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 begins in the EU, where German telecommunication providers are discussing the creation of an Internet limited to Europe’s “Schengen” countries (a group of 26 European nations that excludes the United Kingdom), according to state-backed Deutsche Telekom. The project’s aim is to limit access to user data by industrial spies and hackers. Whether and how this would actually work remains to be seen.
Free Expression: Google to appeal filtering order on “Nazi” orgy pics
The Superior Court of Paris ordered Google to filter images of Max Mosley, former chief of the Formula One auto racing series, engaging in a “sick Nazi orgy.” Published in 2008 by scandalized and now-defunct UK tabloid News of the World, the pictures have been distributed widely online. According to The Guardian, Mosley “acknowledged that he engaged in sadomasochistic activity with five women and paid them £2,500 ($4,000), but denied the orgy was Nazi-themed.” After winning challenges against News of the World in both Britain and France, he filed civil suit against Google, claiming that the photos were a breach of privacy.
Google’s Associate General Counsel Daphne Keller said that the ruling effectively requires Google to build an unprecedented tool of censorship, something which would have “serious consequences for free expression.” Google is appealing the ruling.
On live television last Saturday, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced state plans to block several sites that track the black market value of foreign currency in the country. Foreign currency exchange controls were put into force in the country in 2003, but unofficial currency exchanges remain very much a part of the Venezuelan economy. Inflation in Venezuela is currently above 50%.
Iran’s Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance told the official Islamic Republic News Agency that sites like Twitter and Facebook should be accessible for all Iranians, but has already felt pushback [fa] from higher echelons of the government. This followed a conversation on October 1 in which Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey tweeted, “Good evening, President. Are citizens of Iran able to read your tweets?”, to which Rouhani replied, “…my efforts geared 2 ensure my ppl'll comfortably b able 2 access all info globally as is their #right.” A number of high-ranking Iranian officials, including President Rouhani and his foreign minister, are on Twitter.
Several Thai media groups are opposing to changes to the country’s Computer Crime Act of 2007. One proposed amendment to the law would allow authorities to block websites without obtaining a court order.
Thuggery: Leading netizens hold back in face of government crackdown
A new study study indicates that the Chinese Communist Party’s crackdown on the spread of online rumors is decimating political discourse online in mainland China. According to the report, discussions among a group of public opinion leaders on Weibo dropped by 10.2% in the first two months of the censorship campaign, and 24.9% between September 11 and October 10. According to Global Voices’ Oiwan Lam, these findings suggest a broader drop in social media posts made by prominent commenters and Internet celebrities, who have been targeted in the crackdown.
Multiple Russian bloggers have been detained for re-posting and re-tweeting controversial political content in recent days. Police detained and then searched the apartment of Stas Kalinichenko, a Siberian blogger who re-tweeted a photo of an anti-government protest leaflet.
Saudi writer Tariq Al Mubarak, who was detained allegedly due to his support for the Women2Drive campaign in Saudi Arabia, was released last week.
Surveillance: Will Nicaragua hop on the mass surveillance train?
Nicaraguan lawmakers have proposed sweeping Internet and telecommunications legislation that would give the government broad access to citizens’ communication data. As a recent editorial [es] in Managua-based daily La Prensa put it, “the government wants to be the cyberpolice.”
In response to the NSA revelations and ensuing outrage, the US Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB), an independent congressional agency, held a hearing on telephone metadata and Internet data collection on November 4. PCLOB Chair David Medine said the board would examine “whether there's a legal basis for the United States to provide protection to foreign citizens” and touted its independence as being “unique in the world.”
Netizen Activism: The Internet Archive needs your help!
The nonprofit Internet Archive is asking for donations after a fire caused an estimated US$600,000 worth of damage to its scanning center. The archive is known for its “Wayback Machine,” which archives the pages of about 364 billion archived websites even after they are shut down. The archive is still operational, because copies of the data are held in multiple locations – a testament to the value of backing up your data.
In a TEDx talk spurred by the NSA leaks, computer security researcher Mikko Hyponnen discusses how to protect privacy in the age of government surveillance. TED describes it as “an important rant, wrapped with a plea: to find alternative solutions to using American companies for the world's information needs.” The TED Blog follows up with a compendium of resources for observing the entire spectrum of opinions.
Publications and Studies
“Corporate Responses to Hate Speech in the 2013 Kenyan Presidential Elections: Safaricom, A Case Study” – Institute for Human Rights and Business, November 2013.