wander by Mistake: Planet Blue Coat Redux – Citizen Lab & Canada Center for Global Security Studies
- Rationing the Digital: The Policy and Politics of Internet Use in Cuba Today – Berkman Center for Internet and Society
- OpenNet Initiative 2013 Latin America Research: Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela – Berkman Center for Internet and Society
- Understanding the Tshwane Principles of National Security and the Right to Information – Open Society Justice Initiative
- Privacy Disclosure and Auditing: An Exploratory Study – The University of Auckland
For upcoming events related to the future of citizen rights in the digital age, see the Global Voices Events Calendar.