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 Cuba, where authorities unblocked access to a number of websites on June 19, including the sites of US government-led news outlets Radio and TV Martí. But this appears to have been a technical error — the blocks were restored within a day. Established as part of Cold War era efforts to push “objective” news to the island, the Marti radio and television network signals have been blocked on the island since their inception in 1980. It was thus no surprise that the Cuban government chose to block their websites when they came online. Also briefly available was Revólico, a Cuban site much like Craigslist where Cubans regularly buy and trade services and tech hardware.
Free Expression: Research suggests Iraqi government web blocking is ineffective
Citizen Lab found that the filters placed on the Internet in Iraq are at best ineffective and at worst counterproductive. Researchers tested 1,358 URLs. None of the 20 sites which are believed to be associated with the insurgent group ISIS were blocked.
Thuggery: Global Voices authors in Ethiopia, Tajikistan remain behind bars
The investigation into the arrests of nine journalists – including six members of the Zone9 blogging collective – appears to be delayed, after a judge ruled in a hearing on June 14 that police would be given more time to investigate. The cases of three of the detained bloggers, Mahlet Fantahun, Befekadu Hailu, and Abel Wabella, are being handled separately for reasons that are unclear. Their next hearing will take place on June 28.
University of Toronto researcher Alexander Sodiqov, who disappeared in Tajikistan on June 16, was allegedly brought before local state television to appear in a heavily edited video in an attempt to discredit him. Reports from an anonymous resident [ru] published by independent Tajik news agency Asia-Plus suggest Sodiqov is being used to discredit opposition party member Alim Sherzamonov, with whom Sodiqov was allegedly speaking at the time of his arrest.
Six students and the principal of India’s Government Polytechnic College at Kunnamkulam were arrested on accusations of defamation and provocation with intent to cause riots after they published a controversial critique in a college magazine of the country’s new prime minister, Narendra Modi. The students and principal were released on bail. Police confiscated the remaining 400 copies of the publication that had yet to be distributed.
Surveillance: UK fesses up on social media spying
The British government’s most senior security official, Charles Farr, admitted that government monitors searches on Google, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, including those in supposedly private channels like direct messaging. In his defense of the program, Farr claimed that because the searches involve communicating with servers located outside the UK, they are deemed external communications that do not require a warrant for interception.
Copyright: “Your fan videos belong to us,” says YouTube
The videos of music groups signed to independent record labels could disappear from YouTube over a dispute about the new terms YouTube is asking labels to abide by as it prepares to launch its new streaming service. Your favorite Arctic Monkeys fan vid won’t disappear just yet, but the artists won’t be able to earn any ad revenue from user generated videos that use their songs.
Industry: Twitter a flutter in Russia, Pakistan
Twitter restored access to a series of tweets it had removed using its Country Withheld Content tool. The tweets were originally removed on May 18 at the request of the Pakistani government, which claimed they were “blasphemous” or “unethical”, according to Chilling Effects. A spokesperson for Twitter said the tweets were reauthorized “in the absence of additional clarifying information from Pakistani authorities.”
After a meeting with Russian authorities in Moscow, Twitter executives did not agree to block a 12 accounts deemed “extremist” by the Russian government, despite suggestions to the contrary in the lead up to the visit. According to tweets from Twitter’s public policy team, the meeting was “productive” and conversations will continue.
Netizen Activism: #LeyTelecom protests continue in Mexico
Mexican citizens have launched a number of acts of protest against a proposed telecommunications law [es] that would violate net neutrality, codify censorship and require service providers to collect and retain user data. Initiatives include a symbolic human chain across Mexico City (#NoMásPoderAlPoder), online protests coinciding with the World Cup under the hashtag #CascaritaXlaPatria, and an alternative technical proposal to the law.
Egyptian rights groups joined together to take a stand against encroaching government surveillance, filing a lawsuit aimed at halting the government’s plan to procure social media monitoring software. Described by the Ministry of Interior as a “public opinion measuring system,” the software would help “monitor, list, analyze, execute, support, confront, and refute…destructive ideas,” such as blasphemy, libel, sarcasm, inviting demonstrations, and spreading rumors.
Cool Things: FBI Report makes us LOSO (laugh our socks off)
In response to a Freedom of Information request by MuckRock, the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) released an 83-page glossary of Internet slang that it compiled in an effort to stay current. The document consists of over 3,000 terms ranging from the out of date to the ludicrous, leading many to say AYFKMWTS: “are you fucking kidding me with this shit?”
Publications and Studies
MIND 7 – Privacy and Internet Governance – Co:llaboratory
Heretics: Iran’s Religious Minorities – Small Media