Global Voices Advocacy's Netizen Report offers an international snapshot of challenges, victories, and emerging trends in Internet rights around the world. This week's report highlights global government thuggery: From Bahrain to Mauritania to Mexico, blogger arrests have been abundant this August.
Fifty bloggers from around the world signed a letter urging the international human rights community to advocate on behalf of Bahraini blogger and Global Voices author Mohammed Hassan, who was arrested and taken from his family's home on July 31. Little is known about Hassan's current condition. Supporters are communicating about Hassan's case on Twitter using the hashtag #FreeSafy.
Blogger and Reporters – Mourasiloun correspondent Weld Abidine was arrested in Mauritania. Two days before his arrest, Abidine went to the Public Prosecution office to inquire about a rape case wherein relatives of a victim had accused authorities of closing her file and freeing the rapist.
Egyptian journalist and blogger Anas Fouda was detained by security personnel in the United Arab Emirates in late June, and has not been heard from since July 3. Fouda’s family recently went public about his detention after waiting several weeks in the hope he would be freed, and have created a Facebook page [ar] in support of his release.
Social media user and government critic Gustavo Maldonado was arrested for low-level drug offenses in Mexico's southern state of Chiapas just hours after he posted a YouTube video accusing local officials of corruption. Supporters suspect the arrest came in retaliation for his online activities.
Zambian freelance journalist Wilson Pondamali was granted bail after being arrested in July. Pondamali was arrested on four charges including unlawful possession of military pamphlets, and is suspected of having links to independent media site the Zambian Watchdog, which has faced numerous threats in recent months, likely due to its critical views on government activities.
The Pakistani government is developing software that will enable comprehensive blocking of “objectionable” content online. IT Minister Anusha Rehman said the new system will allow the government to lift its nearly year-old ban on YouTube, leaving only “objectionable” videos blocked on the site. This news comes alongside court challenges to the YouTube ban that are currently underway in Lahore and Peshawar.
In Taiwan, government officials admitted to having paid major search engines to alter search results on terms related to nuclear energy development. Searches on the names of 29 anti-nuclear power activists led to a government website touting the benefits and environmental safety of nuclear power as their top result. Activists have been working to halt operations at what would be the island state's fourth nuclear power plant, slated to begin operating in 2016. Many Taiwanese are worried about the safety implications of the plant, particularly in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, in which a 9.0 magnitude earthquake resulted in a massive radioactive water leak, causing untold damage to the surrounding area.
The e-mail service Lavabit, known for its use of asymmetric encryption, went dark last week. Owner Ladar Levison explained in a statement that he shut down the service because he did not want “to become complicit in crimes against the American people.” NSA leaker Edward Snowden was a user of Lavabit.
German justice minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger called for stronger data protection rules for the European Union. The minister said US firms that do not abide by EU standards should be denied access to the European market.
Sovereigns of Cyberspace
Twitter officially registered its company policy manager, William Carty, to lobby the US government on the company’s behalf. The company also formed Twitter#PAC, a political action committee that will enable company executives to send donations to candidates for federal office. While Twitter’s founders have previously given personal donations to Democratic candidates, the PAC will enable Twitter to put more resources towards lobbying members of Congress on policy issues, many of which may affect users’ rights.
The Pirate Bay launched its own web browser to circumvent Internet censorship by bypassing ISP blockades. TorrentFreak has noted that unlike the Tor browser, the new system does not provide anonymity for its users.
Mozilla has launched its Firefox browser in a number of different Mesoamerican indigenous languages.
Publications and Studies
The Role of Social Media in the Arab Uprisings – Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture
For upcoming events related to the future of citizen rights in the digital age, see the Global Voices Events Calendar.