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 Hungary, where tens of thousands took to the streets of Budapest on Oct. 26 to protest a proposed tax on Internet traffic. Some demonstrators threw old computer parts at the gates of the headquarters of Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s ruling Fidesz party.
The bill would require every Internet service provider to pay a tax per gigabyte downloaded by its customers. Along with opposition politicians and open Internet advocates, telecommunications firms are rejecting the proposal, saying that it will increase their costs and ultimately lead to a hike in the already-expensive market pricing of Internet access in the Central European country. The government reportedly likened the tax to the standard levy on long-distance telephone calls, despite the technical distinctions between telephone and Internet traffic.
This the latest in a series of policy initiatives by the Fidesz party to tighten regulations on media outlets and anti-corruption NGOs, all of which have stifled access to knowledge and free expression.
Egypt’s senseless persecution of activists continues
Egyptian blogger Alaa Abd El Fattah was detained once again in connection with charges for which he has already served jail time. The pro-democracy activist has been arrested and jailed by every government that Egypt has seen since 2011.
An Egyptian court sentenced 23 activists to three years in jail, including Sanaa Seif, the sister of Alaa Abdel-Fattah. Seif has been on hunger strike for almost two months to protest the law under which she was sentenced, which bans demonstrations without prior police authorization and punishes violators with imprisonment. Seif’s lawyers intend to appeal the decision.
Peru’s #LeyChavez will let your boss spy on your email
The Peruvian Congress is considering a bill that could give employers the right to review the emails of their employees. Known as #LeyChavez, the bill has become controversial among lawyers and Internet security specialists for its restrictions on privacy rights. The bill will not be brought before Congress for some time, leaving space for discussion around its implications for citizens.
Watchdog media site downed by DDoS attack on election day in Mozambique
The independent news site @Verdade experienced a massive Distributed Denial of Service attack on the eve of Mozambique’s general elections, preventing the site from covering the election in real time. The site’s staff believes it was targeted because it investigated assets and mining interests belonging to outgoing president Armando Guebuza and his family. It claims to know the origin of the attack but has not released this information to the public.
Ebola is bad for you—and malware is, too
Malware messages claiming to be from the World Health Organization are spreading online, according to Trustwave’s SpiderLabs team. Unsuspecting users have reportedly opened emails claiming to contain important information and prevention tips about Ebola. The messages then installed malware that gives perpetrators remote access to victims’ computers.
Italy cooks up yet another Internet Bill of Rights
Italy put forth a draft of an Internet Bill of Rights for public consultation this week, via the new Civici platform that allows any citizen to comment on and suggest changes to the document. Inspired by Brazil’s Marco Civil process, and designed with an international framework in mind, the draft covers topics including the right to Internet access, net neutrality, and the right to anonymity. It also includes measures that require online service providers (i.e., open platforms, social networks, email services) to be fully transparent in their terms of service and to refrain from “algorithmic discrimination,” a principle that would chiefly apply to search engines.
Global Voices contributor Ben Wagner, who serves as director of the Centre for Internet & Human Rights at European University Viadrina, told TechPresident he didn’t see “much added utility” in the bill. “The time of Italy’s Chamber of Deputies would be better spent drafting bills which prevent Italian companies like HackingTeam exporting surveillance technologies which enable human rights abuses across the world, or even to limit the massive use of domestic wiretaps in Italy,” he said.
Although there is support for the general principles behind the bill and the policy shifts that it could inspire, some Internet governance experts are skeptical of the project’s value, given that it is not clear that the bill would actually be legally binding. The consultation period will last from Oct. 27, 2014, through Feb. 27, 2015.
British trolls, beware: the government is coming for you
The U.K. government is considering new regulations that would make online trolling an offense punishable by up to two years in jail. The move comes in the wake of a series of high-profile cases of online harassment.
Can YouTube takedowns buy you votes?
Brazilian netizens suspect presidential candidate Aecio Neves was responsible for the removal of two videos from YouTube, including a highly regarded documentary revealing links between some of Neves’ close political allies and the cocaine trade. The two-term governor of the state of Minas Gerais, which borders both Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, has a history of seeking to stifle critical political views on social media. Last August, Neves filed a lawsuit against Twitter after the company refused to hand over data on 66 users he claimed were propagating lies and criticism about him and his campaign. Neves lost the election in its second round by a slim margin to sitting president Dilma Rousseff.
Russia takes its seat on the ISIS censorship bandwagon
Russia is taking stringent measures to curb the online content about ISIS, including banning hyperlinks and labeling all videos by and about the group as “extremist.” While there’s no guarantee that this will have any concrete impact on terrorist activity, the new policies will unquestionably have negative consequences for online free expression.
Global Voices celebrates its tenth birthday!
Happy birthday to us! Since our first post on Oct. 26, 2004, Global Voices has grown in many dimensions—we’ve published more than 88,000 posts, have become one of the most dynamic human-powered translation communities online, and pioneered community-led advocacy and development work around the world. To kick off our anniversary celebrations, here are some reflections from our contributors on their first encounters with Global Voices.
- Why Trade Agreements are Not Setting Information Free – Susan Ariel Aaronson